For many, stepping on the scales and noticing that they have lost a few pounds would result in a pat on the back. In fact, insights from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that nearly half of Americans tried to lose weight between 2013-2016 [1]. However, if you haven’t been on a weight loss journey, increasing your daily exercise or opting for healthy snacks, then an unintentional weight loss can potentially be cause for concern.

While your body weight can naturally fluctuate, and you may experience weight loss after a stressful event in your life, persistent and unintentional weight loss that you can’t explain is something worth knowing more about. Just some of the most common causes of unexplained weight loss include:

  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Certain medications

What can cause unexplained weight loss?


If you’re familiar with the time and effort weight loss can take, then noticing an unexplained weight loss, without any lifestyle changes and no intention to lose weight can leave you with a few questions.

It’s important to remember that your weight can naturally fluctuate every now and again, in fact, it can even fluctuate from morning to night. However, if the weight loss is a persistent loss of more than 5% of your body weight over 6-12 months, it’s worth looking into [2]. These are just some of the potential causes of unexplained weight loss.


Celiac disease


Not to be confused with gluten intolerance, celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that causes an immune reaction to gluten - a protein found in products that contain wheat, barley, and rye; think bread, pasta, cakes, or cereals. If celiac disease goes untreated and the small intestine is unable to absorb enough nutrients, it can lead to malnutrition which can lead to weight loss.

If you have symptoms of celiac disease such as diarrhea or bloating after you have eaten foods containing gluten and you suspect that your weight loss is a result of the condition, it’s important to check in with your doctor and get tested.

Related article: Celiac vs Gluten Intolerance: What’s the Difference?


Crohn’s disease


Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation in the lining of the digestive system. The symptoms can be quite uncomfortable and can come and go suddenly or gradually, some of the most common being diarrhea, fatigue, abdominal pain, and cramping. Diarrhea associated with IBD can make it difficult for your body to get all the nutrients it needs which can lead to malnutrition and weight loss.

It’s recommended to see your doctor if you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of IBD to get medical advice and treatment if needed.

Related article: Crohn’s Disease Diet: What Can You Eat With Crohn’s Disease?


Diabetes


With estimates suggesting that just over 1 in 10 people in the United States have diabetes, it might not need much of an introduction [3]. However, for those that aren’t familiar with the specifics, diabetes is a condition that occurs when your blood sugar is too high. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little to no insulin which can cause the body to start burning fat for energy, resulting in unexpected and unintentional weight loss.

Whether you would prefer to check in on your blood sugar levels with your doctor or from the comfort of home with LetsGetChecked’s at-home lab test, the important thing is that you get checked and get answers!

Related article: 8 Signs of Diabetes You Might Miss


Hyperthyroidism


Also commonly known as an overactive thyroid, hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone: thyroxine. This can have an impact on a number of different aspects of your health, commonly causing fatigue, nervousness, or an irregular heartbeat. Other symptoms associated with an overactive thyroid include weight loss; specialists note that the condition can speed up your body’s metabolism and cause weight loss even when your food intake stays the same or increases.

An overactive thyroid is ten times more likely to occur in women. If you’re experiencing signs or symptoms, you can check in on your thyroid health from home with an at-home lab test or with your local doctor.

Related article: Are You One of 13 Million Americans With an Undiagnosed Thyroid Condition?


Certain medications


There are certain medications whose side effects may include weight loss, these include some antibiotics, benzodiazepines, and antipsychotics. If you think that your medication may be the cause of your unexplained weight loss, it’s important to reach out to your healthcare provider for more information.

Related article: Can Medication Damage Your Kidneys?


When should I be concerned about losing weight?


It can be difficult to pinpoint when losing weight without any intention to should be cause for concern, however according to the Mayo Clinic, if you lose more than 5% of your body weight over 6-12 months, particularly as an older adult, you should find out more [4].


Remember, if you are concerned that you have lose weight without trying and you are experiencing other symptoms, it’s important to reach out to your healthcare provider for insight. If you would like to check for some of the above conditions or your general health, you can do so with your doctor or from home with an at-home lab test.


References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Attempts to Lose Weight Among Adults in the United States, 2013–2016. Online: Cdc.gov
  2. Mayo Clinic. Unexplained weight loss. Online: Mayoclinic.org
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes. Online: Cdc.gov
  4. Mayo Clinic. Unexplained weight loss. Online: Mayoclinic.org