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Losing weight without trying? These 7 serious illnesses can be behind it

Published on:19 December 2020, 11:02am IST
Weight loss without any effort can be a sign that your health needs to be taken care of.
Nikita Bhardwaj
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Keep an eye on your weight for the sake of your health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Have you been losing weight without trying to? Well, it’s definitely something you need to see a doctor about. You see, weight loss that happens without any diet change or physical activity is your body’s way of telling you that all isn’t well.

Losing weight suddenly can point to an underlying medical condition. In fact, weight loss is a part of the initial symptoms of some serious illnesses.

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We talked to Dr Vinay Bhat, General Physician, Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad to understand which conditions can be the culprit behind losing weight suddenly and quickly. Here are seven diseases he informed us about:

1. Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency)

You might have heard it for the first time but it’s not that rare. According to Dr Vinay Bhat, it is an autoimmune disease that causes our immune system to attack our adrenal glands. This reduces the function of adrenal glands, leading to a decline in the production of hormones like cortisol and aldosterone. Among many functions, cortisol regulates metabolism and appetite. Hence, a low level of the hormone leads to poor appetite and weight loss. Lifelong steroid treatment can help maintain hormonal balance.

Weight loss causes
Sudden weight loss can be alarming. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
2. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

“The term denotes a progressive lung disease that damages the air sacs in the lungs and/or causes inflammation of the airways that bring air to the lungs. Advanced COPD can cause weight loss because the extra effort made by the body to breathe will require a higher number of calories. According to Cleveland Clinic, COPD may need 10 times more calories to facilitate breathing. Self-care in the form of quitting cigarettes, diaphragmatic breathing, supportive care like oxygen therapy, or medication can help one feel better,” explained Dr Bhat.

3. Tuberculosis

A contagious bacterial infection that affects the lungs, tuberculosis (TB) often leads to weight loss. It is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis but why the infection causes the symptoms that it does are not fully understood. Tuberculosis is treated with antibiotics while multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB requires a 6-drug regimen, with an intensive phase lasting for 6 to 9 months and a continuation phase of 18 months. The total duration of the treatment is about 24 to 27 months.

4. Cancer

“The quick growth of abnormal cells in the pancreas, lung, stomach, and oesophagus, causing cancer can also lead to weight loss. Cancer causes inflammation, promotes muscle wasting and disrupts hormones that regulate appetite. A growing tumour/cancer may also increase resting energy expenditure (REE). Depending on the type, growth, and stage, treatments may vary between surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy,” explained Dr Bhat.

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5. Inflammatory bowel disease

It’s all related to your gut. According to Dr Bhat, the term refers to a group of chronic inflammatory disorders of the digestive tract and the two most common types of IBD are Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. Inflammatory Bowel Disease puts the body in a catabolic state which means that it constantly uses energy and the storage is minimal or nil. It also disrupts the secretion of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and leptin, the satiety hormone, resulting in low appetite and weight loss. Consult a gastroenterologist to decide whether you need nutritional support, medication, or surgery.

6. HIV/AIDS

Caused by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is an infectious disease. The virus attacks immune cells in the human body, known as T-cells, which makes it difficult to fight infections. Untreated HIV can cause AIDS with painful symptoms like sore throat, mouth sores, and fatigue. These symptoms cause difficulty in the consumption of food.

“Besides, HIV increases the risk of secondary infections, and in turn, REE. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the treatment that can slow down the progress of HIV but AIDS has no cure,” said Dr Bhat.

7. Depression

Defined as a state of feeling sad, lost, or empty for at least two weeks, depression can interfere with daily activities. Stress eating can be caused by depression but it may also reduce appetite. Depression affects parts of the brain that control appetite and can lead to reduced food consumption. Consult a psychotherapist at the earliest to deal with depression and find a way out of it.

Ladies, weight loss which is sudden is not normal and needs to be looked into. Hence, if you’re experiencing this, visit a doctor at the earliest.

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Nikita Bhardwaj Nikita Bhardwaj

Six-pack abs are all that Nikita needs, along with her daily dose of green tea. At Health Shots, she produces videos, podcasts, stories, and other kick-ass content.