By Diana Bitner, MD
“Belly fat causes unwanted hair on the chin, upper lip, sideburn, chest, belly, and backside,” said Dr. Diana Bitner of Spectrum Health Medical Group, Women’s Health. A board certified doctor in obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. Bitner is available to discuss the relationship between belly fat and chin hairs, questions women should be discussing with their doctors and what women can do.
· Belly fat is a storage depot and production machine for androgens such as testosterone. As belly fat increases so does the testosterone. And once the hair starts growing, it is hard to get it to stop.
· Irregular periods, belly fat, and cystic acne together can signal a serious medical condition called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It causes hair growth on the chin and upper lip as well as increased risk for diabetes, heart attack, stroke and more belly fat!
· Hair follicles on the chin, upper lip, breasts, belly, and ‘backside’ are usually dormant in women but they can be awoken when there is enough free testosterone and estrone in the bloodstream. Thinning hair is also associated with high free testosterone levels.
· It is important to see your doctor if hair growth is progressive and the male pattern extends to sideburns, chest, and is creating thicker hair on the arms, cystic acne, if coupled with a deepening voice change.
· Women can chose to take testosterone medication for low libido in perimenopause and menopause. Low levels can be helpful but it is important to have blood levels monitored; too much medicine can cause blood levels above 70 and lead to permanent thick dark hair growth, high cholesterol, cystic acne, aggression, and male pattern baldness.
· Women who lose the belly fat can reverse the process and get rid of the unwanted hair. It can take time because the hair follicles operate on a continuous 3-6 month cycle. Methods such as laser and electrolysis can be used to remove the hair can help short-term, but only weight loss can keep new hairs from growing.
· Medications to treat unwanted facial hair growth such as the diuretic spironolactone acts to block the testosterone receptor and reduce testosterone production. The birth control pill can be very effective to stop new hair from growing as well as reduce the occurrence of cystic acne-another condition caused by excess testosterone and belly fat.
– Diana Bitner, MD, of Spectrum Health Medical Group, Women’s Health, is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology. She is a Certified Menopause Practitioner in the North American Menopause Society. Dr. Bitner started a menopause group at Spectrum Health Medical Group in Grand Rapids, Michigan and put together a process called WAIPointes—Who Am I—to treat menopause symptoms and reduce risk factors for chronic disease. She also is founder of True Women’s Health (www.truewomenshealth.com). She received her medical degree from Wayne State University School of Medicine and completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Butterworth Hospital. Dr. Bitner has special interests in women’s wellness and prevention of heart disease, menopause, perimenopause, libido concerns, metabolic syndrome, and pelvic surgery. She is an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.
– Submitted by Angela Crawford