Every parent wants to see their children healthy, both physically and mentally. So, it can be very concerning when a child starts to experience unexplained weight loss.
Unfortunately, unexplained weight loss in children is much more common than you might think, and sometimes, it’s a sign of a serious underlying health condition. If your child is experiencing unexplained weight loss, it’s important to take them to see a doctor. A physical exam for your child can determine an underlying ailment or rule out a serious sickness.
There are a variety of potential causes, ranging from the harmless to the serious. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the most common reasons for unexplained weight loss in children so that you can be better informed and prepared if your child should ever experience it.
Changing Eating Habits
One of the most common causes of unexplained weight loss in children is simply a change in eating habits. Perhaps your child has become a pickier eater or has started eating more meals away from home. If you suspect that this is the case, try keeping a food diary to track what your child is eating and compare it to what they’ve eaten in the past. If there has been a significant change, it may be worth discussing with your child’s doctor.
Increased Physical Activity
Another potential cause of unexplained weight loss in children is increased activity levels. If your child has taken up a new sport or hobby that requires them to be more active than usual, they may burn off more calories than they’re taking in, leading to weight loss.
This isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, but it’s important to ensure that your child is still getting enough nutrients and calories to support their activity level. You may need to adjust their diet accordingly or speak to their doctor about supplements if you’re concerned.
In some cases, unexplained weight loss in children may be caused by a medical condition such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or an overactive thyroid. These conditions can cause malnutrition and lead to weight loss even if your child eats enough food.
Celiac disease is a condition that prevents the body from properly absorbing nutrients from food. It’s often undiagnosed because the symptoms can be very subtle. To diagnose celiac disease in children, doctors often look for a combination of symptoms, including weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain, and bloating. People who have celiac disease eat a specific diet that doesn’t include gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.
Crohn’s disease is another condition that can cause malnutrition and weight loss. It’s an inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the digestive tract. The most common symptoms in children are abdominal pain, bloody stools, weight loss, and fatigue. Diagnosing Crohn’s involves a combination of blood tests, stool samples, and imaging tests. Crohn’s can be better managed through medication and, in some cases, surgery.
An overactive thyroid is another potential cause of unexplained weight loss. The thyroid produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism. If it’s not functioning properly, it can cause several symptoms, including weight loss, fatigue, and anxiety. A doctor who suspects that a patient has an overactive thyroid usually asks for blood tests to measure hormone levels. Depending on the results, they may prescribe medication to regulate thyroid function.
These are just a few examples of illnesses that can cause weight loss. If you’re concerned that your child may be ill, you must speak to their doctor. They can order the appropriate tests and, if necessary, refer you to a specialist.
Mental Health Concerns
Often, children also lose weight due to mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder.
Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health disorders in children. They can both cause a loss of appetite, leading to weight loss. Anxiety and depression can also make it difficult for children to concentrate, causing them to miss meals or not eat enough during the day. If you think your child may be struggling with anxiety or depression, it’s important to speak to their doctor to get the help they need.
Eating disorders are another potential cause of weight loss in children. Anorexia nervosa is the most well-known type of eating disorder but there are others, such as bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Eating disorders often develop in children who are already struggling with anxiety or depression. They can be very difficult to overcome without professional help.
Unexplained weight loss in children can be worrying for parents, but fortunately, it is often benign and easily remedied. Keep an eye on your child’s eating habits and activity level, and speak to their doctor if you suspect that something may be wrong. With proper care and treatment, your child will be back on track in no time.