Surprising Causes of Weight Gain

Reasons you can't lose weight
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It's true that we gain weight when we eat more than we can burn off. But according to some alternative medicine practitioners, this conventional diet wisdom does not always hold true. Weight gain may also be caused by certain health conditions.


Thyroid hormone deficiency may decrease the metabolism of food resulting in loss of appetite and modest weight gain. Weight gain may be from fat accumulation and fluid retention caused by protein deposits in the body.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include fatigue, lethargy, swelling of the face or around the eyes, dry, coarse skin, decreased sweating, poor memory, slow speech and hoarse voice, weakness, intolerance to cold and headache.

Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency

Essential fatty acids, such as flaxseed oil, are fats that are needed by the body to make hormones and maintain the metabolic rate.

According to alternative medicine practitioners, symptoms of essential fatty acid deficiency may include dandruff, dry hair and dry, scaly skin. Deficiency is also associated with arthritis, eczema, heart disease, diabetes and premenstrual syndrome.

Food Sensitivity

According to alternative medicine practitioners, reactions to foods may not always immediate. They can occur many hours later as bloating and swelling in the hands, feet, ankles, abdomen, chin and around the eyes. Much of the weight gained is fluid retention caused by inflammation and the release of certain hormones.

In addition, there is fermentation of foods, particularly carbohydrates, in the intestines which can result in a swollen distended belly and gas production.

Symptoms of food sensitivity may include headache, indigestion or heartburn, fatigue, depression, joint pain or arthritis, canker sores, chronic respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, sinus congestion or bronchitis and chronic bowel problems such as diarrhea or constipation.

Cushing's Syndrome

Cushing's Syndrome is a disorder caused by an excess of the hormone cortisol. Fat accumulates in the face, abdomen and upper back, often producing a characteristic rounded "moon" face and "buffalo hump". The arms and legs usually remain slender.

Other symptoms of Cushing's Syndrome include muscle wasting and weakness, thin skin, poor wound healing, easy bruising, purple "stretch marks" on the abdomen, menstrual irregularities, high blood pressure, glucose intolerance and hair loss in women.

Prescription Drugs

Hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptives containing estrogen can cause fluid retention and increased appetite. Other drugs that can cause weight gain are steroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antidepressants and diabetic medications.

Kidney, Heart or Liver Disease

Disease in these organs can cause fluid retention, which appears as general puffiness all over the body, especially the eyes and ankles.

Emotional Eating

Many people respond to stress or depression by eating excessively.

Sources of stress may not always be apparent, but may still affect eating habits and cause weight gain.

Blood Sugar Imbalance

Eating simple, refined carbohydrates can cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels. For example, eating chocolate increases the amount of sugar in the blood. The hormone insulin is released which causes sugar to be stored away and blood sugar levels to be lowered, which can trigger cravings for more sweets in order to stabilize blood sugar balance.

Using a Natural Approach to Weight Loss

It is essential that you consult your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms or have any health concerns. Self-treating with natural remedies and avoiding or delaying standard care may be harmful to your health.


Bouchier IAD, Ellis H, Fleming PR, eds. French's Index of Differential Diagnosis. 13th edition. Woburn, MA. Butterworth Heinemann, 1996.

Ott C. Surprising obstacles to weight loss. Natural Health. October 1999.

Seller RH. Differential Diagnosis of Common Complaints. 4th edition. Philadelphia, PA. W.B. Saunders Company, 2000.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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