What Digestive Disorders Cause Weight Loss?

Woman losing weight due to digestive disorders is holding her stomach

Let’s face it; abrupt yet unexplained weight loss can take a toll on your self-confidence and overall well-being. You may be tempted to jump to conclusions and assume that you are doing something wrong. However, in some cases, the cause of weight loss may be due to a digestive disorder.

Digestive disorders can range from mild to severe and can cause various symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. In addition to these symptoms, some digestive disorders can also cause weight loss.

The most common digestive problems that cause weight loss are Crohn’s disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, peptic ulcers, and celiac disease. This in-depth yet straightforward blog delves into each of these diseases, discussing their symptoms, how they cause weight loss, and the treatment options available. We’ll also discuss when is the appropriate time to seek medical help.

Digestive Problems That Cause Weight Loss

There are several digestive diseases that cause weight loss. But today, we’ll focus on the five most prevalent ones.

1. Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the digestive tract, causing inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, and weight loss. The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Its symptoms may include:

– Abdominal pain and cramping

– Mouth sores

– Severe diarrhea

– Fatigue

– Blood in stool

– Fever

– Reduced appetite and weight loss

How Does Crohn’s Disease Cause Weight Loss?

Crohn’s disease can cause weight loss in several ways:

– First, it can lead to malabsorption of nutrients due to small intestinal inflammation. That means your body cannot absorb all the nutrients from food, leading to weight loss.

– Additionally, Crohn’s disease can also cause an increase in energy expenditure due to increased metabolic activity and inflammation.

– Finally, people with Crohn’s disease may also experience reduced appetite, which can lead to weight loss.

Treatment Options for Crohn’s Disease

The treatment of Crohn’s disease depends on the severity of the symptoms and the type of Crohn’s disease. Treatment options include medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressants, antibiotics, and biological therapies. Additionally, lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, exercise, and stress management can also help manage the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

2. Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way your body processes sugar. It occurs when your body does not produce enough insulin or cannot use insulin properly. Symptoms of diabetes include:

– Increased thirst and hunger

– Fatigue

– Blurred vision

– Frequent urination

– Slow wound healing

– Weight loss

How Does Diabetes Cause Weight Loss?

Diabetes can cause weight loss in several ways. But here are the three main ones:

– First, it can lead to increased urination, which causes the body to lose fluids and electrolytes. This can lead to dehydration and weight loss.

– Additionally, people with diabetes suffer from insufficient insulin, preventing the body from getting glucose from blood cells to use as energy. This may lead to unexpected weight loss, as the body is forced to burn fat and muscle for energy.

– Finally, diabetes can also cause an increase in energy expenditure due to increased metabolic activity.

Treatment Options for Diabetes

The treatment of diabetes depends on the type of diabetes and the severity of the symptoms. Treatment options include medications such as insulin, oral medications, and injectable medications. Additionally, lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, exercise, and sufficient sleep can also help manage the symptoms of diabetes.

3. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid is a digestive disorder in which the thyroid gland produces too much of the thyroxine hormone. Too much of this hormone can lead to potentially harmful health complications if left untreated. Its early symptoms may manifest in the forms of:

– Rapid heartbeat

– Nervousness, anxiety, and irritability

– Feeling tired all the time

– Sensitivity to heat

– Difficulty sleeping/Insomnia

– Tremors

– Sweating

– Hyperactivity – difficulty remaining still due to excessive nervous energy

– Weight loss

How Does Hyperthyroidism Cause Weight Loss?

Below are common ways hyperthyroidism can cause weight loss:

– Increased metabolic activity causes the body to burn more calories than usual – hence weight loss.

– People with hyperthyroidism may also experience reduced appetite, which can lead to weight loss.

Treatment Options for Hyperthyroidism

The treatment options for hyperthyroidism range from medication to radiotherapy to surgery, depending on the condition’s severity. For instance, thioamides are medicines commonly used to treat hyperthyroidism, stopping your thyroid from producing excessive hormones. Radioactive iodine treatment is also a radiotherapy option that can help reduce the production of hormones in the thyroid. But surgery is also an option for those with severe hyperthyroidism, e.g., severe thyroid swelling.

4. Peptic Ulcers

The fourth digestive disorder that can cause weight loss is peptic ulcers. Peptic ulcers are sores in the stomach lining, small intestine, or esophagus due to an infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). Common symptoms of peptic ulcers include:

– Pain in the abdomen

– Swelling from inflammation or through scarring

– Internal bleeding that causes bloody vomit or stool

– Nausea and vomiting

– Losing weight without trying

How Does Peptic Ulcer Cause Weight Loss?

Peptic ulcers can cause weight loss due to the following:

– A decrease in appetite and an inability to absorb nutrients from food.

– Additionally, the pain associated with peptic ulcers can make it difficult for victims to eat, leading to further weight loss.

– Also, the condition may cause obstruction or blockage of food passage through the digestive tract. This causes you to become full faster, vomit, and eventually lose weight.

Treatment Options for Peptic Ulcers

If you suspect you have peptic ulcers, it is vital to seek medical attention. Treatment options for peptic ulcers include antibiotics to kill the H. pylori bacteria, medications to reduce stomach acid production, and lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption. Surgery may also be necessary in some cases.

5. Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive system. It is caused by an intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, leading to difficulty digesting food. Common symptoms of celiac disease include:

– Diarrhea

– Weight loss

– Abdominal pain

– Bloating and gas

– Constipation

– Vomiting and nausea

– Fatigue

How Does Celiac Disease Cause Weight Loss?

Celiac disease can cause weight loss due to various reasons, including:

– Malabsorption of nutrients or malnutrition. This occurs when your body cannot absorb enough nutrients to sustain a healthy weight.

– The inflammation caused by celiac disease can lead to decreased appetite and difficulty digesting food, which can cause weight loss.

Treatment Options for Celiac Disease

The only treatment option for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet. That means avoiding all foods that contain wheat, barley, and rye. Additionally, it is essential to take dietary supplements to ensure you are getting the necessary vitamins and minerals.

When Should I Seek Medical Help?

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with digestive disorders, it is important to seek medical help. Your doctor will be able to diagnose the condition and recommend a treatment plan that is tailored to your needs. Additionally, they will test, diagnose, and treat you for any other conditions and diseases and provide advice on maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle.

Here are a few more signs you need to seek immediate medical attention for your digestive disorder that causes weight loss:

– You have lost more than 5% of your body weight or 10 pounds in a short period, say 6-12 months

– You have severe abdominal pain

– You are experiencing bloody vomit or stool

– You have difficulty swallowing food or liquids

– You have persistent nausea and vomiting

– You have persistent diarrhea or constipation

– You have severe fatigue and weakness

We Can Help!

So there you have it – a comprehensive overview of what digestive disorders cause weight loss, their symptoms, and treatment options. In a quick recap, reasons for weight loss due to digestive disorders may include malabsorption of nutrients, inflammation, and difficulty digesting food. At the same time, common symptoms of digestive disorders include diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating and gas, constipation, vomiting and nausea, and fatigue. As for treatment options, your doctor may recommend a strict gluten-free diet, OTC medications, dietary supplements, surgery, and lifestyle changes.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with digestive disorders, it is critical to seek medical help. At the Digestive Disease Center of New Jersey, we are a team of highly qualified gastroenterologists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants passionate about providing the highest quality of care for our patients. We offer a wide range of services, from diagnosis and treatment to nutrition counseling and lifestyle advice. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you!

Please be advised that Dr. Ira Merkel will be retiring as of August 2023.

Over the past 30 years, Dr. Merkel has been an integral part of our practice, prioritizing patient-centered care with his patients. Without your trust and confidence, Dr. Merkel would not have been able to pursue his passion for gastroenterology. 

Our care team at Digestive Disease Center of NJ comprised of Alexander Rapisarda, MD, Scott Aronson, MD, William Ferges, MD, and Anna Platovsky, MD will continue to provide compassionate, high-quality, and comprehensive care.

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Ira Merkel, MD, FACP, FACG, AGAF

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at our:

Somerset office at
732-873-9200 

East Brunswick office at
732-238-0923