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What are the Most Common Causes of Nausea and Weight Loss?

Alex Tree
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Nausea and weight loss are symptoms of a wide variety of health disorders. Digestive disorders and starvation due to eating disorders, such as anorexia, are common causes. Certain types of cancer and their treatments can also cause these symptoms. These symptoms can occur independently, but they commonly manifest together.

Nausea is a feeling of abdominal discomfort, dizziness, and the urge to vomit. Weight loss is a reduction of total body mass because of fluid, bone, or muscle tissue wasting. A person will experience nausea during starvation because of lack of food and fluid intake. The lack of nutrients will produce high levels of chemicals called ketones, which will trigger the nausea and vomiting center in the brain.

Loss of appetite often develops with nausea and vomiting, and weight loss occurs if the lack of food or fluids is significant and prolonged. Some eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, are forms of starvation, and may cause nausea and weight loss. Anxiety and nausea often appear together in patients with these psychiatric problems.

These symptoms may also be caused by a multitude of digestive diseases. Stomach flu, liver disease, and intestinal disorders are some of the diseases that can cause nausea and vomiting. Again, loss of appetite often follows nausea, which will then cause weight loss. Irritation, blockage, or infection may spur the diseases that manifest with these symptoms.

Cancer is another common cause of nausea and weight loss. Stomach, pancreatic, or any form of intestinal cancer, such as colon cancer, can cause these symptoms. Nausea may be traced to malignant growths and hormonal imbalances. When these occur, proteins and calories are usually not absorbed properly, resulting in weight loss.

Weight loss due to cancer is different from starvation. Starving individuals can increase their metabolic rate to counteract muscle wasting. Cancer patients are unable to adjust their metabolic rate and waste proteins. This can lead to progressive weight loss and wasting of the muscles.

The treatments of cancer, such as radiation and chemotherapy, can also cause nausea and weight loss. Chemotherapy drugs can damage stomach cells, which in turn release a chemical called serotonin. This substance can transmit a signal to the part of the brain responsible for vomiting. Radiation therapy directed at the stomach area normally causes nausea one to two days after the treatment. Due to the loss of appetite and the impaired metabolic process, weight loss may happen, especially in the late stages of the disease.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Alex Tree
By Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and The Health Board contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
Discussion Comments
By dimpley — On Jun 01, 2011

I remember when I went to an art conservatory how odd I first found it when I saw signs in the bathrooms encouraging girls to let others know if they heard anyone vomiting or to get help if they felt the need to purge.

Apparently, it was pretty common for the dancers in particular to want to become some elusive ideal size so that they could progress further in the school’s world renowned dance program.

I always felt so sorry for the people who were that unhappy with their physical appearance, but I suspect it was actually more of a mental issue than anything. Those girls were really pushed beyond belief to have the perfect physical body.

By poppyseed — On May 29, 2011

When I was pregnant with my kids, I experienced both nausea and weight loss. I was a little overweight when I got pregnant both times, so my doctors just monitored to make sure the kids were thriving and didn’t panic. After all, it wasn't unexplained weight loss.

In both cases, I lost a full twenty pounds by the time I had the kids, and then more after they were born. However, they were just as healthy as could be! One weighted seven pounds and one ounce, and the other rang in at a whopping six pounds twelve ounce!

My doctor’s suspected that the weight loss had more to do with the fact that I have polycystic ovarian syndrome (which is a huge factor in my weight issue to begin with) and the righting of hormones brought on by pregnancy.

Alex Tree
Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and The Health Board contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
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