UNDERWEIGHT / DIFFICULTY GAINING WEIGHT
Are you underweight? Are you having a difficult time gaining weight and keeping it on even though you are eating well? Are you losing weight without trying to and are concerned about becoming underweight or looking too thin? Are you looking
to gain weight in a healthy and natural way without consuming junk foods, excessive fats and foods with poor nutritional value?
FACTORS AFFECTING WEIGHT GAIN OR BEING UNDERWEIGHT
Being underweight has many factors to it:
- Not getting enough nourishment during infancy and adolescence or the mother having nutrient deficiencies during pregnancy can lead to a lower count of fat cells therefore a potential for lower amounts of fat tissue.
- Genetics and conditioning also play an important role. Inability to gain weight may run in the family, as may obesity.
- Improper food intake and poor eating habits is another cause of being underweight.
- Illnesses and diseases such as cancer can be another cause of weight loss and may be hard to regain for those with these problems due to not having high-calorie diets.
- Digestive issues created by parasites, worms and food intolerances can also lead to malabsorption and weight loss, and an inability to gain weight.
- Significant stress, worry and anxiety have been found to cause low body weight; worriers and high-strung people tend to have problems putting on weight. During times of extreme emotional upset, it can be difficult to eat which can be a problem.
- Stimulant use such as caffeine and cigarettes. People using stimulants are found to be more commonly underweight than those who do not use those substances. This combination generates a lot of nervous energy and frenetic mental activity.
- Medical issues such as hyperthyroidism can be associated with weight loss or the inability to gain weight and is also associated with symptoms such as rapid heart rate, sweaty palms and insomnia.
- Psychological issues such as medical problems such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia can also cause problems with gaining weight. They are often symptoms of underlying emotional problems.
Bulimia is when the individual “purges” meaning they eat an excessive amount of food at one time and afterwards purposefully throws up the food. This cycle of overeating and vomiting is quite hard on the body as it can irritate the upper gastrointestinal tract with hydrochloric
acid and lead to a loss of potassium and other nutrients. Bulimia may or may not be a part of anorexia nervosa. Treatment for bulimia may require both medical and psychological help.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder which entails loss of appetite due to psychological factors. It mainly affects young women between the ages of 13-25. Those suffering from anorexia nervosa have a distorted view on weight and body image (body dysmorphic syndrome) and
often have a significant fear of eating food because of possible weight gain. This is also accompanied by low self-esteem. Anorexics are malnourished and deficient in nutrients and calories. They may also be using laxatives as well as involved with vigorous exercise both of which can lead to a further
loss of nutrients. They may also become socially separated for fear of going out in groups and being pressured to eat.
This is a serious problem and people suffering from this syndrome should receive treatment immediately with education, emotional support, understanding and food. Since it is most common in teens, this is a concern because this age group requires high nutrition. It is also important not to
over-diagnose or over-treat young people who may watch their weight and eat small amounts. Encourage good-quality, low-calorie foods and supplementation.
NATUROPATHIC TREATMENT FOR UNDERWEIGHT ISSUES AND WEIGHT GAIN
The naturopathic treatments we offer for clients at our naturopathic clinic based in Toronto are for people who want to gain weight in a natural and healthy way, but also want to identify the root cause of their weight issues. The naturopathic program is the opposite of our
weight loss program, but with the same emphasis on avoiding junk foods, excessive fats and other poor nutritional choices. People who need to gain weight need to consume much more of the
calorie dense healthy foods, which can be a real problem.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT OUR NATUROPATHIC CLINIC?
The naturopathic approach to addressing weight issues includes a thorough assessment to identify what the root cause of the problem maybe and then doing the appropriate tests such as blood to identify any vitamin or mineral deficiencies, hormonal issues and food sensitivities or allergies that
maybe affecting your weight.
At the clinic, during your initial 1 hour one – on – one consult with our Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Sushma Shah, you will undergo a comprehensive symptom intake in detail, and at the end of the visit, you may
be required to do some blood and urine testing. Her assessment is oriented toward determining what is impeding your body's ability to function optimally. She will determine which assessment tools are most helpful in establishing a treatment strategy specific to your health needs.
Naturopathic Doctor Sushma Shah may order some specialized testing, if need be in order to get all the necessary physiological information and to get a more complete picture of your symptoms – to get to the root cause of your symptoms. Following this visit, you will be coming in for your second
visit, in which she will be doing a full physical check-up, a traditional Chinese medicine tongue and pulse diagnosis, body fat analysis and blood glucose testing. After having gone through your case thoroughly, she will be suggesting an individualised natural treatment plan that is specific to the
symptoms you have and your health goals.
For those experiencing problems of being underweight, it is important to get a proper medical evaluation / assessment done, especially if the problems are recent. A physical exam and basic blood test may rule out anemia, thyroid issues, and even cancer maybe suggested. Mineral tests and an
evaluation of diet may also help in looking for nutritional deficiencies. If thinness runs in the family though, no medical problems will appear on any testing; a fast metabolism and low potential for fat storage is usually the explanation.
NATUROPATHIC TREATMENT FOR WEIGHT GAIN
One of the most important factors when it comes to gaining weight is good nutrition through a proper diet and appropriate supplements (if your body is lacking certain nutrients and vitamins). Dr. Shah, ND firmly believes that supplementation should be through proper nutrition. The foundation
of this plan is to consume healthier portions, and meals with extra snacks throughout the day- all being healthy and easily digestible calorie dense foods.
People who are underweight and have a difficult time gaining weight may require a combined program; a psychologist, stress counselor or hypnotherapist may be of great use to help deal with psychological, attitudinal or emotional factors that are affecting the person’s ability to gain weight.
Stress reduction therapies such as acupuncture, massage, meditation, music, relaxation exercises maybe suggested. These are important for nervous and highly stressed individuals or individuals suffering from anxiety as it teaches them to slow down internally and externally helps with the
assimilation and metabolism of nutrients.
If you have a low risk for cardiovascular issues, with a moderate cholesterol level and good blood pressure, consuming more fats especially monounsaturated helps could be of great use (e.g. olive oil).
Usually, underweight people also experience coldness and fatigue more because fat helps to keep us warm, and with low body fat and poor circulation, vitality and warmth are affected. Nutrient deficiencies are also linked with fatigue along with low caloric diets and low intake.
Vegetarians and people who consume macrobiotic diets tend to have lower weights, however, they may be healthier weights given they are consuming proper amounts of calories, proteins, and vegetable oils – mostly nutrient-rich foods. However, these diets may lead to deficiencies in calorie intake
because most of the food being consumed are low-calorie foods which are used to help in weight loss.
Some Naturopathic Health Tips from Dr. Sushma Shah, ND for Healthy Weight Gain:
- Increase the size and number of meals consumed daily. Having three main meals accompanied by three or four snacks throughout the day will help to keep calorie intake up.
- It is important to focus on higher-calorie foods and decrease the intake of bulky low-calorie foods. You should eat the main meal first Eat the richer foods followed by the vegetables and salads with lots of good dressing.
- Ingestion of dense whole grains such as brown rice, steel cut oats, barley, buckwheat, kamut or quinoa as opposed to processed foods is very helpful.
- Sweets and desserts should be avoided when trying to gain in a healthy way as it gives people a short-term energy and actually leads to increased energy expenditure.
- Try not to drink fluids before a meal as it will reduce the appetite. Occasionally, one drink of alcohol or wine may be useful before a meal as it promotes relaxation and improves appetite.
- Evening snacks can be useful for gaining weight, given it does not interfere with sleep.
- Sufficient rest and deep sleep are important as it helps slow down the body and relax the nervous tension that can eat up wanted calories.
- It is important to avoid stimulants that increase nervous energy, especially in the evening. Stopping smoking is important to this entire program and life itself.
- Regular exercise is an important factor for the weight gain program. Focus on routines that are oriented to toning and conditioning such as weight bearing exercises, to build up the muscle and tissue density, resulting in an increase in weight. Aerobic activity will burn off the calories, resulting in
weight loss, though it is useful in maintaining endurance. Taking walks in fresh air/nature may help the body to become more receptive to food.
It is important for those looking to gain weight to “live to eat” rather than to “eat to live” at least for the time being in which they are in the process to gain weight.
Please ask your doctor or naturopath before starting on any supplements. Its is better to first identify the cause and then treat it with the right remedies, even though those mentioned above have minimal side effects.
For any questions, concerns or to schedule an appointment, please contact us at 416 913 4325 (HEAL) or email us at [email protected]iStock_000022030327_XXXLarge.jpg
* DISCLAIMER: The information on this article is the property of Dr. Sushma Shah, Naturopathic Doctor, and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any diseases or promote any services or products mentioned on the website.