Wellness

5 Health issues than can impact your weight

Do you have a health issue that makes it harder to manage your weight? Read on for advice.
Health issues that affect weight

 

1. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)


What is it?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an imbalance of reproductive hormones and it affects up to one in five women of reproductive age in Australia. “Women with PCOS can have symptoms that affect three main areas: psychology, metabolism and reproduction,” says endocrinologist Dr Anju Joham. “Symptoms may include high blood pressure, insulin resistance, acne, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, excess hair, irregular menstrual cycles, reduced fertility, anxiety, depression and body image concerns.”

 

Can it affect weight?
Yes, there’s some link. “Another symptom of PCOS is a greater likelihood of increased weight and abdominal fat,” says Dr Joham. But excess weight may also make PCOS symptoms worse. “In those who are overweight, even losing 10% of body weight can have a big impact on the symptoms of PCOS,” she adds.

 

Ways to manage it?
It’s mostly about lifestyle, says Dr Joham. “Eating a healthy, balanced diet, doing regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight is the most effective way to manage the condition.” Depending on symptoms, medication may help, too. “The oral contraceptive pill may help regulate menstrual cycles or treat symptoms of high androgens (male hormones) such as acne or excess hair growth; and metformin (a medication commonly used for type 2 diabetes) may help with insulin resistance,” she adds.

 

2. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)


What is it?
It’s a medical term that refers to a collection of various disorders, explains Dr David Cunnington, sleep physician at Melbourne Sleep Disorders Centre. “The medical definition is feeling more fatigued than you’d expect for six months or more, and generally a sufferer has to have up to five additional symptoms, such as muscle aches and pains, gastroenterological symptoms, sleep disturbance, headaches or palpitations.”

 

Can it affect weight?
The link between CFS and weight isn’t direct or biological, but yes. “When someone gets CFS they feel spent doing nothing, so their ability to be active and burn energy is markedly reduced,” says Dr Cunnington. “And when you’re completely spent, you find it difficult to do what you need to make healthy food choices like shopping for fresh produce and cooking it.”

 

Ways to manage it?
First, it’s important to be kind to yourself so you don’t exacerbate symptoms. “There’s a treatment called graded exercise, where you try to keep moving but don’t push so hard that you crash,” says Dr Cunnington. “Another concept is ‘pacing’ – that’s recognising that you only have a finite amount of energy and spreading it throughout the day.” Research published in The Lancet found that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can also improve quality of life for people with CFS by reducing the fear of exercise.

 

Quick fact
CFS is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). It affects four times more women than men and commonly occurs between the ages of 40 and 59.

 

3. Crohn's disease


What is it?
“An inflammation of the gut that can affect anywhere from your mouth to anus,” says Dr Katie Ellard, gastroenterologist and spokesperson for the Gastroenterological Society of Australia. “Symptoms depend on the location and the extent of this inflammation, but include diarrhoea, pain, weight loss and inability to eat.”

 

Can it affect weight?
At first, you’re more likely to lose weight as your body isn’t absorbing nutrients from food. “However, steroids like prednisone are often used to reduce inflammation, and may cause weight gain by increasing appetite and changing your metabolism,” says Dr Ellard. “The trick of management is to avoid the side effects by careful dosing and reviews.”

 

Ways to manage it?
As it’s not known what causes Crohn’s disease, it can be tricky to treat. However, a healthy diet is vital, says Dr Ellard. “Adequate nutrition is necessary for healing, so a very balanced diet is advisable. As iron deficiency is common, you may need supplements, too,” she says. She also points to emerging research that suggests emulsifiers – a common food additive – may play a role in causing inflammation, so minimising processed food is also a good idea.

 

WW Member Katrina Hess lost 25kg after a rough time with Crohn’s disease and thyroid issues- Read here full story here>

 

4. Hypothyroidism


What is it?
Thyroid hormones are hard workers that help your body use energy, maintain body temperature and support the function of organs and muscles. “Hypothyroidism occurs when the levels of thyroid hormones are low because the thyroid gland is underactive,” explains Dr Joham. “Symptoms vary, but may include feeling the cold more than usual, tiredness, dry skin, hair loss, constipation and muscle cramps.”

 

Can it affect weight?
Yes – in some cases it may cause difficulties with weight management. However, the condition can be easily treated. “Taking adequate amounts of thyroid hormone replacement, thyroxine, in a tablet can restore thyroid hormone levels and your body’s function,” says Dr Joham. “Thyroid hormone replacement may be associated with weight gain only if the dose is inadequate.” So it’s vital to work with your doctor to make sure your dosage is right.

 

Ways to manage it?
“The most appropriate treatment is thyroid hormone replacement,” says Dr Joham. However, a healthy lifestyle can also help protect against autoimmune disease, which is suspected to be a cause of hypothyroidism, she adds.

 

5. Chronic Pain


What is it?
It’s an umbrella term for a number of chronic pain conditions, affecting one in five Australians, says Dr Nick Christelis, a pain specialist physician at Victoria Pain Specialists. “It refers to severe, debilitating pain that’s with you for more than three or four months. The pain can occur anywhere – in your back, migraines, or neuropathic pain, which is when part of the nervous system is malfunctioning,” he explains.

 

Ways to manage it?
“Moving more, losing weight, not using morphine-based medications and following a healthy diet are very important,” says Dr Christelis. He advises cutting out pro-inflammatory foods. “These include foods that are highly processed, refined sugars and high saturated fat foods.” Instead, load up on anti-inflammatory foods such as omega-3 fatty acids in fish, extra-virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds, blueberries, turmeric and ginger. “Green tea is great, and low amounts of coffee and black tea are anti-inflammatory, too,” adds Dr Christelis.

 

Quick fact
While good-quality sleep can be hard to get when you’re in pain, it’s being studied, along with mindfulness and gratitude, for its impact on inflammation in the body.

 

Can it affect weight?
Yes. “People often gain weight because of chronic pain as people don’t exercise because they think they need to protect themselves,” says Dr Christelis. “Quite a few of the medications we use to treat nerve pain, such as pregabalin, have weight gain as a side effect.”