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Dr. Camille Nghiem-Phu, a naturopathic doctor who runs Path to Wellness, helps shed some light on conditions that can cause people to pack on extra pounds. If you suspect any of the situations listed below apply to you, contact your health-care practitioner.
1. Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid
Hypothyroidism is a condition of underactive thyroid function, says Dr. Nghiem-Phu. This condition is very common among women today due to the many demands of daily life, she explains. When suffering from an underactive thyroid, "women feel exhausted, stressed out, may have night sweats and/or feel intolerant to cold, and have difficulty managing their weight," Dr. Nghiem-Phu says. The thyroid gland is responsible for metabolism, body temperature, perspiration and part of your daily energy, so having a low-functioning thyroid will slow down your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight.
Unfortunately, the thyroid gland is highly influenced by stress, so the more emotional, physical and mental demand we put on our bodies, the more harm we create on our thyroid gland over time. "It's important to have your GP check your thyroid panel through your blood work, but in my clinical practice I see many men and women who suffer from subclinical hypothyroidism where the blood values are normal or on the lower side of normal, yet the patient is obviously hypothyroid," she says.
Bottom line: Be persistent in seeking help if you have hypothyroidism symptoms you just can't shake.
Page 1 of 3 - Could cardiovascular disease be affecting your weight? Learn the answer on page 2.
2. Polycystic ovarian or ovary syndrome, (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome is the most common hormonal disorder affecting women's fertility, and can manifest itself in irregular periods, excess hair, acne and obesity. Dr. Nghiem-Phu explains that this is a condition that affects a woman’s menstrual cycle, the health of her ovaries, her energy, blood sugar levels and the level of testosterone in her blood. She adds that PCOS can be a cause of infertility, and it negatively impacts the efficiency of the thyroid gland. "Because of its influence on blood sugar levels and the thyroid gland, there is often much difficulty in managing or losing weight," she says.
3. Testosterone decline
It's not just women who suffer from problems that cause weight gain. There are certain health conditions that men are subjected to where weight management becomes an issue, Dr. Nghiem-Phu says. "A main one is the decline of testosterone in the blood, which naturally occurs with age. As testosterone decreases in the blood, it is transformed into estrogen, therefore causing more abdominal and chest fat deposits, as well as fatigue, low libido and concentration issues."
4. Cardiovascular diseases and stress
Most of us know someone with heart disease. Unfortunately, this too-common condition can also play a role in weight gain. "In today's society, the cardiovascular diseases that cause high cholesterol levels, thickening of artery walls, heart attack and stroke are unfortunately part of the main causes of death in both men and women," Dr. Nghiem-Phu warns. These patients are typically overweight, but not always, she explains.
"The type of food we eat can negatively affect our cholesterol levels, but the number one culprit for raised cholesterol levels is stress. So not only does stress negatively affect our thyroid gland and female/male hormones, it increases triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in the blood, making it harder to lose weight and more susceptible to heart disease and stroke," she says.
Page 2 of 3 - Learn how type 2 diabetes could be hindering your weight loss efforts on page 3
Type 2 diabetes is a condition where the patient's body no longer responds to normal regulating mechanisms that keep blood sugar levels normal, says Dr. Nghiem-Phu. "There is a correlation between overweight patients and having difficulty regulating blood sugar. Unfortunately, we're seeing more adolescents and children who are diagnosed with this disease due to inactivity, a diet high in refined and processed foods, and a high-stress lifestyle," she says, adding that these children are typically overweight, too, and will have difficulty with their health on many levels in the future if their lifestyles are not altered for optimal health.
Diagnosis and treatment
Are you concerned that one of these conditions may apply to you? See your health-care practitioner for more information on diagnosing and treating any underlying condition that may be affecting your ability to lose weight, and achieve optimal health.
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