Sudden Weight Loss Causes

To remain fit and healthy is every individual’s desire. In this quest, people undertake many measures like eating right, working out, playing a sport, etc. Losing weight due to regular exercise or following a healthy diet is normal, but losing weight without doing either, is a cause of concern. Sudden weight loss occurring in a short period of time can be an underlying symptom of various health issues―physical as well as mental―and should be brought to the notice of a doctor immediately.

Various health issues like Addison’s disease, cancer, celiac disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), Crohn’s disease, dementia, depression, diabetes, eating disorders, HIV/AIDS, hypercalcemia, hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), narcotics, Parkinson’s disease, peptic ulcer, ulcerative colitis etc., may cause unexpected weight loss.

Underlying Reasons Behind Sudden Weight Loss

Addison’s Disease
This condition is also known as chronic adrenal insufficiency. This disorder occurs when hormones like aldosterone and cortisol are produced in insufficient quantities by the adrenal glands. This medical condition can be life-threatening if neglected. Sudden weight loss is one of the symptoms of Addison’s disease.

Sudden loss of weight is a common symptom observed in individuals with cancer. This happens because the cancerous tumors present in the body increase the body’s metabolism, due of which the body is able to burn calories faster, thus leading to excess weight loss. Some people may also experience an unexplained weight loss while undergoing treatment for cancer.

Celiac Disease
In this digestive condition, the lining of the small intestine gets damaged due to an adverse reaction to gluten. This condition is characterized by an inability to absorb certain nutrients. Weight loss occurs due to malabsorption of vital nutrients, followed by other complications that affect the liver, kidneys, peripheral nervous system and brain.

Chronic Diarrhea
Diarrhea is caused when one consumes the wrong type of food or catches a viral infection called gastroenteritis. It is something that most people have experienced at some point in their life. Though such type of diarrhea can be treated with antibiotics, people who suffer from diarrhea for more than four weeks are said to have chronic diarrhea. When an individual has diarrhea for more than four weeks, weight loss is most likely to occur.

A group of lung diseases that block the airflow, leading to breathing difficult, are known as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). This condition comprises emphysema (air sacks at the smallest air passages in the lungs are destroyed) and chronic bronchitis (the lining of the bronchial tubes are inflamed). In later stages of COPD, unintended weight loss is observed.

Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is a rare disease that affects different areas of the digestive tract, causing inflammation of the tract lining. It leads to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, and in some cases malnutrition. It is a painful and debilitating disease that may be life-threatening, if not diagnosed and treated on time.

Dementia is not really a disease, but is a group of symptoms relating to certain diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Huntington’s disease. It involves the loss of brain function, causing loss of memory, feeling confused, slurred speech, etc. Weight loss due to dementia is rare, but not unheard of. It persists in severe cases, when the patient has no memory if he/she has eaten food or not.

A mental condition that is characterized by the persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest is known as depression. Among the various symptoms of depression, the most primary one is the weight loss due to lack of appetite, or even excessive weight gain due to overeating.

Diabetes is a disease characterized by elevated blood sugar level. Usually, if the sugar level goes higher than normal, the most common symptoms are excessive thirst, and unexplained weight loss. This is because, the excess sugar does not get absorbed by the kidneys, and as a result of which, it is passed in the urine. Every time sugar is passed in the urine, the diabetic feels thirsty, and tries to quench it with water, sodas, coffee, etc. This, in turn, makes the sugar levels rise and thus, the cycle goes on. This cycle is what causes the sudden weight loss in diabetics.

Eating Disorders
An eating disorder due to which people obsess about what they eat and how much they weigh, is called anorexia nervosa. Usually, people with anorexia nervosa, starve themselves, or indulge in excessive exercising. On the other hand, bulimia nervosa is when an individual restricts the intake of food, by vomiting after eating, consuming large amounts of laxatives or diuretics, and exercising excessively to lose weight.

Both these eating disorders should be treated quickly as these can turn life-threatening, especially anorexia, which is very common among teenage girls. People usually do this so that they can cope with emotional problems, as anorexia and bulimia are more mental conditions rather than physical ones.

A chronic and life-threatening condition caused due to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is known as AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). HIV interferes with the body’s resistance towards diseases and infections by damaging the immune system. There are many other diseases which cause sudden loss of weight that accompany HIV or AIDS (as the immune system is already depleted, the body is like an open playground for various diseases), like tuberculosis (TB), salmonellosis, cytomegalovirus (CMV), candidiasis, toxoplasmosis, cryptosporidiosis, cancer, wasting syndrome, and kidney disease.

High calcium levels in the blood is known as hypercalcemia. Calcium is required for the maintaining bone density, contracting muscles, ensuring proper functioning of the brain and nerves, and also releasing hormones. When the parathyroid glands (glands that regulate blood calcium level) are overactive, it leads to hypercalcemia. This condition can go undetected, for years, if it is not in a very advanced stage, as the signs and symptoms are not severe. Although, in later stages, loss of appetite, excessive thirst, constipation, are some of the symptoms. Sudden loss of weight occurs in those who have hypercalcemia, due to the loss of appetite.

The excessive production of the hormone thyroxine, by the thyroid gland, is known as hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid. Sudden weight loss, sweating, nervousness, irritability, and rapid or irregular heartbeat, are caused due to the acceleration of the body’s metabolism because of hyperthyroidism.

Consuming narcotics like cocaine, heroine, amphetamines, etc., suppresses the appetite, causing weight loss. Stimulant and drug abusers often go on binges to soothe their cravings for drugs, wherein they avoid eating or sleeping for days at a time. This unhealthy lifestyle choice leads to various health problems and even possible death.

Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a condition that affects the nervous system of the body, caused due to the dopamine-generating cells in the substantia nigra, a region of the midbrain. It is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, for which a cure has still not been found. Some of the symptoms of this medical condition are, stiffness in limbs, restriction in movement, slurred and soft speech, decreased ability to perform involuntary movements like blinking, smiling, swing the arms while walking, etc.; uncontrolled body movements like tremors and shaking of limbs, slowed movements, changes in handwriting, impaired posture and also balance problems. Sudden weight loss due to the uncontrolled tremors and loss of appetite is common with people who have Parkinson’s disease.

Peptic Ulcer
Open sores that develop on the inner lining of the esophagus, stomach and upper portion of the small intestine are called peptic ulcers. They are caused due to prolonged consumption of certain medication or bacterial infection. The most common symptoms of peptic ulcers are vomiting blood (red- or black-colored), unexpected weight loss, appetite changes, and dark blood in stools.

Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition that causes long-lasting inflammation in certain areas of the digestive tract. It is an inflammatory bowel disease which usually affects the innermost lining of the large intestine and rectum. The symptoms of this condition include, rectal bleeding, rectal pain, bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, and an inability to move the bowels, in spite of the urge to do so, and unintended weight loss.

It is also fairly normal to experience weight loss after you recover from an illness, or stress of bereavement, changing jobs, or a divorce. However, if the unexpected weight loss was not due to any of these causes, then it should not be overlooked and should be reported to your medical healthcare professional immediately.

Birth Control Pills and Thyroid Disease

One of the most common and uncomplicated measures of birth control are the birth control pills. A birth control pill or combined oral contraceptive pill is a combination of progestin and estrogen, both of which are female sex hormones. Regular intake of birth control pills inhibit fertility of women. Apart from the combination pills, these pills are also available with only progestin; which are called mini pills. Similar to many other medications, that are prescribed for several health conditions and diseases, birth control pills also have higher chances of drug interactions. One of the common problems which is inquired about by women is about the effects of birth control pills on the thyroid glands.

How Does the Birth Control Pill Affect Your Thyroid Glands

The Pills
Before we move ahead, one needs to learn about female reproductive system and the functioning of birth control pills. When female gamete starts to mature, the cells around it start to produce estrogen, which is an important female sex hormone. These increasing levels of estrogen work as an indication for pituitary glands, that then release high level of luteinising hormone. This hormone alerts the ovaries to release the egg, which then starts its journey towards fertilization and pregnancy. The reason to bring forward this process of reproduction, is to clearly state the working mechanism of pills. The job of the birth control pills is to slow down or stop the process of ovulation, which is the root cause of pregnancy. In other words, formulation of pills avert chances of production of female gametes which cause fertilization.

Do They Affect
As I explained in the introduction, there are two types of birth control pills. One type of pills are combination pills and the second type of pills are the mini pills that contain only progestin. These pills not only avoid maturation of eggs, but they also act as a thick barrier for sperms. There are two things that might help us to explain the exact connection between birth control pills and thyroid disease. First of all, birth control pills change and control hormones of a female body and hence, the entire body system needs to adapt to such change. Secondly, pills are taken on a daily basis and hence, there is an increased possibility of side effects of the pills. There are quite a few theories which try to claim and deny the connection between birth control pills and thyroid problem.

Thyroid Efficiency
According to one claim, the experts suggest that the thyroid hormone is extremely sensitive when it comes to increased levels of other hormones, except thyroid stimulating hormones. Many times, it is also observed that mini pills or estrogen in birth control pills causes reduction in the efficiency of thyroid hormones and thyroid glands. As a result, a woman’s body starts to secrete more thyroid hormone. It is also the reason why women thyroid levels are higher than those of men. This is also a possible reason behind several thyroid diseases like hyperthyroidism and less active or inactive thyroid glands. As a solution to this problem, women who are on pills are also prescribed with thyroid supplements that balance out estrogen and thyroid levels.

Thyroid Replacement
One can also trace connection between thyroid glands and birth control pills, in case of the women who are prescribed thyroid replacement supplements. Hence, women who are popping the replacement pills should also consume dietary supplements that are prescribed for increasing thyroid levels. This becomes necessary if those women are popping pills. This will not only manage the thyroid levels but also the higher levels of estrogen. As a result, the possibility of thyroid diseases can be negated, if any. Similar to pills, human growth hormone or HGH supplements also partially block thyroid hormones. However, HGH also helps thyroid glands in the process of growth and development.

After Stopping The Pill
Yet another thing that confuses women is the fact that many women are diagnosed with thyroid disease after they stop taking pills. Hence, they want to know whether they will also fall for similar diagnoses. It is important to understand here that the chances of such things are equal and hence, it is pretty hard to judge. Some women return to normal life after stopping the pills, some women take time to adapt the pill-free lifestyle. While quite a few of them suffer with such diseases and health conditions. Hence, when in doubt, one needs to clear them away with the help of proper tests and consultation with the health care provider.

The Conclusion
Last and most important point to remember is that pills do affect the thyroid glands to a certain extent. Whether they cause any kind of thyroid diseases is not yet proven, but they do affect test results of thyroid hormone. This happens when a woman is popping both birth control and thyroid pills together. As a result, experts advice women to inform the doctor about such things, prior to performing any hormonal tests. Chances of such occurrences and interaction are extremely rare and mostly in case of women who have some pre-existent thyroid diseases.

However, as a parting note, all that I can say is that one should not deny the connection between birth control pills and thyroid disease and so, women should consult their health care provider prior to opting for this mode of contraception!

Symptoms of Overactive Thyroid

Overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism can be defined as the secretion of thyroid hormones in excessive quantities. One of the major causes of an overactive thyroid is the Grave’s disease. This leads to the growth of the thyroid gland by almost twice the original size. Overactive thyroid is found particularly in women belonging to the age group of around 30 – 40 years. There are some very obvious and some not so obvious symptoms than can indicate an individual is suffering from an overactive thyroid. Though, it is not necessary that the patient will exhibit all the mentioned symptoms together.

Overactive Thyroid Symptoms

There are many symptoms of an overactive thyroid, and these differ from person to person, and also across different age groups. The signs that have been discussed here are the most common symptoms of an overactive thyroid:

Symptom Description
Loss in Weight A person might continuously lose weight on account of an overactive thyroid irrespective of the amount of food consumed. Weight loss occurs as all the functions of the body speed up.
Mood Swings An individual suffering from an overactive thyroid may experience a lot of mood swings for no evident reason. He or she will also show signs on nervousness and getting irritated at the smallest possible reason.
Frequent Washroom Visits Another change one can experience is an increased number of visits to the washroom, either for stools or/and passing urine. The frequency increase is easily noticeable as compared to normal circumstances.

Less Interest in Sex Another obvious symptom of hyperthyroidism is the loss of interest in sex.
Appetite Increase An increase in one’s appetite also takes place due to an overactive thyroid, and becomes too obvious to go unnoticed. This can hold true even for a person who originally didn’t have an above average appetite.
Sweating in Excess A person tends to sweat more than the usual rate as a result of increase in the speed of metabolic activities.

Breathing Problems Oversecretion of thyroid hormones may lead to difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath. These symptoms are observed mostly while performing heavy physical activities such as workouts.
Feeling Tired One of the many symptoms of thyroid gland problems is fatigue or feeling tired. The reason behind this might be the excessive sweating and loss of energy.
Osteoporosis Overactive thyroid, if left untreated for a long time, might lead to a disease called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a bone disease, wherein the bones tend to weaken and become more prone to fractures.
Nausea Individuals suffering from overactive thyroid may suffer from nausea since there is discomfort and uneasiness experienced in the stomach.
Insomnia A person might experience difficulty in getting a sound sleep at night. The reason behind this may be the increase in the rate of bodily functions. This symptom is also termed as sleep deprivation. A person who has not been able to sleep for the whole night would automatically feel tired the next day.
Hair Loss Overactive thyroid can also have adverse effects on the person’s hair. A person might suffer from hair loss. The rate of hair loss increases and the person loses more hair than usual in these cases.
Goiter Goiter is one of the results of an overactive thyroid, wherein a lump is formed in the neck. Goiter is also caused due to the deficiency of iodine in the body.
Increase in Heartbeat A person suffering from overactive thyroid is also found suffering from an increase in the rate of heartbeat. The heartbeat tends to go above 100 beats per minute in such cases.
Eye Problems In hyperthyroidism, there are peculiar eye changes which are visible as protruding eyes. There is less movement of the muscles around the eyeball and the eyelids are retracted. Risk of infection of the eyes and visibility problems are increased in people suffering from hyperthyroidism.

Other symptoms of thyroid gland problems exhibited by a person are warm and moist skin, irritability, increase in the bowel movements, and irregular menstrual periods. Women may find it difficult to conceive. Periodic paralysis is also found mostly in people of Asian origin.

Overactive thyroid is a serious disorder as it affects the functioning of the whole body, and thus leads to a variety of problems. These problems affect a person’s health and lifestyle. The symptoms can turn serious causing severe damage to the body. It is therefore suggested to seek consultation from a specialist or a doctor in this regard without any delay. Today, there are many treatments available that could help a person to get rid of this problem or at least alleviate some of the symptoms. Beta Blockers and Thyrostatics are the short-term remedies, while undergoing surgery or a radioisotope therapy could permanently cure the problem of an overactive thyroid.
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Underactive Thyroid Diet

An underactive thyroid in medical terms is called hypothyroidism. It means an abnormally low production of thyroid hormone. About 3 to 5% of the population is affected with this condition. When a person has an underactive thyroid, he has a lower metabolic rate, which leads to weight gain. The other symptoms noticed include tiredness, heavy and irregular periods, depression, constipation, dry skin and hair, etc. In addition to under-performing thyroid glands, the adrenals too do not perform at par. When the body notices that there is a lack of adrenalin, it sends a message urging the glands to start producing more adrenalin. Then it so happens that all the glands start producing, rather over-producing the hormone, and this leads to an imbalance in the body. This imbalance leads to weight gain and other problems.

A lot of people resort to a number of ‘fad’ diets available in the market to treat this condition. However, this is not the right method of battling the problem. It is important to choose correct foods, which will help in treating the symptoms of low thyroid. An underactive thyroid diet is the one, that boosts thyroid function, which in turn helps in balancing the hormones. At the same time, there are certain foods, which can slow down thyroid function, therefore should be avoided.

Constituents of the Diet

The diet for an underactive thyroid, if followed well, will help in keeping your weight gain in check. A certain amount of effort is required, but I am sure that you will take the pains if you want to stay in good shape or lose weight, more importantly, maintain your health.

Whole Food Diet
If you have hypothyroidism, it is recommended that you consume whole grains, seeds, unpolished brown rice, legumes and millet. Make vegetables and fruits your staple diet and have other food just to compliment the vegetables and fruits in your diet. If you are able to lay your hands on organically grown vegetables, it will be better.

Increase Iodine Consumption
In hypothyroidism people often suffer from low levels of iodine, therefore, it is recommended that you increase the consumption of iodine. Iodine rich foods include sea salt, iodized salt, eggs, dairy products and seafood. Other than these foods the vegan sources of iodine include onions, radishes and watercress.

Consume Vitamin E
Studies have shown that vitamin E consumed with iodine, increases absorption of iodine in the body. The results are remarkable and are observed immediately.

Consume Vitamin D
Along with vitamin E, it is important that your diet is also rich in vitamin D. There are a number of vitamin D rich foods, which can be a part of your diet. Along with these foods, you can also get your quota of vitamin D from the sun everyday.

Studies have shown that zinc helps in improving thyroid gland functioning. Many patients suffering from an underactive thyroid, normally have low levels of zinc, after zinc supplements were given to them, there was remarkable improvement in the functioning of thyroid gland.

Avoid Caffeine
Caffeine leads to an upset glandular system, causing further damage to the system. Hence, it is advised that you avoid caffeine intake. Remember a number of soft drinks also contain caffeine, therefore along with tea and coffee, consumption of soft drinks should be controlled too.

Avoid Alcohol
Like caffeine alcohol is also to be avoided in diet for hypothyroidism. As alcohol creates havoc with the functioning of the glandular system, therefore, alcohol should not be consumed to arrest further damage to the system.

Avoid Low Nutrient and High Calorie Food Products
Processed food, sugar, fried foods, meat, saturated fats, alcohol, caffeine, etc. are foods which might give you a temporary high, but it will give you a permanent weight high too. Hence, these low on nutrient value and high on calories foods are best avoided.

Avoid Fluoride and Chlorine
Fluoride and chlorine block the absorption of iodine in the body. Reduced iodine results in a reduced hormone production, which is said to be the main cause of hypothyroidism. Hence, a person suffering from hypothyroidism is advised to keep away from fluoride and chlorine.

Avoid Goitrogens
These foods are known to hamper functioning of the thyroid gland, as they stop iodine from reaching the thyroid gland, therefore should be avoided. The foods that come under this category include cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, turnips, Brussels sprouts, peanuts, kale and soy flour.

Use Natural Thyroid Supplement
Using natural thyroid supplements is recommended, as they well support thyroid functioning and at the same time nourish your body. There are herbs available in the market, which are naturally rich in iodine. Iodine is required to bring balance to the thyroid glands. If you are pregnant or nursing, you should speak with your health care professional, before you increase your iodine intake.

Points to Remember about Hypothyroidism and Weight Loss

Along with the diet rules, there are certain rules, which will prove to be of help in the weight loss process. For most people weight loss has to be instantaneous. However, it cannot be. It is best to aim for a slower weight loss process, than to be dejected and give up. At the same time a crash diet does more harm than good to the system. It often results in loss of muscle mass, which further aggravates the problem. Having the right portion sizes is important. The ideal portion size of fruits and vegetables in a day is 5 portions and that of protein rich food is 2 servings. Often it is seen, that a lot of people change their medication in order to lose weight. However, it is not recommended. As is following a diet important, having an exercise program in place is equally important, if not more important.

It is important to follow the underactive thyroid diet to keep hypothyroidism under check. It is not difficult to follow the diet. The diet will not only help you improve the functioning of the thyroid glands, but it will also help you keeping your weight under control, weight issues are commonly seen in patients suffering from both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.