Loss Of Appetite: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment
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Loss of Appetite: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

12 March 2023

A fair share of diseases is linked to your gut and anything that causes loss of appetite, nausea or similar manifestations may be the symptom of both physical and psychological anomalies.

Reports claim that about 8 million Americans suffer from eating disorders at some point in their life. Other instances like chronic disease, medication or hormonal disturbances like pre-menopausal nausea or morning sickness during the first trimester of pregnancy may also trigger a negative response towards food.

Let’s understand the causes that might trigger this response. 

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What causes loss of appetite?

Given that humans are creatures driven by our DNA to guzzle up resources, a loss of appetite is usually an indicator of things starting to go haywire inside.

The medical term for loss of appetite is anorexia. This refers to decreased hunger, feeling full and not enjoying the taste and smell of your favourite food. Many factors contribute to it, often in combination with each other. 

  • Recent physical change that you might have undergone.
  • Any emotional trigger
  • An underlying illness 
  • New medication that you have recently started- 
  • Pain- Any dental or systemic pain or post-operative pain may trigger anorexia. 
  • Dehydration
  • A loss or reduction of taste or smell.
  • Recovering from surgery.
  • Infection- Common cold, food poisoning or even viral infections like HIV may cause it.
  • Metabolic disorders like diabetes and hypothyroidism.
  • Cancer- Any kind of malignancy alters our physiology and taste perception. 
  • Psychological ailments like Dementia.
  • Chronic disease of the liver, lungs or kidney.
  • Age- Anorexia has a high incidence among geriatric patients.

Also Read: Alkaline Diet: Benefits, What to eat, and Drawbacks

Loss of appetite symptoms 

Somedays we are too tired to cook a meal or we skip dinner because we had a late lunch. Fasting or following certain diets also encourages a calorie-deficient state.

So how will you understand if you are suffering from anorexia?

Remember that consuming lesser quantities is related to anorexia nervosa, a psychological ailment where patients have lower food intake.

However, in the case of anorexia patients suffer from

  1. Fullness- Early satiety 
  2. Apathy towards food- Lack of urge towards food including those that used to be your favourite. 
  3. Weakness- Fatigue and muscle weakness and getting tired easily.
  4. Loss of weight- The causes might include disturbed body image, self-starvation, the ritualistic pattern of food intake or obsessive thoughts about food. 
  5. Dysgeusia- Altered taste of food. It may occur due to vitamin deficiencies or medication including chemotherapy. 
  6. Dysphagia- Difficulty swallowing 
  7. Xerostomia- Dryness in mouth. It may also trigger dysphagia.


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    Medications that cause loss of appetite

    Almost all medications have side effects and in certain situations, it causes more severe anorexia and nausea.

    Here is a list of drugs that might cause anorexia. So if you have been on any of them ever since you noticed your symptoms, there is a fair chance it is drug-induced anorexia.

    The mechanism involved may be reduced dopamine and serotonin uptake, abnormal serum leptin concentration leading to early satiety and an increase in biochemical levels involved with impulse conduction. 

    Drug-induced loss of appetite may result in nutritional deficiency, dehydration, impaired fluid balance, end-organ damage, and cardiac rhythm anomaly. 

    • Antibiotics- A MGH study revealed a positive association with subjects ( patients who were admitted for a  serious infection or had completed 3 courses of antibiotics were 39% more susceptible to having eating disorders. 
    • Amphetamines- It affects the parts of the brain associated with hunger and suppresses the pathway. 
    • Chemotherapy- It is caused by an altered sense of smell and taste along with difficulty in swallowing 
    • Digoxin- Long-term therapy may cause anorexia. 
    • Opioids- One of the reasons may be opioid-related reduced gastric motility that may cause constipation and loss of appetite 
    • Hydralazine- This anti-hypertensive medication may cause headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea as well as loss of appetite. 
    • Fluoxetine- This drug belongs to SSRI ( selective-serotonin-reuptake-inhibitors) and is usually prescribed for OCD ( Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and Depression may cause reduced appetite in the initial months of treatment. 

    Also Read: Low Cholesterol Diet: How to Decrease Your Cholesterol Levels Faster

    Loss of appetite Treatment 

    Management of Anorexia is possible and the prognosis depends on the underlying cause. Here are some of the ways you may manage your symptom. 

    • Eating may be a struggle for anorexia patients. You can divide your food intake into smaller parts and eat at regular intervals. 
    • If your symptom is indicative of any infection, fever or underlying condition, visit your nearest health centre. 
    • Drugs like low-dose corticosteroids, cyproheptadine, megestrol and dronabinol may stimulate your appetite. However, it is advisable that you consume them only if your physician refers them. 
    • IV Nutrients may help you with the loss of water and food in severe situations. 
    • Consult your doctor about your current medication and you can ask your healthcare provider to change the drug or dosage to relieve the symptoms. 
    • Visit a therapist if you have been experiencing any sort of emotional turmoil lately.
    • Consult a dietician if you are having a long-term eating disorder. 
    • Loss of appetite may also originate from dental issues. Get a routine check-up to rule out the possibility. 

    Loss of Appetite and Tiredness 

    Fatigue and loss of appetite go hand in hand and are often indicative of serious underlying health conditions. So if you haven’t had the urge to eat lately chances are that you are running on a calorie deficit which is causing fatigue. 

    Also Read: Healthy Gut Diet Plan to Improve Your Gut Health

    Sudden loss of appetite and feeling full

    This symptom is commonly associated with GERD (gastro-oesophagal reflex disorder ) or peptic ulcers that result in a sudden feeling of fullness or satiety even if you had just a bite. 


    To conclude this topic, it must be mentioned that loss of appetite is common and treatable with timely intervention. If you cannot figure out the cause or eliminate it eg drug related to anorexia, it is essential to clearly communicate with your healthcare provider to help them understand the etiology. 

    Loss of appetite Related FAQs

    Can dehydration cause loss of appetite?

    It has been noted that patients suffering from severe or chronic dehydration experience loss of appetite, fatigue and dry mouth among other symptoms.

    What can cause loss of appetite in the elderly?

    The aged patients, especially those beyond 60 and suffering from depression or dementia are at an increased risk for developing anorexia. Stats reveal that nearly 28% of deaths in patients aged 85 and above are due to anorexia. It is mainly caused due to co-morbidities, poor metabolism, poor absorption and metabolic malfunction. 

     Can stress cause loss of appetite? 

    Stress and anxiety affect our entire system resulting in poor appetite. Especially noticed in teens and corporate employees or healthcare workers. 

    What can cause a loss of appetite?

    It has a plethora of causes and it is difficult to find the exact cause as it often happens due to a combination of contributing factors. The causes are elaborated on further in the article itself. 


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