Weight loss is on many people’s list of New Year’s resolutions year after year, but sometimes it comes unexpectedly because of a health problem. If you experience suspicious weight fluctuations that have nothing to do with your diet, watch out for other accompanying symptoms, such as fatigue and shortness of breath. You may be suffering from anemia.
This article explains what anemia is, how it may affect weight, and what to do about it.
Anemia is a medical condition characterized by a low number of red blood cells and, consequently, by decreased hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin is a protein present in red blood cells whose essential function is to carry oxygen throughout the body. Without sufficient oxygen, the body can’t metabolize energy for basic bodily functions.
Chronic and unaddressed anemia can lead to life-threatening conditions.
There are many forms and causes of anemia. Anemia most often occurs because of a lack of iron, the main building block of hemoglobin.
The potential causes of iron deficiency anemia include:
Anemia can also be inherited or acquired because of chronic illness. Examples of other types of anemia include:
Note: Optimal levels of vitamin B are essential when you are trying to lose weight. Read more about it in our article Vitamin B for Weight Loss and learn how it helps.
Patients who develop anemia because of a severe medical condition such as cancer often experience appetite loss and consequently lose weight. Nutrient deficiencies may also lead to diminished appetite and weight loss, depending on the nutrient that is lacking and its role in the organism.
The most common nutrient deficiency that causes anemia is low iron. Scientists speculate that iron deficiency anemia causes poor appetite because of an imbalance in the hormone ghrelin, which regulates appetite. When children with iron deficiency anemia took oral iron supplements, they experienced an increase in appetite and weight gain.
Note: Learn about the causes and symptoms of hormonal imbalance and how to improve it.
Anemia can cause weight loss, but it can also cause weight gain, depending on the type of anemia and its severity.
Iron is one of the elements necessary for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Iron deficiency can cause hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), a condition whose main symptoms are weight gain, tiredness, and depression.
Low energy and fatigue caused by iron deficiency affect our ability to remain active, making it difficult to exercise. Additionally, feeling tired increases cravings and makes it harder to seek out healthy meal options.
Available research presents conflicting results regarding the link between iron supplementation to treat anemia and weight management. Some small studies show patients gained weight during the treatment, while others negate the link between iron supplementation and weight gain. These studies show that once patients restore optimal iron levels, they significantly reduce their body weight and waist circumference.
Iron deficiency develops gradually and takes time to reveal symptoms. When anemia progresses, the symptoms range from mild to severe and include the following:
Weight fluctuations often indicate an underlying health issue, especially when paired with other uncomfortable symptoms. If you notice suspicious weight loss or weight gain, visit a doctor to identify what is causing it and learn about treatment options.
A modified diet that includes iron-rich foods and oral iron supplements are the first-line treatment for anemia.
Medical providers may recommend IV iron therapy for patients with more severe symptoms or surgery for patients with severe underlying conditions (i.e., chronic internal bleeding).
Note: Learn what is IV therapy, and what are the benefits of IV therapy.
Anemia makes it challenging to maintain optimal weight. Patients report unexplainable weight loss or weight gain accompanied by fatigue, weakness, and other symptoms. They may be mild at first, but if left untreated, anemia can lead to fatal outcomes.
If you suspect you’ve lost or gained weight due to anemia, please contact our medical professionals at Vibrant Vitality Clinic to assess your health condition and find a suitable therapy.
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Phoenix, AZ 85018
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