Can Duodenal Ulcers Cause Weight Loss

Duodenal ulcers, open sores that develop in the lining of the duodenum, could be painful a lot during flare-up. Abdominal pain is the most classic symptom of the disease, which is usually triggered when something hurts /irritates the open sore. The disease may also cause changes in weight. Can it cause weight loss?

First off, when is weight loss abnormal?

Sudden, unintentional weight loss can occur for various reasons. Although many times it’s a consequence of stressful events (divorce, changing jobs, or redundancy for examples), it could also be a sign of particular medical conditions!

It’s perfectly normal to experience changes in weight after a stressful event. In such a case, weight will usually return once your stress relieves, feel happier, or when you have had time to get used to your situation.

How much pounds of weight loss are a concern?

It’s not always easy to figure out when your weight loss is something for concern. Even though if your weight fluctuates, this doesn’t mean that it is definitely abnormal. In fact, weight can also normally fluctuate from week to week.

As long as the fluctuation is not significant and it occurs regularly, there should be nothing worry. But the story is different if you lose weight significantly (especially in a short amount of time). The next question, how much weight loss is abnormal?

According to NHS, unintentional weight loss should be a cause for concern when you lose more than 5 percent of your body weight over 6-12 months [1]. This is particularly true if the problem is followed with unusual symptoms such as appetite loss, fatigue, changes in bowel movements, or an increase in infections.

Conditions that cause unintentional weight loss

A number of health conditions can factor into noticeable, unintentional weight loss. Some of the most common ones include thyroid disorders, psychological problems (such as depression), eating disorders, and even cancers.

In less common cases, the problem probably is associated with the following conditions:

  1. Certain medications. Some cause side effects that might affect your appetite, leading to weight loss.
  2. Problems of the heart, liver, and kidneys.
  3. Undiagnosed diabetes, Addison’s disease (a problem affecting adrenal glands), or other diseases that affect the balance of certain hormones in the body.
  4. Chronic long-term inflammatory disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  5. Infections such as tuberculosis, HIV and AIDs.

Anything that affects the way of how your body processes the food may also affect your weight. These include swallowing problem (dysphagia), dental problems, and problems of digestive system (e.g. celiac disease and gastroenteritis). How about duodenal ulcers?

Duodenal ulcer and changes in weight

Naturally, the stomach secretes a strong acid called ‘hydrochloric acid’ to help digest foods. This stomach acid plays a role to stimulate the activation of pepsin (digestive enzyme), stimulate a signal of when the food can go to the small intestine from the stomach as well as chemical signaling the more secretion of pancreas enzymes, and also to help fight against ‘bad’ bacteria in the stomach that came down with the food [2].

Even too low stomach acid level may contribute to poor absorption of your dietary protein and some key minerals [3]. Now you understand that acid is actually required in your digestive system.

But while stomach acid is essential for various purposes, it can also hurt the stomach lining. That’s why your stomach and duodenum is protected by a thick barrier from mucus layer. But this protective barrier can also get broken and damaged, resulting in inflammation or open sore (ulcer).

Duodenal ulcers can be attributed by several factors. The main ones are infection caused by Helicobacter Pylori bacteria and excessive use of inflammatory medications (aspirin or NSAIDs). Lifestyle factors (e.g. cigarette smoking, stress, and alcohol) can also increase the risk of developing the disease.

Abdominal discomfort, especially burning pain, is common with duodenal ulcers. The pain may also occur with other symptoms of the disease such as nausea, indigestion, and bloating (feeling very full after eating). How about weight loss?

Duodenal ulcers cause abdominal discomforts that may affect your appetite, causing changes in weight. But this could be weight loss or even weight gain!

Certain foods can worsen stomach ulcers (see more here). This restriction probably is worrying you, making you eat fewer foods than usual and eventually you’re likely to lose weight.

But this is slightly different for duodenal ulcers. While the common culprits such as spicy, fatty, and acidic foods can cause negative reaction – eating foods, as long as they’re OK for the balance of the stomach acid level, may improve duodenal ulcer symptoms [4].

As a result, sometimes people with duodenal ulcers probably are likely to eat more foods to soothe the symptoms. That’s why they may have a weight gain. Still, abdominal discomforts associated with the disease can also affect their appetite, consequently leading to weight loss. This suggests that changes in weight caused by duodenal ulcers may vary from patient to patient.

Treatments

The good news, weight changes associated with duodenal ulcers are temporary. Once the open sores are healed completely, your normal weight will usually come back afterwards.

What to understand, your diet plays a role to help boost your recovery. Again, just make sure what you eat is OK with your ulcers. Avoid also anything else that will make your ulcers take longer to heal. You might also like to read; ulcer dos and don’ts!

The underlying cause of your ulcers determines what kind of treatment you take. ‘Triple’ therapy is usually required if the problem has to do with H. pylori infection. In such case, your treatment would involve medication to reduce /control your stomach acid (e.g. PPIs, histamine H-2 blockers, or antacids) and two antibiotics to kill Helicobacter Pylori bacteria.

If NSAIDs or anti-inflammatory drugs are responsible for your ulcers, you need to avoid them for a while. And medications that block /reduce stomach acid are usually prescribed to help boost the recovery more quickly.

If your symptoms don’t improve with conventional ulcer medications, probably it’s caused by something else other than ulcers. Therefore, it’s important to clearly diagnose the disease. In such case, additional tests may be required to look for other possible causes of the symptoms.

Here are a few possible medical conditions that can also cause abdominal pain or symptoms similar to those of duodenal ulcers [5]:

  1. Problems of the kidneys, such as; kidney stones and infection.
  2. Infection of the abdominal lining (peritonitis).
  3. UTI, urinary tract infection.
  4. Gastroenteritis, inflammation /irritation of stomach and intestines. Unlike ulcers, it’s likely caused by viral infection from Noroviruses and Rotavirus.
  5. Diverticulitis, diverticula (small-bulging pouches in the lining of digestive system) that become infected or inflamed.
  6. Intestinal obstruction.
  7. Irritable bowel syndrome, a chronic disorder affecting the large intestine.
For more guidance about your symptoms, see a doctor. Although treatment often works successfully for duodenal ulcers, sometimes the disease might fail to heal after treatment (this condition is called ‘refractory ulcer’). So it’s important to treat the disease appropriately!