Written on June 18, 2023 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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When you think of weight gain, you probably think of being overweight or obese because obesity is so common. The prevalence of obesity in the United States is around 42%. There are various factors that impact weight gain, including behavior, environment, genetics, and sleep patterns. You can unintentionally gain weight for other reasons as well. For example, as you age, your metabolism can slow down and cause you to gain weight if you have too much to eat, choose to eat unhealthy foods, or do not engage in adequate amounts of physical activity.
Additionally, side effects of some medications like corticosteroids can cause additional weight gain. Alterations in your hormone levels or certain medical conditions can also cause you to gain weight. One medical illness that can potentially cause unintentional weight gain is kidney disease. To fully understand kidney disease and weight gain, it’s essential to start with a background of how the kidneys work, followed by what kidney disease is.
The kidneys are bean-shaped organs about the size of your fist.[4,5] Most people have two kidneys located on the back of the abdomen on each side of the spine. The kidneys are part of the urinary system. The primary function of your kidneys is to filter your blood and remove waste and extra water from your body in the form of urine. Fully functioning kidneys can filter around half of a cup of blood every minute.
The steps in how the kidneys filter your blood and remove waste from your body are as follows:
Kidney disease occurs when there is damage to the kidneys. A condition called acute kidney injury, or acute renal failure, refers to kidney damage that happens in a few hours to a few days. The term ‘kidney disease’ is more commonly associated with chronic kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease is progressive and usually worsens over time.[8,9] Chronic kidney disease can be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, infections, and medications. Risk factors include a family history of chronic kidney disease and obesity.
It is estimated that 15% of American adults, or 37 million people, have chronic kidney disease. However, 9 in 10 adults with chronic kidney disease have no idea they actually have the disease. In chronic kidney disease, the kidneys are damaged to the point where they can no longer filter blood effectively. As a result, waste products and excess fluids are not removed from the body, causing various health issues that include:
Another implication of the inability to remove extra fluids and waste products from the body is the potential for additional weight gain. The additional weight seen with kidney disease is not what you would typically associate with weight gain. Weight gain from kidney disease occurs because of the buildup and retention of fluids in the body.[3, 11] Water weight, or swelling, is a sign of kidney disease.[3, 4] You should notify your healthcare provider if you notice swelling around your hands or ankles.
There are several ways you can keep your kidneys healthy and help prevent kidney disease. Some tips include[4, 7]:
If you are gaining extra weight and have questions, you can schedule a telehealth video call via Everlywell for online weight management to speak with a certified clinician. You will be able to meet with the healthcare provider from the comfort of your own home. The healthcare provider can discuss your concerns and address your symptoms with the appropriate test, prescription, or lifestyle recommendation. Additionally, if you would like to discuss weight management strategies and your weight goals, there is also a telehealth weight management option.