Do you find that you gain weight, even when you eat healthily and exercise regularly?
Unintentional weight gain can be a signal that something else is going on in your body.
A variety of vitamin, mineral, and hormone deficiencies can be linked to metabolic disorders that will affect your body’s ability to manage weight effectively.
Here are some of the common deficiencies that can cause weight gain, as well as healthy food options that can help regulate your body.
Vitamin D Deficiency
If you are experiencing unintentional weight gain, it may be due to a vitamin D deficiency. Over 40% of adults in the United States have a vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D supports bone health by establishing strong skeletal functions. Therefore it is common for a vitamin D deficiency to lead to certain bone conditions, such as osteoporosis.
However, studies have found that vitamin D deficiency can also lead to unintentional weight gain. In one particular study, women with vitamin D deficiencies were more likely to experience weight gain than women who had a normal range of the nutrient in their body. And additional studies have shown this to be the case across all sexes.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include:
- Joint pain
- Frequent infections
- Low mood (depression)
- Muscle weakness
While sitting in the sunlight is a natural way to counteract a vitamin D deficiency, there are also plenty of healthy food options that contain this nutrient, such as:
- Egg yolks
- Beef liver
- Fortified plant-based milk
You need a healthy amount of iron in your body for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, iron carries oxygen in red blood cells to and from your muscles and tissues, ensuring healthy development and growth. Iron also supports your metabolism and is active in the development of certain hormones.
An iron deficiency may lead to unintentional weight gain due to your muscles not receiving enough oxygen. When your muscles do not have enough oxygen, they cannot burn fat or turn fat into energy as they should. This negatively impacts the way your metabolism functions, which can lead to increased weight gain.
Symptoms of iron deficiency include:
- Pale skin
- Fast heartbeat
- Brittle nails
- Poor appetite
It is important to note that high doses of iron can be toxic. Therefore, you should consult your physician before taking any iron supplements.
Fortunately, there are foods that contain a healthy amount of iron. These include:
- Brown rice
- Dark green, leafy vegetables
Vitamin B Deficiency
Vitamin B supports a healthy metabolism. Therefore, a vitamin B deficiency can result in unintentional weight gain.
There are eight types of vitamin B:
- B1 (thiamin) – helps metabolize protein, fat, and carbohydrates
- B2 (riboflavin) – helps with cell growth, energy production, and fat breakdown
- B3 (niacin) – helps convert nutrients to energy and repair DNA
- B5 (pantothenic acid) – helps build and breakdown fatty acids
- B6 (pyridoxine) – helps metabolize protein, fat, and carbohydrates
- B7 (biotin) – helps metabolize protein, fat, and carbohydrates
- B9 (folate [folic acid]) – helps form DNA and RNA; metabolizes protein
- B12 (cobalamin) – helps metabolize protein and fats in conjunction with vitamin B6 and B9
As you can see, vitamin B of all kinds is vital in helping your body metabolism protein, fat, and carbohydrates instead of storing the nutrients as fat. Therefore, if you are B-vitamin deficient, it is likely you will experience unintentional weight gain because your body is storing fat rather than metabolizing it as it should. A deficiency in even one of the B vitamins can negatively affect the other B vitamins.
Symptoms of vitamin B deficiency include:
- Shortness of breath
- Vision loss
- Poor memory
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Weight gain
It is important to intentionally consume a healthy amount of vitamin B through your diet. While most B vitamins can be found in a variety of foods, B12 can only be consumed in animal products. So, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, you should consult your physician regarding a B12 supplement.
Best food options to increase your vitamin B intake include:
- Lean meats
- Whole grains
- Brown rice
- Nuts and seeds
Magnesium is a mineral that supports many functions in your body, such as regulating your blood glucose levels. Therefore, magnesium deficiency may result in insulin resistance, diabetes, and weight gain.
One extensive study found that obese people had lower magnesium levels in their bodies. This correlation between magnesium deficiency and weight gain is significant. Without the normal amount of magnesium, your body can become insulin resistant. To produce more insulin, you must consume foods that obtain glucose (sugar), which can lead to weight gain.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:
- Muscle cramps
- Numbness in the body
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Tingling in the body
- Nausea and vomiting
Magnesium supplements are not recommended unless prescribed by a doctor.
Therefore, the safest and most effective way to ensure your body is getting enough magnesium is to eat foods that contain magnesium, such as:
- Nuts and seeds
- Legumes, such as black beans, kidney beans, and lentils
- Whole grains
Serotonin helps your body’s nervous system communicate. Even more, it helps regulate mood, supports sexual function, regulates appetite, and impacts sleep. The correlation between serotonin deficiency and weight gain has to do with serotonin’s ability to regulate appetite.
Specifically, serotonin is responsible for telling your brain when you are full and when you are hungry. Therefore, if you do not have enough serotonin in your body, you may not be receiving the signal that you are full when you should. This can lead to overeating and weight gain.
Even more, studies show that a serotonin deficiency can increase sugar cravings, which can lead to weight gain as well. One of the best ways to combat unintentional weight gain due to low serotonin levels is to exercise. Not only will consistent exercise help you maintain a healthy weight, but it will also increase the serotonin levels in your brain and improve your mood.
While serotonin is not found in food, certain foods can help with the creation of serotonin in your body. These include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Tofu and soy
Sex Hormones and Weight Gain
Your body has two major sex hormones: testosterone and estrogen. These hormones can impact your body’s ability to manage weight, leading to unintentional weight gain if your hormone levels are low.
After menopause, estrogen levels significantly decline, making it harder for women to lose and maintain their weight. Studies have found that older women have less estrogen in their bodies and experience increased fat storage, especially around their stomachs.
Similarly, studies have found that men with low testosterone levels are likely to have increased body fat, due to testosterone’s ability to suppress the formation of fat and increase muscle development.
While hormone imbalances can result in unintentional weight gain, it is vital to consult your physician before starting any supplements.
Learn More with Burn Fat and Feast
As a woman over the age of 40–who works with hundreds of other women the same age or older through my health and fitness program, Burn Fat and Feast–I completely understand the desire to maintain a healthy weight.
Even with consistent exercise and a healthy diet, unintentional weight gain can happen. In the Burn Fat and Feast community, we discuss important topics like these to ensure every woman has the knowledge they need to live their healthiest life. To learn more about the program, and how to balance your hormones and increase your metabolism, join me and other women just like you for a FREE 5-day training on how to burn fat and increase your energy naturally.