With Addison’s Disease, you’re not only fighting an incurable chronic illness, you’re also contending with severe diet restrictions. The list of forbidden foods can be endless, and aside from the dietary restrictions, you’re also struggling with an undernourished body. Since your body is not capable of producing the required hormones, your body’s natural food sources (e.g., carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) cannot provide the same benefits to you as they can for someone without your illness. This can make it challenging to know how to lose weight with Addison’s Disease. You’ll find that the number of calories you need to consume is higher than normal, and this may make it difficult to reach your goals. However, with a little bit of planning and research, this is something you can definitely manage.
What Is Addison’s Disease?
Addison’s Disease is an incurable metabolic disorder that mainly affects women. It is named after Dr. George Addison, who first described it in 1873. The condition causes the body to become deprived of the hormones that it normally produces—most notably, estrogen and progesterone. As a result of this reduced hormone activity, the body’s tissues become weaker and more prone to injury and infection. This leads to increased inflammation and a greater chance that you’ll develop diabetes or heart disease.
Affected individuals usually experience a range of symptoms that can be divided into five major categories:
The first category of symptoms is related to your endocrinology. As mentioned, the condition interferes with the production of estrogen and progesterone by the body, so you’ll experience a low estrogen/high progesterone state. This can cause a number of problems, including:
- irregular menstrual cycles
- breast tenderness (especially at night)
- sleep disorders
- weight gain
- reduced fertility
The second category of symptoms is related to your gastrointestinal tract and its functions. As the name suggests, the condition affects the gastrointestinal tract—more specifically, your stomach and intestines. The type of food that you cannot eat may vary, but it tends to be high in fiber (i.e., indigestible food that your body does not process well) and low in carbohydrates (i.e., foods that your body can use as fuel). This can make it challenging to lose weight with Addison’s Disease because it puts you on a diet. For example, you may be advised to avoid all simple carbohydrates (e.g., sugar, carbs, and starch) because they can cause your blood sugar to spike. This, in turn, may result in hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar) and hyperinsulinemia (elevated insulin levels), which can cause further complications.
The third category of symptoms is related to your mental health. As the name suggests, this category involves your thoughts and the way you experience emotion. Women with Addison’s Disease usually demonstrate a higher rate of anxiety and depression than the general population. This may be due to the hormonal changes that the condition brings, or it may be a genetic predisposition.
It is also possible that stress, uncertainty, and fear of the unknown can make you more prone to anxiety and depression. Interestingly, pregnant women have also been shown to have a higher rate of anxiety and depression, which could be related to the stress of carrying a baby and the discomfort that they experience during labor and delivery. One study noted that “[p]regnant women with pre-existing mental illness are at increased risk of complications during pregnancy and the perinatal period compared with the general population, and therefore require specific mental health care planning.”
The fourth category of symptoms is related to your cardiovascular system. Since your body does not produce the hormones that it needs to function properly, it is at greater risk of cardiovascular disease. This can be serious if not managed properly. The most common types of cardiovascular disease that you can experience as a result of Addison’s Disease are:
- hypertension (high blood pressure)
- dyslipidemia (high cholesterol)
- increased risk of heart attack and stroke
The fifth category of symptoms is related to your metabolic functioning. Your body does not produce the hormones that it needs, which can cause problems with energy metabolism. As a result of this, you can experience a number of issues, such as:
- insulin resistance
- low energy
- increased hunger
- poor quality sleep
- polyphagia (eating multiple times per day)
- chronic constipation
- reduced libido (low sex drive)
Since these symptoms can be difficult to deal with physically, mentally, and emotionally, one of the main goals of treatment is to provide relief from the pain and discomfort caused by the incurable illness. This, in turn, may help you to focus on living a happy and healthy life.
How Can Addison’s Disease Make You Lose Weight?
By now, you might be wondering how Addison’s Disease can make you lose weight. It’s actually a bit more complicated than this, but here’s the basic idea: your hormones play an important role in regulating your appetite and body weight. Therefore, when you are not producing sufficient amounts of the hormones that your body needs, it is likely that you’ll experience an altered appetite and difficulty losing weight. This is especially true if you are not producing enough of the ‘happy hormones’ (i.e., serotonin and dopamine).
Your body needs protein to produce the hormones that it needs. Since your condition inhibits the production of protein within your body, it may be difficult to achieve your desired weight. One study looking at the effect of Addison’s Disease on dietary habits found that:
- protein intake was lower than recommended
- fat intake was higher than recommended
- nutrient density was lower
- sodium intake was higher
What this means is that your body is not receiving the nutrients that it needs, which can cause you to gain weight. One of the most effective ways of remedying this is through diet. Since your dietary needs are altered, you may need to adjust what and how much you eat until you reach your desired weight. This is why diet plays an important role in weight loss with Addison’s Disease. It is also why doctors often prescribe a low-calorie diet and encourage their patients to eat healthy foods.
What Foods Can I Eat To Lose Weight With Addison’s Disease?
Now that you know what causes weight gain in people with Addison’s Disease, it’s time to figure out what you can and cannot eat to lose weight. The answer to this question depends on you and what your doctor has recommended. Some of the foods that you need to avoid include:
- diet soda
- potato chips
- carbonated soft drinks (i.e., diet drinks)
These foods are all high in carbohydrates and low in protein. Since your body does not produce the required hormones, these types of food cannot provide the same benefits to you as they can for someone without your illness. As a result of this, it is often advised against to eat these foods if you want to lose weight.
On the other hand, the following foods are generally permitted in your diet and can help you to lose weight: