Have you recently noticed your clothes getting looser or the number on your weight scale falling? Has your weight decreased despite your diet and activity level being the same? If so, then there may be a serious medical cause for your weight loss. It is important to know the different causes and when to seek help. The most common causes for unintentional weight loss are nutritional deficiencies, lung cancer and liver cancer.
Nutritional deficiencies are one of the most common causes for unintentional weight loss and occur when the body does not absorb the necessary amount of a nutrients. The main cause of a nutritional deficiency overtime is having a poor diet that lacks essential nutrients and vitamins. Other causes include abnormalities in your gastrointestinal tract that do not allow proper absorption (Ref 1, pgs 3-4). The most common nutritional deficiencies are:
Iron Vitamin A Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Vitamin B9 (Folate) Vitamin D Calcium
Some of the symptoms you may notice from malnutrition include indigestion, skin problems, abnormal bone growth and dementia.
In 2015, it is estimated that there will be 221,200 new cases of lung cancer in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society (Ref 2, pg 1). Although not the only cause, the most common cause for lung cancer is smoking. Many chronic smokers develop different types of lung cancer over a period of time. Some of the first symptoms of lung cancer are weight loss and loss of appetite (Ref 2, pg 1). The cause for this is attributed to an increased expenditure of energy, even while at rest, in patients with solid cancer (Ref 3, pg 1).
The liver is the organ in the body that makes enzymes and bile, which help you to digest fats, vitamins and other nutrients. When you have liver cancer the organ stops functioning properly and many symptoms can present such as yellowing of the skin, abdominal pain, nausea and fatigue (Ref 4, pg 23). When the liver produces an abnormal amount of enzymes to digest food or the cancer from the liver has spread to the stomach, there can be a dramatic decrease in the amount of nutrients absorbed by your gastrointestinal tract. This decrease in food absorption can lead to significant weight loss.
Warnings and Precautions
Nutritional deficiencies, lung cancer and liver cancer can be life threatening diseases if they are not treated early on. However, they are just a few of the common causes that may cause unexpected weight loss. For this reason, it is important to give your doctor a detailed history of your health and other chronic conditions so that the specific cause for your weight loss can be determined and treated accordingly.