So many people around us are looking to lose weight. But there are times when you may end up losing weight without having tried hard. And this is not always good news.
It is completely natural for your weight to fluctuate; it could be because of hormonal changes, PMS, water retention, many reasons. But if you notice drastic weight loss, it might be a cause of worry.
“Body’s weight can regularly fluctuate, but the persistent, unintentional loss of more than 5% of the weight over 6 weeks is usually a cause for concern. Losing this much weight can be a sign of malnutrition, where a person’s diet doesn’t contain the right amount of nutrients,” says Bhakti Samant, chief dietician, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital. Many times, weight loss is the result of physical ailments. If you spot any of these symptoms, get yourself checked by a doctor.
Sometimes the weight changes could also be because of a psychological disorder. “There are times when people suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia (lack of eating) or bulimia (when whatever is eaten is thrown up). People may have this temporarily and it may end up showing on the weighing scale,” says Samant.
Here are some other reasons for weight loss:
Thyroid issues – hyperthyroidism: Weight gain is a well-known sign of thyroid malfunction, however many people are not aware that weight loss could also point to thyroid disorder. “Hyperthyroid is a condition that occurs due to excessive production of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland, which effects the body’s metabolism,” says Samant. This condition brings with a host of weight-related problems. “People with hyperthyroidism may experience a bigger appetite and despite eating a lot will still experience weight loss. Thyroid hormones – T3 and T4 determines how cells use up energy, when there is an overproduction of these, energy is used up quickly, leading to weight loss. When unexplained weight loss is combined with other symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, rapid heartbeat, breathlessness, excessive sweating and change in normal bowel movement, it could be an indication of hyperthyroidism,” says Dr Vaishali Lokhande, consultant, internal medicine, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai.
Diabetes: People with diabetes have a problem with how the body processes glucose or sugar. “Thus, weight loss could be one of the side effects of this disorder. Relative insulin deficiency can lead to muscle loss,” says Dr Lokhande. According to Samant, when diabetes remains undetected over a period of time, it can lead to weight loss. Thus it is important to get regular checkups done.
Liver diseases: There are a whole bunch of liver diseases that could cause weight loss. Right from hepatitis to autoimmune disorders to cancer, these conditions need urgent attention. “Essentially the liver is responsible for digesting food and eliminating toxins from the body. When the organ is unable to function, one of the side effects is weight loss,” says Dr Lokhande.
Substance abuse: Some intoxicants can suppress appetite, for instance, cigarette smoke could lead to weight loss. You may have heard of people who suffer from eating disorders often end up smoking to suppress appetite. “People who binge on some form of drugs often forget to eat for long hours. The drug abuse also ends up weakening the immune system, leading to weight loss,” says Dr Lokhande.
Cancer: The dreaded big “C” is also an important cause of weight loss, especially in the elderly. This could be because of the disease itself leading to loss of appetite or difficulty in swallowing etc limiting the food intake or the ‘side effects of chemotherapy drugs.
Tuberculosis: TB is still a very real and serious problem in India. “The disease can strike practically any organ and induce extreme form of loss of appetite,” she adds.