You can be doing all the right things and still have unexplained reasons for not losing weight… frustrating to be sure, but all too common for many women. Before you beat yourself up for your lack of success, consider these four hidden health conditions that might be sabotaging your best efforts.
1. Thyroid Problems
The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the way your body uses energy. If this organ is underactive (hypothyroidism) your metabolism is disrupted which has many effects on the body. More common in women, the condition is usually diagnosed in the 40s and 50s. There are estimates that a full 10% of adults have hypothyroidism.
Besides that inability lose weight (or even gaining some) you might notice fatigue, hair loss, dry skin, muscle weakness and joint pain, heavy periods, increased sensitivity to cold, perhaps even depression. You can have a low-grade hypothyroidism and just feel “off” without any obvious sign of illness.
Ask your primary care physician for a TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) screening. While traditional levels are between .45 and 4.5, if you’re above 2.0 you probably will struggle to lose weight according to Dr. Jamie Kane, M.D., medical director of Park Avenue Medical Weight and Wellness in New York. Ask your doctor to look at T-3 and T-4 levels too. Some patients do well with a low dose thyroid hormone (Synthroid).
2. Hormone Imbalance
As many as 1 in ten women of childbearing age are believed to have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is known to cause ovulation problems and infertility, while also being linked to insulin resistance.
This is a possible explanation for your lack of weight loss success if you also have irregular periods, extra face and body hair, acne, some male pattern balding as well as the expected trouble getting pregnant. Not everyone with PCOS has weight issues.
Your gynecologist can test your levels of sex hormones, look at your blood sugar and insulin levels or order an ultrasound to look for cysts on your ovaries. Treatment involves lifestyle changes (eating healthy, exercising regularly) and watching your intake of refined carbs and added sugars. Your doctor might prescribe a medication known as Metformin that can treat insulin resistance and help you get pregnant.
3. Food Intolerances
Anyone with a food allergy knows what food they must avoid, but few of us are aware of the food intolerances that affect an estimated one I in ten people. An intolerance can be caused by a lack of a certain digestive enzyme (lactose intolerance, for example) or sensitivity to food additives (sulfites, for example). These intolerances (most commonly dairy, gluten, eggs, soy, corn and nuts) tend to show up over time and can bring on bloating and water weight gain, along with other symptoms.
If you often have bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation as well as symptoms that aren’t related to digestion such as mild asthma, eczema, headaches, muscle and joint pain or fatigue, you need to talk with your doctor, and perhaps get a referral to a gastroenterologist. An elimination diet can start you on your way to figuring out what foods you can eat. Start by removing gluten and dairy and move on to the others. You can then systematically re-introduce foods and watch for your reactions.
You may need to say good-bye to a favorite food you can’t tolerate forever, but in milder cases you can first try using a daily probiotic supplement that brings back the good bacteria (yes there are good bacteria) to your digestive tract. Look for one with at least 10 billion live bacteria per capsule.
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4 Unexpected Reasons Women Can’t Lose Weight… Continued…
While many prescription medications do you a world of good, there are some unwelcome side effects, weight gain often being one of these. Estimates have as many as 50 commonly used drugs that have weight gain as a side effect. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, anti-seizure medications, diabetes drugs, high blood pressure pills, steroids and birth control pills can all be at fault.
If you notice you’ve gained weight within a few weeks of starting a new medication, keep and eye on your progress, stick to your diet and fitness goals and discuss this with your doctor if you aren’t better by the first month. Often there’s an alternative medication that can be prescribed.
Never just stop taking a medication just because it may be one of the reasons for not losing weight. Talk with your doctor first. Treating the condition you’re taking the drug for is your main concern. Side effects, while unpleasant, are still better than the condition the drug is managing for you.