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When Weight Loss is a Sign of Illness

Tim Boyer's picture
weight loss and illness

When it comes to losing weight everyone wants to drop the pounds as fast as possible. But did you know that when weight loss is too fast it could be a sign of illness? Here are 5 categories of medical conditions that you should be aware of if you ever experience fast weight loss that came too easily.


According to a recent patient-to-doctor Q and A column in The Detroit News, one reader was concerned about an unexplainable 20-pound weight loss. The patient usually weighs only 175 pounds, but has now dropped to 155 pounds in spite of a normal three meals per day diet including dessert. An initial medical exam and tests revealed nothing out of the ordinary.

In answer to the patient’s question Dr. Keith Roach of To Your Health writes that in fact there are numerous causes behind rapid weight loss. Here are the 5 categories of common medical conditions that he says you and your doctor should consider if this should happen to you:

Weight Loss Category #1: Malabsorption

When your digestive tract is not absorbing nutrients as it should from your meals, then your body is being robbed of the calories it needs. According to Dr. Roach, malabsorption states, such as with sprue or chronic pancreatitis, can keep your body from getting enough nutrition despite eating plenty. Diarrhea is almost universal in these cases—especially if it is due to picking up a parasite while on a vacation.

Weight Loss Category #2: Diabetes mellitus

Dr. Roach also points out that losing the calories you are actually taking in during meals could be due to out-of-control diabetes mellitus.

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Weight Loss Category #3: An elevated metabolic rate

A high metabolism is one way the body can burn off those excess calories in your meals and that which is stored as fat. However, too much of a good thing is too much as is experienced by patients who suffer from hyperthyroidism. In fact, some researchers are working on developing a weight loss pill that mimics a type of hyperthyroidism that can be safely controlled.

Weight Loss Category #4: Chronic disease

Having a chronic disease such as an infection that won’t go away or cancer can literally waste away the human body fairly quickly. But did you know that if you are dieting by using some herbal products that your weight loss could be due to the herbal product inducing cancer as warned about with this one weight loss product?

Weight Loss Category #5: Psychiatric disease

Mental health conditions such as depression or anorexia nervosa prevents a person from eating a normal healthy diet and therefore is simply physical starvation. In some cases it can be difficult to tell whether you or someone you know may actually be suffering from an eating disorder. However, here are some of tell-tale signs that you can look for that indicate an eating disorder.

So what exactly is considered a healthy rate of weight loss? In general, health authorities pretty much stick to the recommended 1-2 pounds per week for most people. Of course, this pertains only to people who are actively dieting and/or becoming more physically active. If however you find yourself welcoming the loss of some excess pounds that came off too easily, then it is time to pay attention to what your body may be trying to tell you and seek help from your physician.

Reference: The Detroit News― “Dr. Keith Roach: There are many causes of weight loss