Reader’s Question: I’ve been losing weight and am now considered underweight. How can I gain weight healthfully, aside from eating more food… and more often?
Dr. Glenn Rothfeld: One of the biggest differences between mainstream medicine and an integrative (or “holistic”) practice is the type of questions we ask.
Mainstream doctors ask about the “What” and then stop when they get that answer. That means they look at numbers that are too high or too low and try to bring them back to “normal” in any way they can.
Doctors who are well-versed in integrative medicine like myself, however, focus more on the question of “Why?”
If any number – whether it’s blood pressure, cholesterol, serum levels of various vitamins and minerals, Body Mass Index (BMI), or weight – seems a bit “off,” we investigate further to find out what those numbers are trying to tell us.
After all, those numbers are just part of the story – they’re not the entire story.
When it comes to weight, there’s usually a good reason why a patient of mine has gained – or lost – too much of it.
And it doesn’t always correlate to how much they’re actually eating.
I try to dig deeper to find out what the REAL root cause of their weight issues are.
For instance, being underweight for your particular height… and having difficulty gaining weight… can occur if you’ve got weak adrenal function.
Those aren’t the only signs, of course. Other symptoms of weak adrenal function include lower-than-average blood pressure (especially if the “top” – or systolic — number is consistently below 110), dizzy spells when standing up rapidly, and being easily tired out.
In my practice, I’ve found that a lot of systemic health issues – including problems with the immune system and even allergies – can be attributed to adrenal fatigue.
Your adrenal glands are responsible for producing the “stress hormone” cortisol, as well as DHEA. Adrenal fatigue usually occurs when patients undergo extended periods of stress, which elevate levels of DHEA and cortisol for long periods of time. In turn, the surplus production of DHEA and cortisol overtaxes the adrenals, resulting in a sharp drop in DHEA and cortisol levels.
And often, conventional docs don’t recognize adrenal fatigue because it doesn’t show up on regular lab tests.
Anyone who suspects they have AF should have a doc well-versed in integrative medicine test their adrenal function. My preference is a saliva test, which is more accurate than a blood or urine test.
If it turns out that the adrenal function is, in fact, weak, there are a number of supplements that can help boost adrenal function — including the sodium ascorbate form of vitamin C, vitamins B5 (pantothenic acid) and B12, vitamins A and E, and chromium.
Adaptogens like ashwagandha, rhodiola, and Siberian ginseng can also help manage stress and normalize cortisol levels.
It usually takes about four to six months to get the adrenals working again, but it can take up to eight to 10 months.
Want me to answer your question next? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing