what to try if you’ve hit a plateau(Part 1), some common sense reasons why diets slump (Part 2), and why an unexplained jump in weight gain can be reason enough to visit your doctor (Part 3)
Excessive Weight Gain: Possible Causes – Medical and Physical Conditions There are over 300 different medical conditions associated with weight gain, which can cause a myriad of weight-related problems from additional fat to water retention. The best action to take for sudden weight gain is contacting your physician.
- Hypothyroidism: This refers to a lack of thyroid hormone, and will lead to slower metabolism. Some symptoms include: excessive weight gain, fatigue, intolerance to cold temperatures, dry skin, sleeping more than usual, depression, puffiness in the face, and joint or muscle aches. Women over the age of 50 are most susceptible, yet hypothyroidism can affect anyone including men, children, and teens.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): This is the result of a hormonal imbalance and can manifest itself as early as the teen years. Some statistics have shown that this illness may affect as many as one in ten women in the US, yet it often goes undiagnosed. Unfortunately the average PCOS patient sees seven doctors before receiving the diagnosis. Symptoms include: irregular menstrual bleeding, thinning of scalp hair, growth of facial hair, acne, difficulty getting pregnant, insulin resistance, and weight gain. As much as 65% of women with PCOS are either overweight or obese.
- Hormone Changes in Women: Aging already includes a natural slowdown of metabolism, but the loss of estrogen associated with menopause also changes the distribution of fat in the body, encouraging weight gain around the abdomen, and lessening fat deposition around the hips and thighs. Weight gain during puberty is also common, and is practically a given during pregnancy.
- Cancer: Although this dreaded disease is most often associated with wasting, depending on the affected organ, it can also cause weight gain. For example, the hypothalmus is a part of the brain that plays a role in appetite, sleep, and water/salt balance, among other things, and also regulates the pituitary gland, which in turn regulates the thyroid, adrenal glands, and ovaries/testes. Damage to this part of the brain will have an effect on the body’s metabolism. Ovarian cancer can also cause abdominal bloating or swelling which may be incorrectly perceived as weight gain. As always, it is essential to consult with your physician if anything is out of the ordinary, including a sudden change in weight.
- Cushing’s Syndrome: This is relatively rare and most often associated with glucocorticoid treatment (such as dexamethasone or prednisone, used to treat conditions like asthma, irritable bowel, lupus, or arthritis), but may also be the result of the adrenal glands producing too much cortisol. Symptoms include rounding of the face, facial flushing, fatigue, lack of emotional control, and fat buildup in the upper back (fatty hump between shoulder blades) and abdomen.
Medications: All medications have a list of possible side effects, so check with your doctor and pharmacist to know what they are for your prescriptions. If you feel you’ve gained weight because of your medication, it is not advisable to abruptly stop taking it. Communicate with your doctor to find the best solution. He or she can tell you if this is simply an effect that will subside over time, whether the dose can be adjusted, or if a different medication or combination of medications is appropriate. Remember, your health is more than just your waistline, so do what’s best for your body as a whole.
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