Causes of Unintentional Weight Loss

Losing weight is something many people struggle to accomplish, but weight loss can become a problem when it is significant and unintended. If you notice a significant amount of weight loss, then it’s a good idea to see a doctor. Read more here.

8 minute read

Last Updated July 8, 2020

Weight Loss Causes - Heart Symptoms - 1MD

Losing weight can be a goal for some people that are trying to get in shape, but sometimes weight loss happens unintentionally, and this is cause for concern.

If you lose more than five percent of your body weight within a 6 to 12 month period, you have lost significant weight. While some dramatic weight loss can happen after a traumatic or stressful event, there could be an underlying condition causing it that needs medical attention. 

Causes of Unintentional Weight Loss 

There are a host of diseases and health conditions that can cause you to lose weight without trying. When the weight loss is significant, your overall health could be at risk

The weight loss is likely a symptom of an underlying condition that needs treatment. It is important to make note of the weight you have lost along with other symptoms so your doctor can best figure out a diagnosis. 

Common causes of unexplained weight loss can include these health conditions.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes your immune system to mistakenly attack your joints. This causes chronic inflammation, which can speed up your metabolism and cause weight loss.

RA typically affects the same joints on both sides of the body and causes joint pain and swelling along with weight loss. Your risk for RA increases with smoking, obesity, hormonal changes, and age. Once treated and the inflammation is under control, you can better manage your weight. 

Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Without insulin, your body cannot use glucose, so it builds up in your blood. Your kidneys work to remove the excess glucose, and as a result, you also lose calories and weight. 

Along with weight loss, you will notice dehydration, fatigue, blurry vision, and excessive thirst. Diabetes is treated with blood glucose monitoring, diet modification, and insulin. Once under control, you can follow a healthy diet to reach a healthy weight.

Endocarditis

Endocarditis causes the inner lining of your heart to become inflamed, usually as a result of bacteria getting into the bloodstream and collecting in the heart. Typical symptoms include fever and loss of appetite. This contributes to an elevated temperature that speeds up your metabolism, which contributes to weight loss. 

This condition is more common among those with artificial heart valves or congenital heart defects, and treatment requires surgery and medications.  

Irritable Bowel Disease

IBD is the collective term for conditions that cause chronic inflammation to your digestive tract. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two most common forms of IBD, and the inflammation they cause keeps your body in a constant catabolic state. 

The increased metabolism burns up calories, quickly causing weight loss. You will also experience abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and fatigue. 

Foods are known to trigger these conditions, so following an IBD diet and taking anti-inflammatory medications can help restore digestive health and weight. 

Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure develops when your heart cannot fill up with enough blood, cannot pump blood efficiently, or both. Weight loss can become a complication of heart failure because the digestive system does not receive enough blood, which can lead to early fullness. 

It may also be hard to breathe when eating. The inflammation associated with the disease also speeds up your metabolism contributing further to unintended weight loss. With medications, blood flow can be restored, which means your appetite will come back too. 

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

COPD is a collection of progressive lung diseases, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Emphysema damages the air sacs in your lungs, and chronic bronchitis causes chronic inflammation to the airways. 

Both cause serious breathing issues, along with chest pain and coughing. Later on, COPD causes weight loss because labored breathing burns more calories than normal breathing. 

Air pollutants and smoking are the main causes of COPD, but medications can help to treat the conditions to prevent it from progressing. 

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is a contagious condition caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria that affects the lungs. Decreased appetite and significant weight loss are two major symptoms of tuberculosis, along with a persistent cough, chest pain, night sweats, and fever. 

People with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for TB  as are those with diabetes. You can treat TB with a course of antibiotics, and once recovered, your appetite will return. 

Stroke

It is not uncommon for survivors of a stroke to experience loss of appetite and weight loss. The area of the brain controlling mood may be affected, or medications can cause this effect. 

Monitoring your weight after a stroke is important, and especially so if one develops eating difficulties or impaired glucose metabolism as a result of the stroke. If appetite and weight are affected by a stroke, careful nutritional monitoring is needed to maintain health. 

Hyperthyroidism

The thyroid glands control the release of hormones, and as a result of the gland becoming overactive, your body speeds up its processing. This means your body is burning more energy even at rest, so weight loss is common in those with hyperthyroidism. 

With medications, you can slow the thyroid function down, which will prevent further weight loss.

Cancer

When abnormal cells grow and spread quickly, you have cancer. One of the first signs for cancer is an unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more. 

Cancer increases inflammation in the body, which disrupts appetite-regulating hormones and promotes muscle wasting. Tumors can also use a lot of energy when they grow. The symptoms of cancer can also indicate another disease, and sometimes cancer doesn’t cause any symptoms at all. 

Treatment for cancer includes radiation therapy and chemotherapy, but these can make you feel nauseous and contribute to weight loss too. 

Natural Treatments for Weight Loss


Weight loss can be a good thing when it comes to heart health. Obesity is one of the top risk factors for heart disease. However, unexplained weight loss is a symptom of serious heart conditions, including heart failure, stroke, and inflammatory-related conditions. 

Both heart failure and stroke are caused by obstructed blood flow. As a result, the heart and brain are unable to get the blood they need. If you are at risk of a heart condition, the following supplements can naturally help to protect your heart.

♦ Red yeast rice naturally lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.
Pine bark extract lowers both cholesterol and blood pressure.
Chromium reduces cholesterol and regulates blood glucose levels.
Lion’s mane mushrooms lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation.
Capsicum extract promotes circulation while stimulating blood vessel dilation.

When combined with a doctor-approved treatment program, these ingredients promote heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease-related weight loss.

When to See Your Doctor

Your weight will naturally fluctuate over time. Your diet, current physical fitness, daily lifestyle, and stress will all impact your weight. Weight loss is only a potential problem when it is significant, and when it is unintended. 

If you are losing weight without changing your habits and lifestyle, then there could be an underlying condition causing the drop in weight. If you lose five percent of your body weight in 6 to 12 months, then you need to see your doctor. 

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