Despite balanced diet and exercise, most women find it difficult to maintain weight after childbirth and menopause. Weight gain is usually associated with hormonal imbalance. A woman's body undergoes various changes during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, etc. Dysfunction of any gland like thyroid or adrenal gland can result in an increase in weight.
Causes and Symptoms of Undetermined Weight Gain
If women who exercise regularly and who follow a balanced diet notice weight gain, then they should check the following list for some of the responsible causes.
Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism or inactive thyroid is the most common cause of rapid weight gain in women. Deficiency of thyroid hormones can reduce the rate of metabolism. This results in increased weight. Protein deposits can cause fat accumulation and fluid retention leading to an increase in body weight.
Symptoms: Thyroid dysfunction symptoms include fatigue, lethargy, anxiety, swelling in the face, puffy eyes, severe hair loss, dry skin, decreased sweating, depression, poor memory, palpitations, slow speech, hoarse voice, weakness, intolerance to cold and headache, high cholesterol levels, reduced libido, tingling hands and feet, heavy or irregular periods, and infertility or recurrent miscarriages. If hypothyroidism is the reason behind unexplained weight gain, the woman may experience fatigue even after sufficient rest or sleep.
Lack of Essential Fatty Acids: Good fats help produce hormones and thus help maintain the metabolic rate. In case of scarcity of good fats in diet, sudden weight gain can be experienced by women. Arthritic and diabetic patients or patients diagnosed with eczema, heart disease, premenstrual syndrome should check for this type of deficiency.
Symptoms: Such deficiency can lead to cravings, mainly for fatty foods. Dandruff, dry hair and dry, scaly skin are some of the early symptoms of scarcity of healthy fats in diet.
Menopause and Aging: Hormone levels are dramatically affected during menopause. Moreover, aging slows down the rate of metabolism, which also leads to excessive weight. Age related changes in the lifestyle such as less exercise add up to weight gain.
Symptoms: This can result in increased appetite and excess weight.
Cushing's Syndrome: Excessive production of the hormone cortisol leads to fat accumulation in the face, abdomen and upper back. Arms and legs usually remain slender. The situation in which abnormally high levels of cortisol are noticed, is known as Cushing's syndrome.
Symptoms: Muscle wasting and weakness, thin skin, poor wound healing, easy bruising, high blood pressure, glucose intolerance, purple 'stretch marks' on the abdomen, menstrual irregularities, and hair loss are some of the common symptoms of Cushing's syndrome in women.
Medications: Doctors recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to women for various reasons. Intake of birth control pills containing estrogen and any HRT can result in fluid retention and increased appetite. Steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antidepressants and diabetic medications can also be the reason behind rapidly increasing weight in women. Medications prescribed for heartburn, migraine, seizures, etc. can cause weight gain. One should consult the doctor for alternate medications.
Symptoms: The effect may vary from person to person but increased appetite, excess weight, fluid retention are the main symptoms.
Serious Diseases: Kidney, heart and liver diseases cause fluid retention; leading to general puffiness all over the body (particularly around the eyes and ankles). Ovarian cyst, and obstruction of lymph fluid can also lead to swelling and unexplained weight gain in women. Fibromyalgia often leads to hormonal imbalance, affecting the levels of various hormones like cortisol, thyroid, serotonin, insulin and growth hormones. This means your metabolism can slow down and you can put on weight. So those who are worried about constantly increasing weight should consult a doctor immediately.
Symptoms: The symptoms may vary from person to person, depending upon the underlying disease.
Blood Sugar Imbalance: Check whether your diet often consists of simple and refined carbohydrates which lead to quick fluctuations in blood sugar levels. For example, eating chocolate raises the blood sugar level. Simple carbohydrates are digested quickly (are converted into glucose quickly). The hormone insulin (as it helps to store sugar properly) is released by the body. This leads to decreased blood sugar levels immediately. This process triggers cravings for more sweets, in order to stabilize blood sugar balance. Eating complex carbohydrates is essential to avoid such fluctuations. Consumption of more fruits and vegetables containing dietary fiber is therefore recommended.
Symptoms: Abnormal fluctuations in blood sugar levels, increased hunger and cravings result in excess weight.
- Mitochondrial dysfunction
- Insomnia (lack of sleep)
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Leptin (hormone that controls hunger) resistance
- Genetic disposition
- Working too much (leading to stress and hormonal imbalance)
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Lack of proper exercise
- Consuming foods which do not create a feeling of fullness
- Drinking too much soda or sweetened soft drinks
- Alcohol abuse
- Excessive consumption of high fructose corn syrup through sweets, drinks and desserts
- Excessive fasting (leading to slowed down rate of metabolism)
- Women who quit smoking, tend to eat more.
- If your friends eat more, you also tend to eat more.
- Some women try to fight stress or depression by eating favorite food in excessive quantity.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.