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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan

Tips For How To Gain Weight The Healthy Way

Chances are, you'll get advice about how to gain weight from people who need to lose weight. Our health experts break down why being underweight could be dangerous for your health and how to put on the pounds in a healthy way.

Learn how to gain weight the healthy way so you can feel your best.

If you’re underweight, then you’ve probably heard more unsolicited advice on how to gain weight than you would like. While being underweight is not typically viewed as a bad thing for most Americans, it can be an indicator of serious health complications.

Contrary to popular belief, you should not just eat whatever you want if you are looking to put on a few pounds. In this guide, our experts discuss tips for how to gain weight the healthy way.

What Causes A Person To Become Underweight?

If you are spending a lot of time in the bathroom due to Crohn’s disease, then it could lead to being underweight.

The most likely reason for a person to be underweight is neglect. Specifically, a low BMI can be attributed to irregular mealtimes or not consuming healthy, nutritious foods. On the other hand, there are also other reasons that contribute to a low BMI: 

  • Medical issues: cancer, diabetes, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), lung disease, Crohn’s disease, hyperthyroidism, and stomach disorders
  • Mental health conditions: anxiety, dementia, stress, and eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa
  • Genetics: Deficiencies or pathogenic factors that individuals inherit from their parents

Understanding Weight, From A TCM Perspective

According to Real Health Medical Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew, a person’s body constitution influences their overall health. Similarly, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) states that underweight people actually have a very complicated pathology.

“There’s no fixed and purely singular body constitution. Clinically, it’s usually complicated where there is a mixture of 2 or more types of body constitution, such as deficiencies of any of the 5 vital viscera — Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lungs, and Kidneys — in the aspects of qi, blood, yin, and yang. Pathogenic factors like Dampness, Fire, blood stasis, and phlegm are also very often present and responsible for the condition of being underweight. They can either be a causative or consequence of the deficiencies, and a vicious cycle will hence be propagated”, explains Physician Yew.

Additionally, Physician Yew believes that low body weight is also the direct effect of innate and acquired factors or other underlying diseases. Innate factors include hereditary illnesses, pathogenic factors or deficiencies passed down from our parents. These genetics, in particular, can make us susceptible to certain diseases. Our parent’s poor prenatal or pregnancy care, too, can cause these negative factors.

Acquired factors, meanwhile, includes our emotional state, environmental factors, and lifestyle and dietary habits. Therefore, parents should teach their children the importance of healthy living during the early stages of life. 

How To Gain Weight In A Healthy Way

Follow these tips to ensure you put weight on in a healthy way:

1. Work With A Doctor

As highlighted above, the causes of being underweight go beyond eating habits and calorie intake. It could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Therefore, always talk to a doctor to find out why you may be underweight.

If you are losing weight and experiencing other issues like menstruation problems, hair loss, headaches, and extreme tiredness, it’s important to get medical attention immediately.

2. Eat More Calories From Healthy Foods

Try eating more than usual – but there’s no need to do it drastically. Focus on a healthy calorie increase by adding nut or seed toppings to your meals. You can also eat nutritious carbohydrates like brown rice or snacks like almonds, fruits, and sunflower seeds.

If you lack appetite because of physical or emotional issues, limit large-sized meals. Consider eating smaller meals throughout the day to ensure you get enough calories daily.

3. Use TCM Herbal Remedies

TCM is a good way to complement a weight gain plan. Herbal formulations like Gui Pi WanJian Pi Wan, and Xiao Yao San, and herbal ingredients like Lingzhi, malt, Astragalus root, Atractylodes rhizome, Chinese dates, Radix Codonopsis, and Solomon’s seal rhizome are effective for improving digestion, boosting qi flow, and strengthening the spleen.

Adding an appetite enhancement soup or essence of chicken to your diet can also help support appetite stimulation.

“Bear in mind that the herbs and formulas provided above are meant for generic underweight conditions. Some people might benefit while others may not. As such, don’t self-medicate without getting professional guidance by a TCM practitioner,” cautions Physician Yew.

4. Try Acupuncture

Self-help remedies like acupressure can also help promote weight gain by improving the functions of the vital viscera and relieving related symptoms, including dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, fainting, and intolerance toward cold. The various acupoints that you can stimulate include:

  • Bai Hui (DU 20, on the top of the head, along the midline of the human body, approximately on the midpoint of the line connecting the apexes of the two ears)
  • Shen Men (HT 7, on the wrist, at the ulnar end of the transverse crease of the wrist, in the depression on the radial side of the tendon m. flexor carpi ulnaris)
  • Zu San Li (ST 36, on the anterior aspect of the lower leg, four fingers-breadth below the outer depression of the knee joint, and one finger-breadth from the anterior crest of the tibia)
  • Sanyinjiao (SP 6, on the inner lower leg, 4-fingers-breadth above the tip of the inner ankle bone, just behind the shin bone)
  • Guanyuan (RN 4, along the midline of the lower abdomen, 4-fingers-breadth below the navel)
  • Qihai (RN 6, along the midline of the lower abdomen, 2-fingers-breadth below the navel)

“Do take note that acupressure alone is insufficient to significantly impact and improve the condition of being underweight, as its effects are very mild. It’s still strongly recommended to seek professional TCM help, especially for those suffering from more severe conditions, preferably in adjunction with the opinions of both a nutritionist and medical doctor,” adds Physician Yew.

5. Think Twice About Appetite Stimulants

If you are considering appetite stimulants or weight gain supplements, always pay attention to the ingredients. Also, consult your doctor before taking them. Not all products are effective or safe – some may even cause adverse health effects.

In one study, the American Family Physician cautions against using prescription appetite stimulants or high-calorie supplements to treat anorexia or cachexia in older adults. This is because megestrol acetate, an ingredient in these appetite stimulants, is shown to offer minimal improvements in terms of appetite and weight gain.

On the flip side, these stimulants increase the risk of thrombotic events, diabetes, high blood pressure, fluid retention, and death. Learning how to gain healthy weight is an essential first step towards achieving good health. If you’re underweight, use this guide to reach your ideal BMI weight range and enhance your quality of life.

Learning how to gain healthy weight is an essential first step towards achieving good health. If you’re underweight, use this guide to reach your ideal BMI weight range and enhance your quality of life.

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