Cachexia is unintended weight loss, despite eating sufficient calories. It’s a serious condition that can be caused by many things, including cancer, drug addiction, and certain diseases (such as multiple sclerosis and HIV/AIDS). Cancer treatments often result in substantial weight loss and muscle atrophy due to reduced appetite, physical inactivity, or simply because of the cancer itself. As they grow, some tumors or cancers release compounds that accelerate the metabolism (known as a hypercatabolic state). Besides losing weight, you begin to lose muscle mass and your organs even lose protein and suffer injury. Cachexia can be fatal if left untreated.
Less serious, but still important to address, is being underweight or unable to gain weight. Most people look at obesity as being a huge health risk (and it is), but those who are underweight face a potentially higher risk of dying compared to obese individuals, according to new findings published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health. Being underweight may be due to excess drug, tobacco, and alcohol use; malnourishment; poverty; and mental health issues. Finally, if you just can’t gain weight through lifestyle changes and supplements, talk to your doctor about a variety of drugs, including hormones and marijuana, that are available to stimulate weight gain.
Home Remedies For Cachexia
In small amounts, these powders can suppress appetite, but in larger quantities they help to maintain muscle mass and provide a large source of calories. I recommend taking one to two servings between breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, and again before bedtime (three doses of 10 to 15 grams, depending on your weight, a day are ideal).
The amino acid leucine in these powders appears to be one of the most important stimulators of muscle protein synthesis (muscle building) and maintenance. In fact, researchers are currently looking at patients who are taking 500 to 1,000 milligrams or more of leucine as a dietary supplement capsule in addition to the leucine they’re getting from a protein powder. I believe taking additional leucine outside of a protein powder is worth a try. (You can find animal-based as well as vegetarian/vegan powders.)
Creatine dietary supplements are a safe way to spur muscle building in people who are losing weight but still able to exercise. Creatine monohydrate increases the energy capacity of the muscles during times of muscle loss and inactivity, which means it could improve workouts or at least help to maintain muscle. Add 5 grams of creatine powder to the protein powder recommendations mentioned above (with meals or on its own).
What Lifestyle Changes Can Help With Cachexia?
Start resistance training
Targeting your upper and lower body with weights two or three times a week can increase muscle mass within 1 month. When combined with a high protein intake, the results can be profound.
Add healthy fat to your diet
Dietary fat has the most calories per gram (over twice that of carbs and protein), so look for healthy sources of fat from certain oils (such as olive, coconut, flaxseed, or fish oil), nuts, and avocado to incorporate into daily meals.