Mother is losing weight but eating a lot. How is this happening? - AgingCare.com

Mother is losing weight but eating a lot. How is this happening?

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My mother was diagnosed with rectal cancer exactly 1 year ago. She got brachytherapy (an experimental dose) which succeeded and now she is in remission. She also took chemo (pill form). No side effects other than rectal bleeding and loss of blood/transfusions and back pain. Minimal for someone who take chemo and radiation.

Anyway, my question is, she is losing a lot of weight and I know that she is eating more than usual. I'm cooking for her (and I'm a helluva cook!!!!!) -- She eats really good food and even indulges in ice cream sometimes! So it baffles me that she is losing a lot without dieting. She has a huge appetite so we're concerned. I mean, we're gonna go to the doctor next week, but I just wanted to ask if anyone has experienced this. Is it common in older people? Mom's 77, but strong...not frail -- she 'has it together' -- but she has been through a lot this past year.

Any suggestions?

Please and thank you!

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Yes, she's been tested for everything, including diabetes. She does not have a gluten sensitivity -- we tested for that since her joints ached. She rarely eats anything with gluten as it is, since Paleo is really all about no sugar, no breads/pastas -- but we cheat occasionally... :) The COPD sounds like it may be the culprit though.

I'll find out after her doc's appointment. Thanks for the good ideas. I appreciate it!
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TheBoogs, have your Mom tested for celiac disease because if one eats gluten, the lining of their small intestine becomes inflamed and gets damaged, making it harder for their body to absorb nutrients. That can lead to malnutrition and weight loss. The test is simple now a days, a routine blood test.
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Of course, discuss it with her doctor, to rule out any of her prior medical problems. I agree with the suggestions above.

My first two thoughts were about cachexia and/or diabetes. My cousin, who has advanced dementia has a very healthy appetite and eats meals and snacks, but she has still continued to lose weight. Her doctor wasn't concerned, but I did some research and learned about cachexia. A patient can eat a lot, but their body for some reason is not able to absorb the nutrients. Adding extra calories doesn't really help. Later, they may lose their appetite.

You might have her blood sugar tested, since people who have high blood sugars have big appetites, but they continue to lose weight. That happened to me just before I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. They are also very thirsty, may have decline in vision and have frequent urination.
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Thank you. Gonna think about your responses.

I'm on a Paleo diet, which is high protein, low carbs and lots of fresh veggies -- very balanced. I include fresh organic greens and veggies (all from the farm) eggs, fish, beef, chicken and organ meat as well for her iron levels. Nothing is "fast food" or unhealthy. So I'm trying to figure out what the source is.

She's been checked for diabetes, has had an MRI and exams to see if the cancer came back (it didn't thank God), but periodically, her blood levels go down because she is bleeding from the rectum or upper GI -- to which she has to get blood transfusions. So far, her levels are very high (good).

She is 4'10 and usually weighs 125 (give or take). She is now down to 108 I believe, within a 2 weeks span. Not sure whether or not to be alarmed.

Her "poor decision making" was more about her refusing to go through surgery (which would have removed the tumor entirely) but she would have to wear a colostomy bag. So she went through massive amounts of chemo and radiation ....and when THAT didn't work, she decided to do the experimental brachytherapy radiation which focuses on one spot with ultra high levels of radiation. Anyway, long story longer.......she seems to be doing great, but the weight loss has me thinking something else is up. I mean, I know she's up there in age, but I just want her to have quality of life and fear the next 'big thing' to fix.

Thanks for all your help! I will mention the thyroid and also, the COPD. She has COPD from smoking (she quit thankfully). Didn't know that. Thank you for your advice. I will mention this.
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Boogs, off the top of my head, and seeing that she has an upcoming Dr appointment, I expect that they will be checking for Diabetes and Thyroid gland issues. Chemotherapy, can affecy both the pancreas as well as the thyroid gland unfortunately, and that was the case in my FIL'S situation, both were a direct response to the Chemotherapy. Sometimes this just happens. A couple of Rx's later, and frequent follow ups and he has been straighten out, so hopefully it will be nothing more than this. But Gardenartist is right, and Chemotherapy can affect all sorts, I do hope it is nothing to difficult to figure out. Also people with COPD, often loose weight too. Good luck in finding just the right remedy!
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You're probably concerned that the cancer has returned, I know I would be. It could, however, be related to her not being able to absorb the nutrients from her food as efficiently any more. If she is less active than she used to be then some of it could also be due to loss of muscle mass. A little bit of strength training exercise is something we should all try to include in our routine as we get older.
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Boog, on your profile page you queried whether your " mother's poor medical decisions will give her less years or perhaps months here". Could you elaborate? What poor decisions has she made? I'm wondering if it's affecting her post-cancer recovery.

A few guesses, and that's just what these are..

1. There may be some type of malabsorption taking place - she might not be absorbing the nutrients in the food. I don't know whether that's a side effect of the type of cancer she has, or poor medical decisions in the past. It's just a guess if she's eating a lot but losing weight.

And that can happen in terminal states, but from your post, that doesn't seem to be the situation.

2. Despite being a good cook, are you fixing healthful meals for her, including nutritionally balanced meals? While ice cream is delicious (I love it but don't eat it), it's not a healthy food, unless you make it yourself and eliminate all the chemicals and the high sugar and fat contents.

3. How recently has she been tested for iron levels? She mentioned loss of blood as a side effect.

4. How much is "a lot of weight", and over what period?
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My mother's Doctor told her that she needed to be on Oxygen (but she will not) for COPD thus she expends a lot of energy just breathing even though she eats quite a bit also. She really only has a hard time breathing during excursion which she does very little.
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