Unintentional Weight Loss– Treatments and Drugs

Because there are many potential causes of unintentional weight loss, treatment is solely tailored to target the problem that causes this condition.  There are occasions where unexplained/unintentional weight loss may happen due to inappropriate or inadequate food intake. In these particular cases, the caloric intake needs to be monitored by a dietician and a four or six meal daily nutritional program per day may be advised. A broad supplementation plan may be required as well that can be accompanied by a progressive workout program.  The workout may require light to moderate weight training to prevent the further loss of muscle tissue and to restore those that have been lost.  Exercise should integrate both strength training and cardiovascular exercise. It is through strength training that a weak and thin person can enhance his lean body mass and bone mass density. By the mere engagement in these types of exercise, a person can almost automatically increase his appetite.

One conventional and often physician-prescribed pharmaceutical option for weight gain is appetite stimulants. They are used to help restore muscle health but can also lead to appetite overstimulation which can cause excessive fat gain.  After a thorough medical evaluation, more aggressive and radical treatment may be justified. Testosterone/anabolic steroids or growth hormone are often specified for muscle gaining. These are potentially hazardous options causing a lot of serious side effects and will only be given if the need to do so is imperative.

One other safe but invasive option to treating weight loss is through intravenous feeding.  This process is usually given to patients suffering from heavy chronic illnesses. Intravenous feeding helps prevent any further degeneration of muscle tissue and weight loss.

Weight loss due to reduced nutrient intake and anorexia is one of the effects of cancer.  Damages and abnormalities in the digestive system caused by tumor growth or from cancer therapies lead to problems in the nutrition of the patient. Cancer cachexia, which is a wasting syndrome, causes more than weight loss as it can lead to permanent damage of the tissues and organs in the body often leading to death.  Cancer cachexia is treated with pharmaceuticals to boost appetite and reverse or, if not, at least stop the degeneration of organs and tissues.  Pharmaceuticals given for cancer cachexia include mirtazapine, olanzapine, cyproheptadine, cannabinoids and glucocorticoids. Anti-inflammatory agents that help retard cancer cachexia include omega 3 fatty acids, melatonin, pentoxyphylline and thalidomide. Anabolic steroids are also introduced into cancer patients to help boost the levels of testosterone in their body.

Natural Therapies

For those sufferers of unexplained weight loss who want to take a safer, more natural path, the first step to address this problem is to consult with a naturopathic doctor.  This doctor will perform a thorough and complete checkup on the patient to ascertain nothing is imbalanced in his digestive and/or endocrine system. If both systems check out fine, the naturopath will recommend that he see an acupuncturist. Through the use of acupuncture, a person can get back his healthy appetite by rebalancing it to its optimum function. In order to help a person regain his healthy appetite, the acupuncturist will focus his treatment on the spleen and stomach meridians to help rebalance the patient’s energy or chi energy and help him get back his natural appetite.

Acupuncture is one of many alternative therapies that provide effective and totally safe strategies that focus on nutritional enhancement of the body and hormonal balance to boost appetite and regain weight.

Some therapies integrate the use of high-quality foods and proteins like seeds and nuts that are loaded with calories. One good high-quality protein food is spirulina – a food that has one of the highest protein levels of any food available. Spirulina has actually about 12X more protein than beef pound per pound.  It also is far richer in calcium content than milk.

One of the traditional sources of non-meat protein is soy.  With soy products or soy protein one is sure to acquire a lot of healthy fats into his diet.  One can also derive weight-gaining benefits from sources like extra virgin coconut oil, flax oil, seeds and nuts, seeds.  These are foods that any naturopathic doctor will highly recommend to his thin and emaciated patient wanting to regain weight. A patient who experiences some health improvements through acupuncture or other natural therapies, the inclusion of strength training and training exercise will help quicken the process of the patient’s weight gain.

The ideal way to help accelerate the regaining of one’s appetite is to perform regular exercise. This does not mean the person needs to start exercising right away especially if he’s too thin, the person may need to wait until his hormone systems and digestion are properly balanced.  Once this balance has been achieved it is important to include a regular exercise program in his life.


Danielle DeVivo is a board certified and licensed acupuncturist in Saratoga Springs, NY.