Is This Why You're Gaining Weight?
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Why you're gaining: You may have excess cortisol coursing through your body due to Cushing syndrome. There are quite a few scenarios that can cause it: taking corticosteroids, noncancerous tumors in your adrenal glands making them pump out too much cortisol or a tumor (typically benign) on your pituitary gland that triggers the release of a cortisol-regulating hormone (that particular situation is called Cushing disease). The syndrome is fairly rare, but it's most common in women between the ages of 30 and 60, says Anthony Heaney, MD, an endocrinologist and the medical director of the UCLA Pituitary Tumor Program, and experts believe the main reason for the weight gain is that cortisol can increase your appetite. Other signs your doctor will look for if they suspect Cushing include those stretch marks (especially around your midsection, where Cushing patients tend to gain the most weight), easy bruising, increased hair growth and signs of osteoporosis (excess cortisol can demineralize your bones).
How to stop it: Heaney says about 85 percent of Cushing cases involve a tiny tumor on the pituitary gland that's typically easily removed with surgery. Same goes for adrenal gland tumors, which can usually be snagged laparoscopically. Most patients do lose some weight once the tumor is gone (it can range from 10 to 15 pounds to 50 to 60 pounds, says Heaney) but need be monitored throughout their lifetime for possible recurrences.