Involuntary weight loss and its causes

Involuntary weight loss: Understanding

In case of illness, the loss of weight is usually accompanied by signs or symptoms such as loss of appetite, fatigue, presence of blood in the stool, difficulty swallowing, abdominal pain, etc.

Involuntary weight loss: Causes

Food causes

  • Change of diet (vegetarianism).
  • Malnutrition and poverty.

Psychological causes

  • Stress important. It sometimes prevents eating properly and getting enough sleep.
  • Depression due to the death of a loved one, loss of a job, heartache, financial worries, etc. Depression can sometimes coexist with physical illness.
  • Isolation of the elderly. They lose the taste of preparing meals and eating.

Drugs, alcohol

  • Some drugs. They can decrease appetite, change the taste of food or cause nausea and vomiting (eg some antibiotics as well as some drugs used in the treatment of cancer). Unwanted interactions between different medications can also cut appetite.
  • Alcoholics feed poorly and insufficiently.

Infections and diseases

  • Intestinal parasites, caught while traveling abroad, for example.
  • Acute diarrhea causes loss of water causing rapid weight loss.
  • Chronic or recurrent abdominal pain, for gallbladder stones, for example.
  • Inflammatory diseases of the digestive system, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, chronic pancreatitis, celiac disease, etc.
  • Inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, etc.
  • Any disease affecting vital organs, such as kidney, heart, lung or liver failure, diabetes, as well as hyperthyroidism.
  • Infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, AIDS, pneumonia.
  • All types of cancers, especially cancers of the lung, stomach and intestines, blood cancers (lymphoma, leukemia).
  • Alzheimer’s disease. In the advanced stage of the disease, patients forget to eat

Involuntary weight loss: Practical advice

Consult without delay

We must not delay the time to consult for fear that his illness is incurable. The cause may be benign or malignant. In case of serious illness, such as cancer, early diagnosis and treatment increases your chances of recovery.

In case of significant stress

Plan periods of rest and relaxation. Take time to feed yourself properly. Avoid isolation. Avoid smoking. If you manage to quit, you can prevent several diseases and cancers that come with weight loss. In times of intense stress, avoid smoking and drinking coffee instead of eating.


Limit alcohol consumption. Even if an appetizer opens the appetite, high consumption of alcohol will cut your appetite.

In case of gastroenteritis of viral origin

Do not forget to hydrate yourself if your weight loss is accompanied by acute diarrhea.

To consult

Consult your family doctor regularly. An annual medical examination is recommended from the age of 40 years. It is best to have a family doctor who already knows your case. Your weight is probably noted in the chart along with your family history, previous illnesses, results of laboratory tests already requested, etc.

In the presence of an already known disease

Follow the doctor’s recommendations and take the medications already prescribed if you have an illness such as diabetes, lung failure, etc. If you have particular difficulty in following your treatment, discuss it with your doctor.

Involuntary weight loss: When to consult?

  • You have lost about 10% to 15% of your usual weight.
  • Your weight loss is accompanied by fatigue, blood in the stool, abdominal pain, difficulty swallowing, etc.
  • You have lost weight and you feel depressed.
  • A child, a teenager has lost weight (the absence of weight gain justifies a medical consultation).
  • You are pregnant and you have lost weight (in this case too, weight gain is the norm).

Involuntary weight loss: Exams

The doctor will note the important information and will perform a complete physical examination. He will ask for blood tests and laboratory tests. Radiological examinations may be necessary, especially a chest x-ray in a smoker.

Involuntary weight loss: Treatment

The treatment varies depending on the cause.

If the cause of weight loss is depression, antidepressants may be prescribed. If necessary, a consultation in psychology or psychiatry may be requested.

There are effective drugs for the treatment of certain diseases such as inflammatory diseases, heart or lung failure, etc.

Antibiotics will be prescribed in the case of a bacterial infection.

In case of diabetes, a modification of the diet, the regular practice of a physical exercise with, if necessary, the addition of drugs, can make it possible to control the disease.

In the presence of cancer, several treatments are possible, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.