A relatively rare medical condition that impacts fewer than 200,000 people in the United States annually, Addison’s Disease refers to a medical disorder where your adrenal glands produce lower levels of the hormone cortisol than they would have typically.
There are a variety of different symptoms and physical manifestations of this disorder, but one of the biggest challenges people have when living with this condition is finding a safe way to figure out how to lose weight with Addison’s Disease without hindering their short or long-term health prospects.
Lose weight too rapidly with this condition and you can trigger a cascade of negative biochemical reactions throughout the body that only compound the issues brought on by this disease. The last thing you want to do is cripple your short or long-term health or put yourself in danger while trying to lose weight.
Thankfully, there are a couple of things you can do to strategically lose weight with this condition that will not put you at risk.
Armed with the details included below you’ll be able to lead a happy, healthy, and relatively symptom-free lifestyle without worrying about Addison’s Disease forcing you to carry around more weight the end you are comfortable with.
Let’s get right into it!
What Is Addison’s Disease?
As highlighted above, Addison’s Disease (sometimes referred to as adrenal insufficiency) is a relatively uncommon medical condition that cripples your body’s ability to produce high enough levels of very specific hormones.
When you’re talking about this disease and specific your adrenal glands (situated just above your kidneys) aren’t able to operate effectively or efficiently, and they aren’t able to produce the amount of cortisol or the amount of aldosterone your body needs.
Prevalent in both males as well as females (as well as across all age groups) most of the time this condition isn’t going to be life-threatening – but that doesn’t mean that it cannot turn into a dangerous and potentially deadly condition.
Cortisol is the hormone that allows your body to better react to stressful situations.
When you are feeling mentally stressed or when you are physically taxed cortisol is released to sort of calm things down, to help you maneuver through the natural “fight or flight” reaction we have, and to help you make smarter and more successful decisions when you are really overwhelmed.
Without enough cortisol produced you can run at a “redline” mentally, feeling totally overwhelmed, totally overstressed, and anxious nonstop with very little recourse from a biological standpoint.
Aldosterone is another core hormone in your body that may not be produced in sufficient quantities when you’re dealing with this disease. It helps with overall sodium and potassium regulation in the body, but also helps work to produce sex hormones.
Just some of the Addison’s Disease symptoms can include:
- Muscle weakness and fatigue
- A darkening of your skin color and pigmentation
- Weight loss as well as weight gain
- A decrease in your overall heart rate and blood pressure levels
- Low blood sugar levels across the board
- Periodic and sporadic fainting spells
- Sores that begin to manifest inside of your mouth
- Cravings for sodium and potassium
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness and a lack of mental clarity
Again, these are just some of the symptoms you may have to contend with when you’re dealing with an adrenal insufficiency caused by this condition.
What Causes Adrenal Insufficiency?
Medical experts believe that there are two major reasons why Addison’s Disease presents itself in the first place, having classified them as both Primary Adrenal Insufficiency and Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency.
Your doctor will be able to tell you which one is behind your specific diagnosis of Addison’s Disease, but here’s a quick overview of these different root causes.
Primary Adrenal Insufficiency
This form of Addison’s Disease is going to occur when your actual adrenal glands themselves have become damaged or severely compromised and just aren’t physically able to produce hormones any longer.
This kind of condition usually comes about when your adrenal glands, under attack by your immune system, making it an autoimmune issue that can wreak havoc not only on your adrenal glands but other areas of your body as well.
Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency
This form of Addison’s Disease can be present when your adrenal glands are otherwise in perfect working order but your pituitary gland (located inside of your brain) is no longer able to produce the hormone ACTH.
ACTH is the hormone responsible for “triggering” the adrenal glands to produce and release the hormones they are responsible for. When this hormone isn’t present any longer your adrenal gland essentially goes to sleep, shuts down, and no longer produces or releases the hormones that you need.
Interestingly enough, this type of Addison’s Disease can be brought about by corticosteroids that may have been prescribed to you for a separate medical condition. It’s definitely something you’ll want your doctor to look into.
How Does It Affect Health?
There are a number of different ways you’re going to see Addison’s Disease really lower your overall quality of living.
For starters, physically you’re going to feel wiped out, overworked, and overtaxed on a pretty much 24/7 basis – even if you are otherwise getting plenty of sleep each and every night. Remember that your body isn’t going to be able to produce the amount of cortisol it needs to deal with any stress whatsoever when you are dealing with this disease.
That means that even just a little bit of stress (mental stress, physical stress, emotional stress) is going to be enough to throw you into a downward tail spin. Obstacles you would have been able to easily hurtle over in the past are going to feel insurmountable when you’re dealing with this condition.
It’s also not at all unreasonable to see some pretty significant changes to your physical body when you are dealing with Addison’s Disease.
Low cortisol levels and weight gain are closely intertwined with one another (something we touch on a little more in depth in just a moment), but you’ll also notice muscular wasting and atrophy, diminishing of your strength and endurance, and a general feeling of lethargy and fatigue you can’t shake.
Why People Gain Weight With Addison's
It’s long been understood that low cortisol levels are intertwined with weight gain – sometimes significant weight gain – on a number of different levels.
For starters, cortisol actually works to curb and cut down on your appetite when you are otherwise feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
When you are in that state of hyper arousal (when the fight or flight reaction is triggered by stress hormones) you’re going to be looking for sources of fuel and easy to convert energy – and that means you’re going to be super hungry.
Your appetite increases, your overall caloric intake increases, and you physically feel hungry all the time even though your body is at max capacity. Without cortisol to wash away those feelings you’re going to continue to eat and eat and eat, and that’s only going to make weight gain a bigger problem.
You’re also going to see metabolic changes when your cortisol levels are quite low because of Addison’s Disease.
Your neuroendocrine system isn’t going to physically recognize that you aren’t fighting or fleeing any longer, your metabolism is going to be screwed up completely, and your body is going to continue to look for ways to store food as fat/energy so that you can get through this “survival mode” – no matter how long it may take.
This is obviously a huge challenge to overcome when you are contending with your own body’s biochemistry that’s causing you to pack on pound after pound of fat.
Thankfully though, figuring out how to lose weight with Addison’s Disease is a little bit simpler than most people may think.
Best Foods To Help Adrenal Insufficiency
The goal of any diet for cortisol imbalance – like you’re dealing with from adrenal insufficiency – is to provide your body with natural energy level increases without you having to burn off stored nutrients.
Modern nutritionists have found that a diet loaded with high-protein foods, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains has the best chance of helping you eliminate many of the symptoms caused by Addison’s Disease (regardless of whether you’re dealing with primary or secondary root causes).
This means you’ll want to eat foods for low cortisol issues that include:
- Lean sources of protein, including fish and eggs
- Legumes and nuts
- Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale
- Sources of whole grains as close to their natural state as possible
- Dairy products, including cheese
- Fruit that is low in natural sugar
- Healthy sources of dietary fats, including olive oil, coconut oil, and the like
On the flip side, you’ll obviously want to eliminate as many foods that make adrenal fatigue even worse as much as possible, including:
- Processed sugars
- Processed flowers
- Alcohol and caffeine
- Fried foods
- Artificial Sweeteners
Tips To Managing Weight With Addison's
The very first thing you’ll want to do to manage your weight when living with Addison’s is to start eating more foods that increase cortisol production while eliminating foods that cut down on already low cortisol output.
Start with the dietary recommendations we highlighted above and find a way to implement as many of them into your daily diet as possible.
You’re also going to want to make sure that you carefully count your calories for the first few couple of weeks with this new dietary direction. You’ll want to know that your caloric intake is dialed in and that you aren’t overeating just because your adrenal fatigue isn’t helping you recognize when your appetite has been satiated.
Next, you’re going to want to make sure that you are getting at least 45 minutes of vigorous exercise five days a week – and it’s better if you get that same amount of exercise and on a daily basis as well.
Remember, Addison’s can cause significant muscle wasting, muscular atrophy, and muscle fatigue. One of the best ways to push back against this kind of physiological change and sapping of your strength and endurance is to focus on physical exercise that builds it back and armors your body against these types of attacks.
Lastly, you’ll want to make sure that you are getting enough water on a daily basis and that you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep each night.
Keeping your body well hydrated and making sure that your sleep schedule allows your body to rest and recover more effectively is a huge piece of the puzzle in winning the war against Addison’s.
You’ll also find that both of these things help you lose weight while living with this condition, helping you to streamline the way you look and feel while at the same time improving your overall health and wellness across the board!