If you’re gaining weight and you don’t know why, chances are you’re doing something regularly that is contributing to weight gain, even if you don’t realize it. The same is true if you find that you’re losing weight and can’t figure out the cause. While some people may be thrilled that they are losing weight, losing too much weight too quickly could be a sign of a severe health issue. Here are ten reasons why you may be experiencing unexplained weight loss, according to doctors.

Ten Things That Might Be Causing Your Unexplained Weight Loss

Could you have one of these conditions?

unexplained weight loss
1. You’re Stressed

Stress has a strange but profound effect on the body. It can make some people very emotional and cause them to want to eat all the time. However, stress can also cause a loss of appetite in some people, leading to weight loss.

When you experience stress, your body has a fight or flight response, and cortisol and adrenaline are released into your bloodstream. This can take away your motivation to eat since your digestive system is slowing down as your heart rate increases. If you experience stress often or are going through particularly stressful events, you may find that you’re losing weight too quickly.

2. You’re Coming Down With an Illness

When your body is trying to ward off sickness, your immune system releases cytokines. Cytokines are a chemical that encourages your body to sleep so you can rest and restore your body. Your immune system works best when you’re sleeping, which is another reason why it’s essential to get enough rest each night. Cytokines can also stop the signals to your brain that facilitate hunger because your body is trying to send you the message that sleep should be your top priority while you heal. This is why you likely don’t have much of an appetite when you’re not feeling well.

3. You’re Experiencing a Side Effect of Medication

Some medications, particularly antidepressants, could cause appetite loss. In some cases, you may be relieved that you’re not constantly hungry. However, this side effect could become severe, and you may not feel like eating for days at a time. Loss of appetite is also a common side effect for some diabetes medications and may cause nausea every time you try to eat something. If you experience these side effects, you should speak to your doctor right away to discuss alternate treatment options.

4. You May Be Pregnant

Pregnancy causes several hormonal changes, so if you’re losing weight, you could be pregnant and not know it. You may notice an extreme difference in your appetite. One minute you’ll want foods that you wouldn’t normally eat together (yes, pickles and ice cream are a natural pregnancy craving), or certain foods that you used to love could make you nauseous. Nausea, along with the hormonal fluctuations, could be a sign that you’re expecting.

5. You Could Have Gastroenteritis

During the colder months of the year, gastroenteritis is common. This is known as a “stomach bug” that can cause nausea, cramping, and an upset stomach. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you likely won’t have much of an appetite, leading to rapid weight loss.

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6.You May Have Diabetes

Diabetes I and II are both severe health conditions. These conditions are characterized by either a lack or excess of insulin in the bloodstream and should be treated consistently. One of the symptoms of Type II diabetes is a loss of appetite. You may not even know that you have diabetes until you visit the doctor to evaluate other health issues. It is also common for you to be free of noticeable symptoms until you realize that your glucose numbers are far too low or too high. However, several people cite unexplained weight loss or gain as one of the first signs of diabetes. It’s essential to work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan as soon as you receive a diagnosis. Even if you suspect you have diabetes, making adjustments to your diet and becoming more physically active can reduce symptoms.

7. You’re Suffering from Thyroid Issues

Thyroid issues can cause several physical symptoms, including weight loss. The hormones that the thyroid gland creates govern bodily functions, so if you’re deficient in these hormones, you’ll have much less energy, and your appetite will be affected. If your thyroid is overactive, you may gain weight because your fatigue won’t allow your body to burn calories efficiently. However, if you have an underactive thyroid, you may notice that you’re losing weight at an alarming rate. Discussing your condition with your doctor and learning which dosage of synthetic hormones are right so you can bring your body back in balance.

8. You Have Migraines

You may not realize this, but it’s possible to have a migraine without feeling any pain! In fact, you could be experiencing something called migraine syndrome, which is characterized by loss of appetite, sensitivity to light, and nausea. Even if you don’t suffer from migraines, a headache from any cause can make you feel sick, so you’re likely not thinking about eating while you’re trying to ease the pain.

9. You Are Dealing With Anxiety Disorders

More than 40 million adults in the US have some variation of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can make you sick to your stomach, which takes away your desire to eat. General anxiety disorder, PTSD, panic disorder, social anxiety, and phobias are among the most common anxiety disorders. But a significant number of people also experience agoraphobia or separation anxiety.

Anxiety can over-stimulate the appetite and make you overeat, or it could take away your appetite completely, so you lose your desire for food. This symptom can change based on your anxiety levels and stressors you may experience during the day.

10. You Are Hyperglycemic

If you’re experiencing unexplained weight loss, you may be hyperglycemic. Most of the time, being overweight is a sign of diabetes. So when you lose a few pounds, you may be glad about this change and see it as progress. However, there could be a negative reason for your weight loss.

When your body isn’t producing or processing enough insulin, it relies on something to nourish your cells. This hormone causes your body to use the fat storage in your body to keep all your systems functioning properly.

At some point, you’ll run out of fat storage, and your body will no longer be able to maintain proper cell activity. Rapid fat storage release can also lead to ketoacidosis. This is different from ketosis, which is a level you may want to reach if you’re striving for weight loss and following the keto diet. Ketoacidosis is characterized by the body’s release of ketones, which can be toxic if released at high levels. Ketoacidosis makes the blood extremely acidic, which could be fatal.

Digestive Issues and Weight Loss

If you’re suffering from a digestive condition like celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or another type of food intolerance, you will likely have unexplained weight loss. When your body cannot properly digest food, you could experience stomach cramping, constipation, diarrhea, and malnourishment.

These conditions can arise from an influx of hormones with or without pregnancy and accompanying anxiety disorders or thyroid imbalance. Irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease may also be more common in people who have a genetic history of these disorders. Learning about your family health history and keeping a food journal can help you figure out which foods contribute to your unexplained weight loss.

unexplained weight loss
Final Thoughts: What to Do About Unexplained Weight Loss

If you’re experiencing unexpected weight loss and you’re concerned this could be a sign of a severe health issue, talk to your doctor. In general, if you’re losing over 5% of your total weight within a 6-12 month period, this could be your body’s way of telling you that you have a condition that needs to be addressed. Weight loss is an even bigger concern for older adults, especially if you already have an underlying condition. As we age, we tend to eat about 30% less than we did in our younger years. However, if you lose even a tiny amount of weight when you already have a diagnosis with another chronic condition, this could signal a more significant issue.

Your physician will assist you in figuring out the reason for the unexplained weight loss. Initially, your doctor will review your medical history. Next, you may have to take a physical exam or undergo lab work. In some cases, you may even need X-rays if you indicate pain in your internal organs that you think may be connected to weight loss.

If the doctor doesn’t find anything suspicious during your physical, wait about six months and pay attention to how your body feels. If you’re still not feeling your best and are continuing to lose weight, you’ll need to visit your doctor again for the next steps. It may be necessary to maintain a special diet that will keep you from experiencing digestive issues, fatigue, and rapid weight loss.