Diet and Exercise
Certain medication or rare conditions like Cushing’s syndrome and hypothyroidism can slow down your metabolic rate. Weight gain resulting from Cushing’s Syndrome cannot be controlled with diet or exercise. It cannot be controlled by over-the-counter cortisol-blockers, either. The only way to manage excess weight associated with the disease is to see your doctor for an official diagnosis.
If you need a doctor in your area, check out physicians others have had success with on the Message Boards: Doctors, Hospitals, Insurance, NIH and Disability
Because weight gain cannot be controlled with Cushing's, there is no really good diet other than those which have been around for a long time and promote good nutrition with balanced meals.
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.
For ages people watching their weight were encouraged to avoid dairy based on the fear that it would make them gain weight. However, in 2000, findings from the University of Tennessee’s Nutrition Institute suggested that eating calcium could make your body better at burning fat. In a study of overweight lab mice, the team found that those who ate dairy calcium lost more weight. Later studies have confirmed these findings in humans and have also established that while calcium supplements also work, for some reason dairy calcium is more effective.
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.
You know how you’ve been advised to drink a glass of water before a meal, the idea being that you’ll feel fuller quicker and therefore eat less? This is only right in part. Taking in liquid with your food will make you full faster, but it won’t last for very long, unless you blend it all together. If you eat soup, your stomach stays distended for longer (i.e. you feel full) and keeps a dieter’s enemy – those frustrating hunger pangs – at bay. A great tip is to opt for low-calorie, low-sodium, veggie-based soups as these are also a good source of fiber and nutrients.
Cushing’s Syndrome patients are not only overweight but also experience depression and fatigue. The symptoms bear upon each other: Excess cortisol increases the appetite, but sadness also triggers a temptation to overeat. This is detrimental as overeating can lead to depression and listless inactivity. This only adds to the chronic fatigue caused by the hormonal imbalance. Health-care experts say that because of all these factors, diet programs that not only offer food advice but also moral support work well. That support comes from getting to know others who are overweight and trying hard to fight the temptation to give up. The success of a Weight Watchers program is not just about its advice on food but its holistic approach to sustained well-being through nutrition, exercise and meeting other overweight people in a supportive atmosphere.
Curves, a weight loss program and fitness club, offers a program especially designed for women who don’t feel comfortable in fitness gyms and spas geared toward healthy young women. Women coping with excessive weight due to their Cushing’s condition often express in support-group blogs how they feel self-conscious about their appearance. A supportive, noncompetitive atmosphere for exercising suits such patients well. Cushing’s Syndrome patients especially need to combine diet with gentle exercise that can help build muscle and bone strength, as excess levels of cortisol cause weakened muscles and brittle bones. The Curves plan features five small meals a day, which can help a sluggish metabolism. Also, the Curves eating plan limits refined carbohydrates and sweets. This is beneficial for Cushing’s Syndrome patients who must control their blood sugar levels.
South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet does not exclude carbs and fats from the diet but rather focuses on “good” carbs–complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, beans and whole grains– and the right kinds of oil, such as olive or canola oil. Its exclusion of simple carbohydrates is beneficial for Cushing’s Syndrome patients. Bad carbs (white rice, white bread, bakery sweets), have a high glycemic index. Foods with a high glycemic index tend to increase blood sugar faster, higher and longer than do foods with a lower index. And this increase in blood sugar boosts the appetite–common pitfalls in Cushing’s Syndrome. As with other good diet, the South Beach Diet promotes sensible snacking, so that the metabolism is kept under control.
Advocates of diets like Atkins maintain eating protein helps you feel full for longer and we’ve now established why: it’s all down to peptide YY (PYY), a hunger-fighting hormone. Protein is better than other foods at triggering the release of PYY. Eating protein at meals will help keep those gnawing hunger pangs at bay for longer. Not only that, but other research has found that if weight loss is your goal, eating protein helps you lose more weight and keep it off longer.
While medical experts generally tell overweight women and men to eat sensibly and exercise, Cushing’s Syndrome carries handicaps that make exercise seem daunting if not pointless. Cushing’s Syndrome is a hormonal disorder in which the adrenal glands release excessive amounts of cortisol. This is not a “bad” hormone because cortisol, in normal conditions, helps the body respond to stress and the adrenal glands release the amount required for daily needs. In those with Cushing’s Syndrome, however, a tumor or prolonged use of cortisone drugs may cause the glands to release too much cortisol. Metabolism is knocked out of balance, blood sugar levels are raised, and weight gain can be excessive. Other symptoms that make attempts to exercise difficult are chronic fatigue, skin that bruises easily, and weakened muscles and weakened bones, because of the elevated levels of cortisol.
The good news is that certain types of exercise are not only safe but beneficial. These exercises can not only help build self esteem, but can also strengthen bones and muscles.
Stepping into a pool to attend a class in water aerobics is a fun, relaxing, and safe way to get exercise. Water aerobics is good for Cushing’s Syndrome patients who must find ways to build endurance. Water aerobics is popular with all people faced with special medical conditions where strenuous exercise may be impractical. Obesity and weakened muscles and bones do not stand in the way of movement with water aerobics because water supports the body in such a way that movements feel effortless.
An instructor guides which movements to make and how. Benefits include exercise of the lungs, heart, and muscles. It’s true that calories are not being burned at a rate typical of running or extreme sweat-inducing sessions on the treadmill, but water aerobics is far more sensible and far less risky for those patients diagnosed with Cushing’s Syndrome.
Advice does not include strenuous walking but rather taking a gentle stroll each day. Also, experts who are familiar with Cushing’s Syndrome know that depression is common, along with a feeling of just giving up. Walking with a friend can be a positive way of sharing hardships with a good listener. Experts say that a half hour of walking each day can really lift the spirits to a point where the patient feels happy taking the initiative and not just sitting back in despair. Patients who choose walking as their exercise often say they find that walking helps them reduce stress.
As with water aerobics and walking, cycling should be gentle, without over-exertion, without competing for speed, and without trying to navigate steep hills.
Cushing’s Syndrome, given the right medical attention and the right determination to follow advice, can be successfully managed. Medical experts say the right way to exercise in this situation is to start off slowly and try to gradually increase your activity. If you take a daily walk of 20 minutes, try to get it up to 30 minutes or even a little longer.
You know your own limitations the best. If you have any doubts or questions, always ask your medical caregiver. Gradual but progressive increases in exercise can help regain function and a happier feeling of well-being.