Metabolic Health

Loss of Appetite

Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

Loss of Appetite

What is Loss of appetite?

Loss of appetite or poor appetite occurs when your desire to eat decreases. The condition is medically referred to as anorexia. Loss of appetite can be caused by a wide variety of conditions, both physical and mental. A continual loss of appetite should be brought to medical attention as it can lead to serious health issues.

Symptoms of Loss of Appetite

Loss of appetite is indicated by less or no desire to eat. Other related loss of appetite symptoms may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Not finding food tempting or palatable
  • Loss of interest in eating
  • Loss of taste sensation
  • Feeling nausea at the idea of eating
  • Depression

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Who is at Risk?

Anyone with an unregularized diet, unhealthy and busy lifestyle is at risk of loss of appetite. An individual is at risk of loss of appetite if they,

  • Have low immunity and are prone to infections
  • Are experiencing side-effects of a medicine
  • Have an unhealthy diet or unregularized diet
  • Are starving themselves for losing weight, or mental/emotional reason
  • Have an underlying medical condition
  • Are dealing with mental health issues like depression, sadness, stress or anxiety

Causes

Loss of appetite causes can include a wide variety of conditions. Some of the reasons for loss of appetite are:

  • Bacteria and Viruses: A bacterial, viral, fungal, or other infection in any part of the body can result in a loss of appetite. A few examples of such conditions are colds, flu, pneumonia, meningitis, gastroenteritis, an upper respiratory infection, a skin infection, etc.
  • Psychological reasons: Many psychological conditions like depression, anxiety, stress, grief, panic attacks, etc. have been linked to loss of appetite. Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and others where people undergo self-starvation result in a decreased appetite overall. Over time, these conditions can cause malnutrition.
  • Medical conditions: A number of medical conditions like hypothyroidism, dementia, HIV, hepatitis, chronic liver disease, digestive issues, kidney disease, hormonal disorder, heart failure, etc. can cause loss of appetite. Cancer can also cause a loss of appetite, particularly if it is concentrated in the stomach, pancreas, colon, or ovaries. Pregnancy can also cause a loss of appetite in its first trimester.
  • Drugs and Medications: Illicit drugs as well as prescribed medications, such as certain antibiotics, sedatives, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, anesthesia drugs, etc, can induce loss of taste and appetite.
  • Age: Loss of appetite can be more common in adults. It can be due to an increase in medications with changes in the body that come with age.

Some of these conditions can be temporary and easily resolvable, like loss of appetite due to certain medications. Other conditions can be serious, like a major underlying disease.

How is Loss of Appetite Diagnosed?

A doctor will look at all the symptoms experienced by the patient to figure out the possible cause for loss of appetite. Loss of appetite diagnosis may include:

  • Physical examination of the patient’s abdomen by the doctor with their hands to look for any unusual bloating or tenderness
  • A test of complete blood count
  • Tests of liver, thyroid, and kidney function
  • X-rays to examine the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine
  • An ultrasound of the abdomen
  • A CT Scan of the head, chest, abdomen or pelvis

How is loss of appetite treated?

Loss of appetite treatment depends on the underlying cause. If it has occurred due to an infection or an underlying medical condition, resolving the issue through proper treatment may lead to a normal appetite.

If psychological issues are the reason, the doctor may prescribe some medications and suggest therapy.

If the doctor feels that the loss of appetite is because of a particular medication, they may be able to change the medication or the dosage of the medication as a loss of appetite cure.

In some cases, the doctor may prescribe oral medicine for loss of appetite. This may help in stimulating the appetite.

How can loss of appetite be prevented?

Since a wide number of issues can lead to loss of appetite, the condition can be prevented in a variety of ways:

  • Inculcating a healthy and nutritious diet while practicing mindful eating habits
  • Leading a healthy and fit lifestyle
  • Maintaining a stress-free lifestyle
  • Regulating sleeping habits i.e. 8-10 hours daily
  • Exercising regularly as it regulates body functioning and increases the demand for energy
  • Mindful practices like meditation, pranayama, etc.
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