Loss of Appetite: 10 Causes (& What to Do)

A loss of appetite can be caused by simple situations, such as pregnancy, the use of certain medications, a cold or flu infection, intestinal parasites or a vitamin and mineral deficiency.

However, a loss of appetite can also arise with more serious conditions, such as depression, drug use, stomach ulcers, anorexia or cancer.

When a loss of appetite is accompanied by other symptoms like rapid weight loss, fever or diarrhea, it is important to consult a doctor to identify the possible cause and to initiate treatment as necessary.

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What causes loss of appetite?

The main causes for a loss of appetite are:

1. Emotional or psychological problems

Depression and anxiety, for example, are emotional conditions that can cause nausea, vomiting and stomach pain, leading to a lack of appetite.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating and psychological disorder that causes loss of appetite. This is because the person with anorexia feels very overweight and is afraid of eating, which can reduce their appetite drastically.

What to do: it is important to seek help from a psychologist and/or a psychiatrist who may recommend lifestyle changes, medication or psychotherapy to treat the condition and increase the desire to eat.

It is also important to have the support of a registered dietitian who can formulate a meal plan according to your own preferences and nutritional needs.

2. Pregnancy

Common hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause symptoms such as nausea, heartburn or vomiting, all which can contribute to a reduced appetite.

Also recommended: Heartburn During Pregnancy: Causes & How to Treat tuasaude.com/en/heartburn-during-pregnancy

What to do: You should inform your family doctor or OBGYN if you have a low appetite. He or she may recommend supplements or prescribe medications that relieve symptoms like nausea and heartburn.

Drinking ginger tea, eating cold foods and avoiding highly seasoned foods are other natural ways to t help relieve nausea during pregnancy. Check-out other tips for fighting nausea during pregnancy that you can try at home.

3. Parasites

Intestinal parasites or worms can be contracted through eating contaminated, ill-prepared food. They can affect the digestive system and can lead to symptoms like nausea and a loss of appetite.

Also recommended: 10 Parasite Symptoms (w/ Online Symptoms Quiz) & Treatment tuasaude.com/en/intestinal-worms-symptoms

What to do: Treatment of parasites should be guided by a doctor, who will prescribe medications such as metronidazole, albendazole or mebendazole, depending on the type of parasite.

Some homemade options, such as anise, rue and mastruz tea, also have antiparasitic action, helping to complement the treatment of worms. Read about other home remedies for intestinal infections that you can use to complement your prescribed treatment.

4. Stomach problems

Stomach problems such as gastritis, GERD or stomach ulcers can cause a lack of appetite, as these conditions are also associated with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain or a feeling of a very full stomach.

Also recommended: Stomach Ulcer Symptoms: 7 Signs (with Online Symptom Checker) tuasaude.com/en/stomach-ulcer-symptoms

What to do: You are advised to consult a gastroenterologist if you have low appetite and suspect a stomach issue. Treatment varies according to the type of problem being treated, and may include the use of medications such as omeprazole, domperidone and antibiotics.

It is also important to be monitored by a registered, who may recommend eating easily digestible and low-fat foods, such as fruits, vegetables and white meats, such as chicken and fish. Read more about the gastritis diet he or she may recommend.

5. Use of medicines

Some medications, such as fluoxetine, sertraline, topiramate and tramadol, can lead to a loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting. These side effect tend to resolve after continued use of the medication.

What to do: it is important to consult and report any side effects to the prescriber, who may recommend a medication or supplement to increase appetite, or replace the current medication with another that does not affect appetite.

6. Migraine

In addition to causing a headache, migraines can also cause nausea, vomiting and general malaise, leading to a lack of appetite.

Also recommended: 9 Classic Migraine Symptoms (& Who is Most At-Risk) tuasaude.com/en/migraine-symptoms

What to do: To treat migraines, the doctor may recommend relaxation techniques, acupuncture and medications, like corticosteroids, antiemetics and analgesics, to relieve symptoms.

During a migraine flare-up, it is also recommended to adhere to a diet with easily digestible foods that contain anti-inflammatory properties and improve blood circulation, such as fish, ginger or chestnuts. Read more about natural remedies for migraines that can complement your prescribed treatment.

7. Vitamin and mineral deficiency

A deficiency in vitamins such as vitamin B1, vitamin B12 and vitamin D, or minerals such as magnesium, zinc and iron can lead to a lack of appetite.

Also recommended: Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment tuasaude.com/en/vitamin-b12-deficiency

What to do: You should consult a doctor or a registered dietitian, who may recommend dietary supplements, depending on the type and severity of the presenting nutritional deficiency.

In addition, the registered dietitian may also recommend a diet rich in foods that are sources of vitamins and minerals, which may include whole grains, dairy products, fruits and vegetables.

8. Respiratory infections

Respiratory infections, such as the flu, a cold and COVID-19, can lead to symptoms like throat irritation and a loss of smell or taste, which can contribute to a loss of appetite.

Respiratory infections can also cause nausea and vomiting, which can reduce the desire to eat.

What to do: You are advised to see a doctor for assessment if you have a respiratory infection, so that the type of infection can be identified and the most appropriate treatment can be initiated. Depending on the type of infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatories to help manage symptoms.

Also recommended: How to Get Rid of a Cold: 6 Tips for a Quicker Recovery tuasaude.com/en/how-to-get-rid-of-a-cold

Some home remedies, such as ginger tea with lemon and guaco tea with honey, can also be used to relieve cold and flu symptoms. Check-out other natural cold and flu remedies that you can prepare at home.

9. Chronic illnesses

Some chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer can cause loss of appetite.

What to do: It is important to consult a general practitioner so that the cause of the loss of appetite can be identified and the most appropriate treatment can be started. This can help to prevent further disease complications and restore health and appetite.

10. Use of legal and illegal drugs

The use of legal drugs (like alcoholic beverages and cigarettes) and other illicit drugs, can also reduce appetite. These drugs can also lead to other complications, such as dependency and the development of psychological disorders.

What to do: it is recommended to reduce or avoid the consumption of these substances. You are advised to consult a doctor, who may recommend psychotherapy, medication and lifestyle changes.

When to see a doctor

It is important to consult a general practitioner if the loss of appetite it accompanied by other symptoms, especially rapid weight loss, as this can lead to malnutrition. In addition to weight loss, it is also important to monitor for other symptoms, such as increased heart rate, extreme tiredness, fever, diarrhea or vomiting.