How Crohn's Disease Can Affect Your Weight

Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can affect any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus (via Mayo Clinic). It is thought to be an autoimmune condition, meaning that the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the digestive tract, leading to inflammation, per Johns Hopkins Medicine. The exact cause of Crohn's disease is not well understood, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors — the condition can affect people of all ages, but it is most commonly diagnosed in young adults below 30 years, says the Mayo Clinic.

Symptoms of Crohn's disease can vary based on where in the digestive tract the inflammation occurs. The most common symptoms include abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, fever, joint pain, and fatigue. In some cases, people with Crohn's disease may also experience additional symptoms such as reduced appetite and weight loss.

If you've noticed a change in your appetite or weight, it's important to consult with your doctor. They can help you identify the underlying causes of your weight changes and develop a treatment plan to manage your symptoms and maintain a healthy weight.

How Crohn's disease can affect your weight

According to a 2014 study published in the journal Gastroenterology Research and Practice, 57% of people with Crohn's disease experienced significant weight loss. In another 2019 study published in the journal Nutrients, weight loss caused by Crohn's disease can be due to various factors, including malabsorption and inflammation. During the acute phase, symptoms often include reduced appetite, malabsorption, and diarrhea. However, the severity of these symptoms often depends on the location of the disease, says the study.

Inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract can cause stomach pain and nausea (via Healthline). This might make it difficult for people with Crohn's disease to eat enough food to maintain weight. In some cases, the fear of triggering a flare-up of symptoms might also lead to a reduced appetite.

Regarding nutrient malabsorption, the inflammation associated with the condition can damage the lining of the intestine, reducing the ability of the intestine to absorb nutrients from food, per the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation. This might lead to deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients, which can contribute to weight loss. It's worth noting that weight loss is not always a symptom of Crohn's disease, and some people may gain weight if prescribed steroids to help manage inflammation (via WebMD).

How to manage weight loss when living with Crohn's disease

Managing weight with Crohn's disease can be challenging due to the chronic inflammation and digestive issues associated with the condition. However, with a combination of dietary changes and medical treatment, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is possible. Since the condition affects everyone differently, it's always best to consult your doctor, who can help develop a personal treatment plan. Regular consultations with your doctor can also help ensure that the condition is properly managed and that symptoms are controlled.

Generally speaking, people with Crohn's disease may find it helpful to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, as advised by WebMD. Regular exercise helps manage weight, boost appetite, and strengthen bones and muscles in people with Crohn's disease. It's important, however, to work with a healthcare provider to develop an appropriate exercise program that considers any physical limitations or symptoms.

By working with a multidisciplinary team of healthcare providers, people with Crohn's disease can achieve and maintain a healthy weight while managing their symptoms and improving their quality of life.