Unexplained weight gain in women may be noticed inspite of maintaining a balanced diet and regularly exercising. This is usually the case after pregnancy and menopause. Most of the causes of weight gain in women are related to hormonal changes and imbalance. The body of a woman experiences several changes during menstruation, puberty, childbirth, pregnancy, menopause, etc. Any abnormality in certain glands such as the adrenal glands or the thyroid gland can cause unexplained weight gain in women.
Symptoms and causes of unexplained weight gain in women
Women who experience a sudden increase in weight despite indulging in regular exercise and taking a balanced diet may go through the list given below to understand the probable causes of unexplained weight gain in women.
- Hypothyroidism: Abnormal functioning of the thyroid gland which leads to diminished production of the thyroid hormone is considered as the primary cause of unexplained weight gain in women. The rate of metabolism is significantly reduced by decreased amounts of the thyroid hormone. This can lead sudden increase in the weight. The deposits of protein can lead to collection of fat and retention of fluid in the body, eventually causing increase in body weight. Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weakness, anxiety, lethargy, facial swelling, severe loss of hair, puffy eyes, dry skin, depression, diminished sweating, poor memory, slow rate of speech, palpitations, hoarse voice, cold intolerance, high levels of cholesterol, headache, decreased libido, irregular or heavy menstrual periods, tingling feet and hands and repetitive miscarriages or infertility. Women who experience unexplained weight gain due to hypothyroidism may feel fatigued even after sufficient sleep and rest.
- Menopause: The levels of hormones are significantly affected at the time of menopause. This causes the appetite to increase substantially. It may also be noted that the rate of metabolism slows down with an increase in age. Lifestyle changes such as decreased exercise regimen that occur with increased age, also add to the eventual unexplained weight gain in women
- Essential fatty acids deficiency: The hormones are manufactures by good fats which aid the maintenance of the rate of metabolism. When the diet lacks the essential fatty acids, then it can cause unexplained weight gain in women. Scarcity of such fats can result in food cravings, particularly for fatty diets. Individuals affected by diabetes, arthritis, premenstrual syndrome, eczema and cardiac diseases need to check for the deficiency in fatty acids in their diet. Some of the initial symptoms of deficiency in fatty acids include scaly, dry skin, dry hair and dandruff.
- Imbalance in blood sugar levels: The presence of refined and simple carbohydrates in the diet can lead to rapid changes in the blood sugar levels. For example, the consumption of chocolate can result in elevation of the levels of blood sugar. Simple carbohydrates have a tendency to get easily digested and quickly turn into glucose. Insulin, which is the hormone that aids in the storage of sugar, is then secreted by the body which causes the blood sugar levels to decrease rapidly. Such a process then leads to excess cravings for sweets, so as to be able to balance the levels of blood sugar, eventually leading to unexplained weight gain in women. One can prevent the occurrence of such blood sugar fluctuations by consuming complex carbohydrates, which can be found in vegetables and fruits that are abundant in dietary fibers.
- Cushing’s syndrome: Increased levels of cortisol hormone in the body can result in collection of fat in the abdomen, face and upper back, while the legs and arms remain unaffected. Cushing’s syndrome is a condition characterized by excessive levels of cortisol. Some of the common signs of Cushing’s syndrome in women include weakness, wasting of the muscles, thin skin, easy bruising, poor healing of wounds, hypertension, purple ‘stretch marks’ on the abdomen, intolerance to glucose, loss of hair and menstrual irregularities.
- Serious conditions: Blockage of the lymph fluid and ovarian cysts can result in swelling, inflammation and unexplained weight gain in women. Fluid retention can result from diseases of the heart, kidney and liver resulting in overall puffiness of the body. Fibromyalgia is a disorder that usually results in imbalance of various hormones, which can then lead to slowing of the metabolism rate, resulting in unexplained weight gain in women.
- Medications: Unexplained weight gain in women may occur due to hormone replacement therapy and intake of various medications such as birth control pills, NSAIDs, diabetic drugs, antidepressants and drugs used to treat migraines, heartburn, seizures, etc. It is important to note that the effect of these medications may differ from one individual to another.
- Other reasons: It may be noted that intake of sodas, drinks and desserts; excessive intake of alcohol; leptin resistance, gastrointestinal abnormalities, insomnia, lack of exercise, mitochondrial dysfunction, stress, sedentary lifestyle, etc. can also lead to unexplained weight gain in women
If unexplained weight gain in women goes away on its own within a short period of time, then one need not worry about the condition. However, if the weight gain is chronic, then one needs to consult a doctor for finding out the cause. Changes in the diet, lifestyle changes and regular exercise are some of the ways to get rid of the excess weight.