Sudden Weight Loss. What do You Need to Know?

Losing weight without changing anything or making no effort is a dream of many. But if such a “miracle” really happens, it is worth asking yourself the question: is everything in order with health? Shouldn’t I see a doctor? Here are some unpleasant reasons for abnormal weight loss, which are worth knowing

Weight is one of the most important indicators of health. Lack of body weight, as well as its excess, scientists associate with an increased risk of death. But sudden sharp weight fluctuations even within your normal range can be a worrying sign.

Let’s say your normal weight is 72 kg. This is already a significant indicator. If this change occurred without any effort on your part (you consumed about the same amount of calories and maintained the same level of activity), this may be a good enough reason to see a doctor just in case.

And if there are other symptoms – weakness (which can speak about the loss of muscle mass), dry skin, brittle hair and nails (a sign of loss of vitamins and trace elements), mood changes, bowel disorders, or strange signals from the heart – the better to make an appointment with a therapist.

Most often, unhealthy weight loss signals a metabolic failure. But the reasons for this failure may be different.


About 40% of cancer patients at the time of diagnosis noticed a sharp weight loss. A 2018 study found that this symptom is second among early signs of cancer. It is observed in leukemia and lymphoma, lung cancer (especially adenocarcinoma), colon, ovaries, and pancreas.

One of the reasons is the tumor itself, whose cells change metabolism, weakening its ability to absorb protein and generate energy. As a result, the muscles are withered and the fat tissue thins, which leads to a sharp loss of weight. Another reason is the immune response. To fight the tumor, the immune system produces substances called cytokines. With their help, the body mobilizes resources to inhibit the growth of malignant cells. This can lead to weight loss and muscle mass and decreased appetite.

The fact that weight loss is associated with the development of cancer, can indicate other symptoms – chronic fatigue, nausea, aversion to food, constantly elevated temperature. In addition, different types of cancer have their symptoms: enlargement of lymph nodes, reddish spots on the skin, bleeding, changes in bowel function, frequent cough.

Thyroid disorders

The thyroid gland controls metabolism with hormones. If they are produced more – cells more actively consume oxygen, increased breathing, and heartbeat. Processes in the body begin to work as if in sprint mode. As a result, more nutrients are wasted, which can affect weight. Other signs that indicate thyroid dysfunction are weakness, unreasonable anxiety, excitability or irritability, sleep problems, hot flashes.

Most often, the increased activity of the thyroid gland occurs in Graves’ Disease (about 50% of cases) and all sorts of tumors that affect the organ. But there may be other reasons. Thus, about 7% of women develop postpartum thyroiditis in the first year after the birth of a child, and one of the symptoms of its initial phase is sharp weight loss. Too “hard” thyroid work can provoke and diet with a lot of iodine – for example, sea cabbage.

Diabetes mellitus

In type I diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. It is a hormone that the body uses to absorb sugar (glucose) coming from food. To remove glucose that could not be disposed of, the body increases urine secretion – as a result, the body loses fluid and nutrients.

Another reason is related to the starvation of the body. Because the tissue does not receive glucose, fat and muscle tissues are used as an energy source. As a result of active fat burning, the bodyweight is drastically reduced – up to 10-15 kg per month. In addition to weight loss, a person may feel weakness, dizziness, severe hunger. He starts going to the toilet more often, there is a smell of acetone from the mouth.

It is often thought that type I diabetes develops in childhood, and its causes are hereditary. But this is not always the case. In about 20% of cases, this variant of diabetes develops in adulthood. And most of these cases have no genetic nature.

Bowel disease

In the intestine, there is an absorption into the blood of nutrients, which then enter the cells. This process is responsible for microscopic lint, which is dotted with mucous membrane. If for some reason the mucous thins or dies, the body does not receive nutrition. The conveyor of food that passes through the intestinal tract, there is no one to “unload.”

A common cause of mucous lesions is various forms of intolerance to foods, such as coeliac disease (gluten protein intolerance found in cereals). When gluten enters a person with coeliac disease, his immune system mistakenly attacks the small intestine. Similar problems can occur with chronic gastritis, enteritis, colitis.

If weight loss is associated with impaired nutrient absorption, symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, heaviness, diarrhea, or constipation are observed. It is worth paying attention to the signs of lack of vitamins and minerals – anemia, dry skin, brittle nails, bleeding gums.

Heart failure

Significant weight loss is typical for severe degrees of heart failure. According to a 2014 study, people with the disease had a three-fold higher risk of cardiac arrest if doctors recorded a severe weight loss.

Why does this condition cause people to lose weight? There is no definite answer. According to one version, because the heart is difficult to pump blood and supply tissue with oxygen, the body spends more energy on breathing to get it. Low blood flow in the gastrointestinal tract can make it difficult to absorb nutrients. Another explanation is the high level of inflammatory cytokines, which increase the metabolic rate in tissues.

It should be added that the decrease in body weight may not always be noticeable due to the swelling that accompanies this condition.

Mental or neurological diseases

In conditions such as depression, anxiety disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder, a person may not realize for a long time that something has changed in his life. Especially if he is immersed in work or is not inclined to listen to himself. And then it is worth paying attention to the fluctuations in weight.

Clinical depression reshapes the biochemistry of the brain – in particular, affects those areas that control appetite and pleasure from food. In people suffering from depression, the perception of taste and smell is impaired. Any food seems fresh. In addition, neuroses and depression are often accompanied by the aggravation of gastrointestinal diseases, such as gastritis.

Taking medication

Medications used to treat certain diseases can speed up metabolism, leading to the burning of more calories or a reduction in hunger. These include stimulants, chemotherapy drugs, antidepressants, drugs for type II diabetes. Talk to your doctor if you lose your appetite or start losing weight after starting your medication.

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