Your weight fluctuates naturally throughout the year. But if you are losing weight in a considerable amount within a short period of time. Then it’s better to see your health consultant. Perhaps you overeat around the holidays and gain a few pounds. Or you have the stomach bug and lose a few pounds. A minor movement on the scale is typical and nothing to be concerned about.
However, suppose you lose at least 5% of your body weight in less than six months. And cannot identify a cause. In that case, it’s essential to notify your doctor, says Anne Cappola, M.D. (an endocrinologist and educator of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania). That is if you weigh 150 pounds. Then a weight change of around seven or eight pounds in a short period should raise alarm bells.
“It is uncommon for someone to lose a considerable quantity of weight for no apparent reason,” Dr Cappola explains. “If you’re losing weight and nothing about your diet or activities has changed, you should be concerned.”
Indeed, unexplained weight loss may be a precursor to developing a significant health problem, according to Kerry Hildreth, M.D., (an associate professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Colorado). Here are eight potential health problems that might account for your abrupt weight loss.
You have hyperthyroidism.
Dr. Cappola notes that losing weight is a frequent indication of hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid. It indicates that your thyroid—the butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that helps control your metabolism and growth—produces an excessive amount of hormones, resulting in a variety of physical abnormalities.
“If I suspected a thyroid problem, I’d check for increased appetite or palpitations,” she adds. Sleeping difficulties and excessive heat are other frequent indications of an overactive thyroid, she adds.
You are not consuming enough calories.
Dr Hildreth refers to what is known as the “obesity paradox.” Weight reduction, not gain, is connected with an increased risk of mortality later in life. “As we age, the stomach empties more gradually, prolonging the sensation of being full,” she explains. “Also, some brain impulses that regulate hunger and fullness become diminished,” Dr. Hildreth continues. All of this may result in older persons eating less, losing weight, and not getting enough nutrients to meet their bodies’ nutritional requirements. Assemble a protein-rich diet to assist your body in performing critical physical processes such as suppressing appetite, balancing blood sugar, and growing muscle mass—all of which individuals lose as they age. “Many drugs may also alter your appetite, so you should monitor your food intake and frequency,” Dr Hildreth says.
You have celiac disease.
Celiac disease—a prevalent autoimmune disorder in white people in which gluten causes damage to the small intestine—can make you feel like losing weight and is frequently accompanied by other gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating and diarrhoea, according to Jamile Wakim-Fleming, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic.
How come? When someone with a celiac condition eats gluten, their immune system goes into overdrive. According to the Mayo Clinic, this response may wreak havoc on the lining of your small intestine, impairing its capacity to aid inadequate nutritional absorption. Additionally, inflammatory bowel illnesses such as Crohn’s disease may cause unexplained weight loss owing to malabsorption.
You’re battling depression.
Appetite loss is a typical symptom of clinical depression. It may result in unexplained weight loss if you are unaware that your mood swings indicate something more severe. “In many situations, the individual is unaware they are losing weight due to their depression,” Dr Cappola notes. Other frequent signs of depression include irritability, excessive drinking, indecision, and difficulty sleeping. According to Erica Martin Richards, M.D., PhD, Medical Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC, black women are half as likely as white women to seek mental health disorders.
You may be suffering from pancreatitis.
Dr Wakim-Fleming adds that problems with the pancreas, which produces enzymes that help digestion, may also result in unexplained losing weight. According to The National Pancreas Foundation, people with chronic pancreatitis—a disorder in which the pancreas becomes inflamed—tend to lose weight rapidly (even if they eat correctly). The body can not manufacture enough enzymes for adequate food digestion. After consuming fatty meals, look for signs such as stomach discomfort, discoloured (or greasy) faeces, diarrhoea, or nausea.
You’ve been diagnosed with diabetes.
“New-onset diabetes, particularly in the early stages, might result in weight loss,” Dr Cappola explains. Additionally, you may have an extreme thirst and realize that you are constantly peeing. “Your body practically pees away glucose because it is unable to absorb it, which results in thirst,” she adds. Additionally, diabetes causes your body to drain food from your muscles, contributing to abrupt weight loss or losing weight. One point to make: Since black individuals are 60% more likely to get Type 2 diabetes, they should see a physician about this risk.
You have rheumatoid arthritis.
Dr Hildreth explains that inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis—a disease in which the immune system mistakenly assaults healthy tissues—or some forms of infection may impair a sufferer’s appetite, resulting in weight loss. Additionally, these disorders may produce inflammation in the stomach, impairing nutritional absorption and resulting in unexplained weight loss before diagnosis.
It might be cancer.
Numerous forms of cancer, as well as a tumour or ulcer in the stomach or intestines, may create inflammation or malabsorption problems, Dr Wakim-Fleming explains. “If a patient presents with unexplained weight loss, I will examine their stomach, colon, and intestines for malignancies or inflammation,” she explains. “I’ll also check for oesophagal tumours”—the tube that links your neck and stomach—” which may make swallowing difficult.”