Your diet hasn’t changed. You’re not exercising any more or less. But the pants that you just bought last month won’t button. What’s up with the sudden weight gain?
Not only is gaining weight without a verifiable cause annoying, but it can also affect your self-esteem, or cause you to change your eating habits unnecessarily. But before you make any drastic changes to your diet and exercise routine, you should figure out what’s really causing you to put on the pounds. If you’ve determined that the cause of your weight change isn’t diet-related, you should talk to a doctor, as it could be one of the following conditions.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that produces hormones which regulate your body’s energy use, among other important functions. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is underactive, which slows down your body’s processes and affects things like your metabolism, energy levels, mental functions, and bowel movements. In addition to weight gain, hypothyroidism can cause constipation, constant fatigue, stiff joints and aching muscles, and dry skin or hair.
Sudden weight gain or swelling of the body could be a sign of kidney failure or nephrotic syndrome, which is a collection of symptoms that indicate kidney damage. Without the kidneys functioning properly, the body tends to retain fluid, which results in weight gain. Damaged kidneys can’t remove waste and fluids from the body correctly and they build up in the tissues.
If you experience rapid weight gain and an enlarged abdomen, it could be cirrhosis. Cirrhosis occurs when scar tissue replaces healthy tissue in the liver, causing a fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity called ascites. People with cirrhosis typically have swollen ankles, breathing difficulties, and abdominal pain.
Sudden weight gain or swelling in certain areas of the body could be caused by fluid retention and are also an indicator of heart failure. According to the American Heart Association, a weight gain of more than two to three pounds over 24 hours or five pounds in a week is a sign of the disease. While natural fluctuations in weight throughout the day are common, changes that persist or are accompanied by additional symptoms may be a sign that heart failure is the culprit.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) usually gain weight easily around their midsection. PCOS results in the production of abnormally high levels of male sex hormones by the ovaries and may also cause irregular periods, thinning or excess hair, and acne. While there is no cure for the condition, lifestyle changes or hormonal medications may reduce symptoms.
If you’re gaining weight unexpectedly, you may need to look at your sleeping patterns for answers. The National Health Service in England says that a lack of sleep could lead to weight gain. Changes in sleep cycles may affect eating patterns and mood, causing people to overeat. The amount or quality of your sleep may also affect your metabolism.
Cushing syndrome affects more than three million Americans every year and often causes weight gain in the abdomen, neck, face, and upper back. The condition occurs when the body produces too much cortisol (your body’s stress-response hormone) over a prolonged period. It is rare that Cushing syndrome develops without an external cause; the disease is usually a side effect taking glucocorticoids, or drugs that treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and systemic lupus erythematosus.
Acromegaly is a disorder in adults that occurs when the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone. It’s most common in middle-aged adults and is usually caused by a noncancerous tumor on the pituitary gland. Symptoms include enlargement of the feet and hands, as well as the lips, tongue, and nose. Prompt treatment is needed to avoid serious illness, as surgery or radiation therapy may be required.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
SIBO is a condition that affects your small intestine and occurs when there’s an unusually large amount of bacteria present. It most commonly affects women, older adults, and people with digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). SIBO can result in sudden weight gain or loss, as well as chronic diarrhea or a reduced ability to absorb nutrients from food. Treatment typically involves dietary changes or antibiotic therapy.
Sometimes, changes in our weight aren’t entirely our fault (and even when it is, there’s no reason to be ashamed!). Weight fluctuations are a natural part of life, and for most of us, unavoidable. But if your weight has risen rapidly with no discernible cause, or you recognize some of the symptoms above, you should speak to your doctor.