Diseases Dealing With Unintentional Weight Loss

Unintentional weight loss may seem a bonus to some people, particularly those carrying excess weight. Such weight loss may occur as a symptom of serious health condition, however. If you experience weight loss of 10 lbs. or more and are lost for the cause, seek prompt guidance from your doctor. When speaking to your doctor, be sure to address any lifestyle changes or additional symptoms, even if they seem irrelevant.

Gastrointestinal Diseases

Gastrointestinal diseases, or conditions that negatively affect your digestive system, commonly cause unintentional weight loss. According to the Mayo Clinic, weight loss associated with gastrointestinal conditions such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, peptic ulcers and celiac disease may result from reduced appetite or malabsorption of nutrients. In some cases, people with these conditions continue to lose weight, regardless of their food intake. Most gastrointestinal diseases are managed or treated through dietary lifestyle changes, medications or, in some cases, surgery. Since loss of nutrients can lead to further complications, such as osteoporosis, or brittle bones, depression and lethargy, early diagnosis and treatment are key. Additional symptoms of gastrointestinal diseases may include bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain or cramping, nausea or vomiting. If any of these symptoms arise in addition to unintentional weight loss, seek guidance from your doctor.

Cardiovascular or Lung Disease

Cardiovascular diseases affect your heart or arteries. Lung diseases typically cause progressive scarring of lung tissue, which may affect your ability to breathe and reap enough oxygen in your bloodstream. According to the Mayo Clinic, weight loss is a common factor of both forms of disease. Sudden or substantial weight loss may indicate advanced stage cardiovascular conditions such as as congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Symptoms of heart and lung-related diseases vary, but may include difficulty breathing, chest tightness or pain and fingernails that curve at the top. In some cases, unintentional weight loss is the primary or only apparent symptom of such illnesses. Since these conditions are potentially life-threatening, seek medical attention once you observe weight loss or any other symptom.


Weight may occur in response to certain forms of cancer and cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. According to the American Cancer Society, most people facing cancer will undergo weight loss at some point and unintentional weight loss of 10 or more pounds is a common first symptom of cancer. Esophageal, lung, pancreatic and stomach cancer mostly common cause weight loss. People with cancer often experience reduced appetite, nausea, vomiting or pain, all of which may result in weight loss. Maintaining healthy weight and nutrient intake during cancer treatment is key toward recovery. If you have cancer and struggle to eat appropriately, talk to your doctor about ways to ease the process.

About this Author

August J. McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as “Healthy Aging,” “CitySmart,” “IAmThatGirl” and “ULM.” She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit – a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.