How to Prevent Weight Gain from Cushing's Syndrome

Editor’s Note 05/22/2014: The information below can be confirmed in this publication from the National Institutes of Health.

One of the most troubling symptoms to the 10 to 15 million people who are diagnosed with Cushing’s Syndrome is the excessive weight gain caused by overactive adrenal glands. These glands release too much of the hormone cortisol into the body. Hormones play a role in appetite regulation, metabolism and fat synthesis. When there is too much cortisol the body’s regulatory mechanisms are knocked out of control. Weight can be managed, however. Once a Cushing’s diagnosis is confirmed, a medical expert can recommend a proper diet. According to experts who are familiar with Cushing’s Syndrome, obesity can be curbed. Doctors today know what to recommend to make sure that continued weight gain does not occur and that nutrition choices avert worsened health. Here are the guidelines:

Follow a Balanced Diet

Cushing’s Syndrome sufferers especially need to follow a balanced diet. Doctors also advise against taking up fad diets in desperation, since these diets tend to exaggerate the benefit of one type of food at the expense of others. Going by the tried and true diets like Weight Watchers or South Beach is considered suitable. Or, doctors recommend simply choosing to eat a balanced diet that features low-calorie, low-fat, low-salt foods. At least five servings of vegetables and fruits, ideally seven, should be part of the balanced diet each day.

Less Fat, Less Cholesterol

The syndrome carries an unfair disadvantage from the start, raising cholesterol levels. This is the reason that foods with high cholesterol should be avoided. One sensible way to deal with this is to read labels carefully. Even small steps like switching from a high-fat salad dressing to a low-fat dressing can help.

Hold the Salt

Salty foods lead to fluid retention, or edema, and Cushing’s Syndrome patients need to avoid fluid retention in the battle with weight gain. Read packaged foods carefully and avoid ones that carry high amounts of sodium. Avoid cured meats and mayonnaise-based potato, egg, and seafood salads that are high in sodium.

Calcium for Thinning Bones

Because one of the side effects of Cushing’s Syndrome may be thinning bones, adults should take in foods that are rich in calcium. Calcium-rich foods include low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk, sardines, greens and tofu.

Blood Sugar on Low

Cushing’s Syndrome, because of the release of too much cortisol, results in high blood sugar levels. Medical advice may be given to tailor a diet similar to a diabetic’s. Some patients may be given insulin or pills to bring their sugar levels down. According to the National Institutes of Health, high blood sugar levels usually resolve when the disease is brought under control. The patient can work with the doctor to decide the best diet plan that can address blood sugar.

Have Plenty of Patience

Cushing’s Syndrome is difficult because there is no quick way to shed the excess weight. Some weight gain from this disorder is to be expected, but tailoring the daily diet can minimize the weight gained. The amount of weight gain varies, but the excess weight mostly settles in the middle section of the body. Once the disease is brought under control, weight loss is possible, according to the National Institute of Health.

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