Not all people want to lose weight. There are some who keep on shedding the pounds – even though they are eating right or eating more than they are used to. More often than not, digestive problems bring about this unexplained weight loss – which can be bothersome to people who experience it.
If you are suffering from such problems, then make sure to read more about the following digestive problems that cause weight loss – and what you can do about it.
Also known as sprue, coeliac, or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, this disorder is hallmarked by an immune reaction against gluten, a substance usually found in rye, wheat, and barley.
It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as genetics, intestinal flora, gastrointestinal infections, and stressful conditions such as pregnancy, childbirth, and surgery. Many people today are forced to go gluten-free because they are severely affected when they consume anything with gluten.
In a person suffering from Celiac disease, eating gluten-containing food can lead to damages in the lining of the small intestines. When this happens, malabsorption or the inability to absorb nutrients occurs. As a result, the individual can suffer from the following symptoms:
• Mouth ulcers
• Heartburn and acid reflux
• Osteoporosis or loss in bone density
• Osteomalacia or bone softening
• Balance problems
• Cognitive impairment
• Numbness and tingling of hands and feet
• Dental enamel damage
• Dermatitis herpetiformis, or an itchy, blistery skin rash
As with most digestive disorders, unexplained weight loss occurs in Celiac disease patients due to the fact that the damaged intestines are unable to absorb nutrients from consumed food. If left untreated, Celiac disease can lead to lactose intolerance, malnutrition, and gastrointestinal cancers.
What you can do about Celiac disease:
Since gluten causes a reaction that damages the intestinal lining, sticking to a gluten-free diet is the key to minimizing, if not eliminating the signs caused by Celiac disease – weight loss included.
A gluten-free diet means avoiding foodstuff made from/with the rye, barley, malt, graham flour, semolina, farina, and durum. It also means staying away from processed food that could include the following ingredients – examples include ice cream, instant coffee, luncheon meats, pasta, pastries, salad dressings, canned soups, and yogurt, to name a few.
Apart from food, there are other gluten-laced items that you need to be on the lookout as well. These include medications, supplements, cosmetics, toothpastes, and mouthwashes. So before you buy things from the grocery or the drugstore, make sure to read the labels carefully – be on the lookout for gluten ingredients!
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disorder characterized by abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stools, malnutrition, fatigue, fever, reduced appetite, and of course, weight loss.
The inflammation can extend through the deeper layers of the ileum or the colon – which can be completely life-threatening if it is not treated. In severe cases, inflammation of the eyes, skin, joints, liver, and bile ducts can occur.
Should the episode worsen, Crohn’s disease can result in several complications, such as ulcers, fistulas, colon cancer, anal fissures, and bowel obstructions that might require surgery.
Crohn’s disease is caused by genetics or a virus that triggers an abnormal immune response. Risk factors associated with the condition include the following:
• Young age (30 years old and below)
• Caucasian and Eastern European ethnicities
• Cigarette smoking
• Consumption of high-fat and refined foods
• Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Naproxen Sodium, Ibuprofen, and Diclofenac Sodium
• Residency in an urban area or industrialized country
What you can do about Crohn’s disease:
Crohn’s disease has no known cure, however, your doctor can prescribe medications that can halt the inflammatory processes associated with Crohn’s disease. These drugs include anti-inflammatory medications and immune system suppressors.
Another integral part of the management of Crohn’s disease (which is important for patients suffering from weight loss) is nutritional therapy. In fact, studies associate intake of fat, meat, and polyunsaturated fatty acids with the development of Crohn’s disease, while consumption of fat and fiber has been deemed ‘protective’ to the digestive system.
With that being said, the best way to counteract the weight loss associated with Crohn’s disease is to embark on a modified diet – with the guidance of a nutritionist, of course.
Your nutritionist might start you on a ‘elimination-reintroduction diet,’ where single food types are slowly introduced to the diet in order to determine the food/s that trigger your Crohn’s disease symptoms.
Then there’s the faster variation of the ‘elimination-reintroduction diet,’ which is the low-fiber, fat-limited exclusion diet known as LOFFLEX. In this diet, varied food types are introduced at a slightly faster pace.
One diet which might be easier for most Crohn’s disease sufferers to follow is the FODMAP diet, which stands for “fermentable, oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols.” This means avoiding FODMAP-rich sources such as pears, apples, apricots, watermelon, cauliflower, cabbage, wheat, broccoli, corn syrup, sorbitol, dairy products, and soft cheeses.
Peptic ulcers are characterized by sores that develop on the stomach lining. They are divided into two classifications, namely:
1) Gastric ulcers, which are located in the stomach cavity
2) Duodenal ulcers, which involves the upper portion of small intestines called the duodenum
Ulcers are usually caused by an infection caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. They can also develop following the prolonged use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. Smoking, alcohol drinking, stress, and consumption of spicy food also contribute to the onset of ulcers.
Common ulcer symptoms include a burning pain in the stomach (which is worse in between meals or at nighttime,) heartburn, fatty food intolerance, nausea, belching, and bloating. Severe symptoms include appetite changes, bloody vomitus, bloody stools, and of course, unexplained weight loss.
What you can do about peptic ulcers:
Your doctor’s first course of action will be to prescribe medications such as antibiotics, drugs that reduce or block acid production, antacids, and cytoprotective agents that protect the stomach and intestinal linings.
Apart from heeding your doctor’s prescriptions, you also need to make some dietary changes as they can help counteract the weight loss related to ulcers.
For one, you need to eat a healthy diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, as well as Vitamins A and C. Additionally, you need to incorporate probiotic-rich foods such as aged cheeses, miso, and sauerkraut into your diet.
While you need to incorporate some fares in your diet, you will also need to cut some. Sadly, you have to avoid milk and alcohol as they can worsen your ulcer symptoms.
Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease which leads to swelling and ulcers on the innermost layer of the colon and the rectum. Similar to Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis can be caused by hereditary problems or immune system disruptions. It has no known cure, and can develop progressively over time.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:
• Abdominal pain and crams
• Blood or pus-laden stools
• Rectal pain and bleeding
• Urgency or inability to defecate
Expectedly, weight loss occurs in ulcerative colitis because of the changes occurring in the digestive tract. If left untreated, complications such as severe bleeding, dehydration, blood clots, osteoporosis, toxic megacolon, or a perforated colon may arise.
What you can do about ulcerative colitis:
As with other inflammatory bowel diseases, your doctor will prescribe you with anti-inflammatory drugs and immune system suppressors. Apart from this, you need to be cautious with your intake as certain foods and beverages can lead worse symptoms.
To avoid weight loss and other problems that occur with ulcerative colitis, you need to cut dairy products, spicy food, alcohol, and caffeinated drinks from your usual diet.
You also need to stay away from some high-fiber foods, as they can worsen your already sick state. Fiber-rich foods that you need to avoid include cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, corn, seeds, and nuts.
Apart from restricting the intake of the aforementioned items, you may need to modify your dietary habits as well. Instead of consuming two to three large meals per day, go for small, frequent feedings of five to six meals a day.
Most importantly: drink as much water as you can. Avoid certain beverages as they can worsen the diarrheic episodes that usually come with ulcerative colitis.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Commonly known as GERD, this disease is characterized by the backflow of the stomach acid into the esophagus. The acid irritates and corrodes the esophageal lining, as its structure is not designed to interact with stomach acid.
Symptoms of GERD include heartburn which is worse after eating or at nighttime, swallowing difficulties, food/liquid regurgitation, a lumpy sensation in the throat, and chest pain. If left untreated, GERD can lead to esophageal strictures, esophageal ulcers, or precancerous esophageal changes (Barrett’s esophagus.)
What you can do about GERD:
Weight loss can occur with GERD especially if reflux happens often. Apart from taking the doctor’s prescribed medications such as antacids, H2-receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors, you need to commit to the following dietary and lifestyle changes as well:
• Thoroughly chew and eat your food.
• Avoid food and beverages that can cause reflux: chocolate, tomato sauce, onion, mint, garlic, caffeinated drinks, alcohol, fatty, and fried food.
• Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing as it can put undue pressure on your lower esophagus and stomach.
• Don’t lie down immediately after a meal; wait for at least 3 hours to give your stomach time to properly digest it.
• Achieve a healthy weight, as abdominal fat can push on your stomach and cause GERD.
• Quit smoking, as smoking affects the esophageal sphincter’s ability to function properly.
Remember: weight loss associated with digestive problems can be bothersome, but they can be reversed with the proper diet and timely medication intake.