When you’re trying to lose weight, getting on the scale to find that you’ve gained a few pounds is distressing. Often, you can pinpoint a cause — a heavy meal the night before or scarfing down a super-salty bag of chips. However, what if you consistently gain weight with no identifiable unexplained weight gain causes?
You may need to take a trip to the physician, but the news isn’t necessarily dire. Many reasons exist for sudden weight gain in women. Here are eight unexplained weight gain causes, some of which you can treat with home remedies.
1. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) refers to a hormonal disorder in women which causes multiple cysts to grow on the ovaries. Each cyst contains an immature egg the body fails to release. This causes imbalance in the levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) luteinizing hormone (LH), estrogen and progesterone. Researchers believe high levels of androgens, the female equivalent of testosterone, play a role in the disease.
Many women with PCOS — as many as 70 percent — remain unaware they suffer the condition. However, the resulting hormonal imbalance can lead to substantial weight gain. Up to 80 percent of women with the condition report being overweight or obese. Make a call to the OB/GYN for a pelvic exam and a blood test to confirm the diagnosis.
Are you feeling cold and tired all the time in addition to gaining weight? Like PCOS, many women remain unaware they suffer from hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck, fails to release adequate hormone. Your thyroid governs your metabolism, so it’s easy to see how an imbalance in this hormone forms one of the major unexplained weight gain causes.
To diagnose hypothyroidism, your doctor will perform a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH test) to determine if your body is signaling your thyroid to release adequate amounts. Doctors treat low thyroid with hormone replacement, although it may take several weeks to discover the correct dose.
3. Insulin Resistance
Due in part to the western diet, many women develop insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when the body no longer processes insulin properly, leading to increased levels of glucose in the blood. This condition can serve as a precursor to type II diabetes in women, especially if accompanied by yeast infections and frequent urinary tract infections.
Because the body no longer processes blood sugar properly, weight gain often results. In some cases, women experience weight loss, too. A visit to the doctor can confirm the diagnosis.
4. Hormonal Changes
If you’re in your late teens or entering your 40’s or 50’s, hormonal changes can result in weight gain. When you’re in your late teens to early 20’s, your body still is adjusting to womanhood — perhaps the freshmen 15 stems more from fluctuating hormones than from unhealthy eating.
Women in their 40’s and 50’s enter a time known as perimenopause when their bodies prepare to cease menstruating. In some cases, hormone-replacement therapy can help you shed the excess pounds.
5. Depression and Anxiety
More women than men suffer from depression, and researchers believe haywire hormones play a role in the genetic differences. While some people with depression and anxiety do lose weight, others gain. Some self-medicate with food to alleviate the blues, as eating temporarily boosts serotonin levels in the brain. Others with anxiety eat more to cope with stress.
Therapists treat anxiety and depression through a combination of talk therapy, medications or both. However, you can boost your mood naturally by getting outside, moving your body and performing acts of kindness for others. Even sitting by a sunny window or listening to a favorite song can alleviate a down mood.
One study by the University of Colorado discovered when people slept only five hours per night for a week, they gained an average of two pounds. Lack of sleep interferes with hormones such as ghrelin and leptin which spur hunger and cravings. And you typically crave foods high in fat, salt and sugar. The good news is, researchers also discovered getting adequate Zzz’s decreases sugar consumption significantly.
7. Ovarian Tumor
If your appetite decreased significantly but you’re still gaining weight around the abdomen, get to the doctor quickly. Ovarian cancer affects approximately 20,000 women annually, but with early detection and treatment, many recover. While this is one of the scarier unexpected weight gain causes, early treatment can prevent death.
Finally, if your weight gain correlates with a new medication, check with your physician or pharmacist as to whether the scrip is causing the issue. Many medications, such as certain corticosteroids, can result in gain. If the gain is significant or causes distress, you can speak with your doctor about switching medications or adjusting your dosage.
Managing Unexplained Weight Gain Causes
The first step in managing unexplained weight gain is identifying the underlying cause. Once you know the reason the pounds pack on despite your best efforts, you can seek treatment options to correct the matter and get back to feeling your best.