Unexplained Weight Gain: 8 Little-Known Conditions That Cause Rapid Weight Gain

Have you recently experienced weight gain and you’re not sure why? Discover these eight little-known conditions that lead to rapid weight gain now.

Almost 72 percent of adults in the U.S. are either overweight or obese.

Many of these people gain weight in a slow, gradual way over a period of several months or years. In some cases, though, it seems to come on out of nowhere. 

If you fall into the latter group, you might be wondering what’s caused your rapid weight gain, especially if you haven’t made any significant changes to your diet or exercise regiment.

Sometimes, when you gain a lot of weight all of a sudden, a health condition is at the root of the problem.

Read on to learn more about eight lesser-known conditions that can contribute to rapid weight gain.

1. Hypothyroidism

The thyroid is a small gland found in the neck. It’s shaped like a butterfly and secretes a hormone that helps to regulate your metabolism.

If your thyroid is underactive (a condition known as hypothyroidism), your metabolism may slow down and your body will burn fewer calories. This, in turn, can cause you to gain weight, even if you’re still eating the same number of calories you were eating before you experienced changes in your thyroid function.

Hypothyroidism is often accompanied by symptoms like decreases in energy, hair loss, and constipation. You may also develop hoarseness to your voice and dry, flaky skin.

2. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (also known as PCOS) is an endocrine disorder.

It causes an imbalance of the body’s reproductive hormones — specifically, testosterone and estrogen. It also has a negative effect on the way the body uses insulin.

People who suffer from PCOS often also suffer from insulin resistance and difficulty regulating their blood sugar levels. This can lead to unexplained weight gain, particularly around the abdomen. 

Some other symptoms of PCOS you may notice include abnormal hair growth (especially on the face), migraines, and irregular menstrual periods.

3. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

In order for your digestive tract (and the rest of your body) to function properly, you need to have a good balance of good and bad bacteria.

If you have an overgrowth of bad bacteria in your gut, you may find that you struggle with chronic bloating and sudden weight gain. 

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (also known as SIBO) can cause a variety of additional symptoms, including abdominal pain and diarrhea.

4. Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease is a rare illness that affects mostly women. It causes an increase in cortisol (a stress hormone) production and may trigger excess weight gain.

People who gain weight as a result of Cushing’s disease often experience weight gain primarily around their abdomen and the back of their neck. Their arms and legs, on the other hand, remain quite lean.

People who suffer from Cushing’s disease usually notice symptoms like low energy and red stretch marks on their abdomen. They may also have additional health problems like diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

5. Kidney Disease

Sometimes, weight gain is a symptom of kidney disease. If your kidneys aren’t functioning in the correct way, your body may retain fluid and have a difficult time eliminating waste. As a result, you may gain weight. 

If you’re struggling with kidney disease, you may also have symptoms like fatigue, infrequent urination, joint pain, and headaches.

6. Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is a condition that affects the liver. It occurs when scar tissue builds up and replaces the healthy tissue of the liver and is common among individuals who abuse alcohol.

Sometimes, people suffering from cirrhosis will have an abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdomen (this is known as ascites). If cirrhosis is the cause of your weight gain, you may also notice swollen ankles, abdominal pain, and difficulty breathing.

7. Ovarian Tumors

A tumor (or tumors) on your ovaries could contribute to unexplained weight gain as well.

This is rare, but weight gain and bloating in the abdominal area could be a symptom of ovarian tumors. If a tumor goes undiagnosed for too long, it could grow to the point that it causes the abdomen to become distended.

Ovarian tumors are most likely to affect women who have already gone through menopause.

If you have an ovarian tumor, you’ll likely find that you feel full very quickly after beginning to eat. You may also feel increased pressure on the bladder and pain the lower part of the stomach.

8. Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue is the name for a collection of symptoms that occur when the adrenal glands stop working properly.

The adrenal glands are found on top of your kidneys. They produce several hormones that play a role in the way the body responds to stress, including the following:

  • Adrenaline (norepinephrine)
  • Cortisol
  • DHEA

If you’re struggling with chronic stress, you may end up with chronic cortisol elevation. This, in turn, can hinder the adrenal glands’ ability to function in the correct way. They become “fatigued” because they have to pump out so much cortisol to respond to the stress you’re facing.

Common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include chronic fatigue, depression, and difficulty focusing. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms alongside weight gain, and you struggle with chronic stress, you may want to talk to your doctor to learn more about adrenal health.

Have You Experienced Rapid Weight Gain?

There are a lot of reasons why you may have put on weight or are struggling to lose it. It’s not always enough to eat clean and exercise on a regular basis.

If you’ve recently experienced rapid weight gain and aren’t sure what’s causing it, one of these health conditions could be contributing.

Do you suspect that you’re suffering from one of these conditions? If so, contact your doctor right away and let them know about your symptoms.

Remember, the sooner you know what’s at the root of your weight gain, the sooner you’ll be able to shed the extra pounds and start feeling more like your old self.

Check out some of the other health-related articles on our site today if you want to learn about other reasons why you might be gaining weight.