What are abdominal pain and unintentional weight loss? Your abdomen houses many organs, including your stomach, liver, and intestines. Just as there are many organs, there are a variety of descriptors for abdominal pain, including:
Everyone’s weight may fluctuate a few pounds on a daily basis, but unintentional weight loss means losing weight without trying. If you haven’t changed your eating or exercise habits, yet you’re experiencing weight loss, it can be cause for concern. The Mayo Clinic defines unintentional weight loss as losing 10 or more pounds, or more than 5 percent of your body weight.
What causes abdominal pain and unintentional weight loss?
Abdominal pain coupled with unintentional weight loss can be due to a variety of conditions including:
- Addison’s disease
- celiac disease
- depression, stress, or anxiety
- parasitic infection, such as amebiasis or hookworms
- peptic ulcer
- viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
- certain bacterial infections involving either the intestines or solid organs
- lactose intolerance
- ovarian cancer
- stomach ulcer
- colon cancer (cancer of the rectum)
- pancreatic cancer
- bladder cancer
- chlamydia infection
- Burkitt’s lymphoma
- renal cell cancer
- tuberculosis (TB)
- Addisonian crisis (acute adrenal crisis)
- underactive pituitary gland (hypopituitarism)
- non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterine endometrium)
- liver cancer
- stomach cancer (gastric adenocarcinoma)
- Crohn’s disease
Older adults are also often subject to abdominal pain due to medications they may be taking. The pain can lead to loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss. Cancer of any of the abdominal organs can also cause abdominal pain and unintentional weight loss.
When to seek medical help
Seek immediate medical attention if you’re vomiting blood or observe blood in your stool. Also, old blood in the vomitus can resemble coffee grounds. And sometimes stool may not contain red blood but may be maroon or black and tarlike.
Seek immediate medical attention if your pain suddenly worsens. And make an appointment to see your doctor if:
- you have a fever greater than 100°F (37.7°C)
- your appetite doesn’t return in three to five days
- your stomach pain lasts longer than a week
- your stomach pain gets worse
This information is a summary. Always seek medical attention if you’re concerned that you may be experiencing a medical emergency.
How are abdominal pain and unintentional weight loss treated?
Abdominal pain and unintentional weight loss treatments can vary because their causes vary. Your doctor will try to determine the underlying cause. However, in the meantime, they may prescribe medication to help control your symptoms.
If a virus is causing your symptoms, antibiotics won’t improve your symptoms because antibiotics are not effective against viruses.
If your abdominal pain and unintentional weight loss are due to a parasite, your doctor will determine the appropriate medication to kill the parasite.
Counseling can improve symptoms caused by stress and anxiety. Getting more rest and exercise may also help.
How do I care for abdominal pain and unintentional weight loss at home?
Abdominal pain can cause you to not feel like eating or drinking. Drink small sips of water or a beverage that contains electrolytes, such as Pedialyte, to avoid becoming dehydrated.
Eating several small meals instead of fewer larger ones can help. Avoid high-fat, greasy foods, such as pizza or french fries. They can make your symptoms worse. Instead, try eating:
- broth-based soups
- cooked vegetables and fruits
- mashed potatoes
- peanut butter
- protein supplement shakes
These foods can keep your stomach settled and prevent additional weight loss.
How can I prevent abdominal pain and unintentional weight loss?
Typically, you can’t prevent abdominal pain and unintentional weight loss. However, practicing good hand hygiene habits, such as frequent hand washing, can help to prevent infectious causes.
In general, prolonged abdominal pain associated with weight loss is related to a medical condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated by your doctor. Seek advice from your doctor if you experience these symptoms and if they last longer than one week.