Lost your appetite? Here's what to do about it

Lack of interest in food is caused by a variety of factors including medication side effects and mental health issues.
Lack of interest in food is caused by a variety of factors including medication side effects and mental health issues.
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What you need to know:

  • Loss of appetite can result in severe health effects, such as malnutrition, if left untreated for a long time.
  • If you're struggling to enjoy food, consider eating small meals throughout the day rather than battling with one big meal at prescribed breaks.
  • Staying hydrated is a great way to spur your appetite without making it feel like work.

The aroma of food can stimulate your appetite. So can the sight and sound of someone else eating. But sometimes, you just do not want to eat despite these cues.

Appetite is different from hunger. Hunger is a physical cue that tells you to eat. It's your body's way of telling you that it needs fuel. Appetite, on the other hand, is the desire to eat.

There are many potential reasons for loss of appetite, some of which can be serious.

What is appetite loss?

Also known as poor appetite, appetite loss is when you have a reduced desire to eat. It can be accompanied by other symptoms such as weight loss, fatigue, and nausea. Appetite loss can be a symptom of many physical and mental conditions. It can also be short-term or long-term.

What causes appetite loss?

There are many potential causes of appetite loss. Some of the most common include:

It's not unusual to lose your appetite when you're ill. In fact, it is often one of the first signs that something is wrong. However, appetite loss can also be a side effect of some medications.

For example, appetite loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer. Other medications linked to appetite loss include some antibiotics and sedatives.

In most cases, the temporary appetite loss caused by medication will disappear once the person stops taking the drug.

  • Medical conditions

Medical conditions can cause appetite loss—for example, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and anorexia nervosa. Cancer and HIV/AIDS can cause a loss of appetite by affecting the body's ability to process food. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that causes people to restrict their food intake intentionally.

In some cases, appetite loss can be the first sign of a serious medical condition.

  • Mental health conditions

Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety can also cause appetite loss. For example, people with depression often lose interest in food and may not feel hungry. Anxiety can also cause nausea, leading to a loss of appetite.

If you are experiencing appetite loss due to a mental health condition, seek professional help. Treatments such as therapy and medication can often help improve symptoms.

How is appetite loss treated?

The treatment for appetite loss will depend on the underlying cause. If the cause is an illness, the person may need to take medication or make lifestyle changes to improve their symptoms. If the cause is a mental health condition, the person may need to see a therapist and/or take medication.

Appetite loss can be a symptom of many conditions, some of which can lead to severe illnesses. Therefore, prompt treatment is often essential for the best possible outcome.

Appetite loss during pregnancy

Appetite loss and aversion during pregnancy are common and expected. Some women find that they are constantly hungry, while others cannot stomach food at all. Foods that were once favourites may now cause nausea, and smells that were once innocuous can now trigger vomiting.

Hormonal shifts cause these changes and usually subside as the pregnancy progresses. However, appetite loss and aversion can also be symptoms of more serious conditions, such as Hyperemesis gravidarum.

If appetite loss is accompanied by other symptoms such as weight loss, fatigue, or frequent nausea and vomiting, it is important to speak to a doctor.

Appetite loss side effects

Appetite loss can lead to a whole host of problems, both in the short- and long-term.

In the short term, appetite loss can lead to fatigue, as the body does not have enough energy to function correctly.

In the long term, appetite loss can cause more severe problems such as malnutrition. Malnutrition is a condition that occurs when the body does not get enough of certain nutrients. This can cause a wide range of health problems, including weight loss, weakness and dizziness.

Appetite loss can also lead to anaemia, as the body is not getting enough iron.

How to improve your appetite

If you are struggling with a loss of appetite, you can do a few things to improve your situation. First, eat small meals more often throughout the day. This can help your body to absorb better the nutrients it needs. Second, make sure to eat foods that are high in nutrients.

This includes fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Third, prepare your favourite meals.

However, try to avoid processed and sugary foods. These foods can lead to weight gain. Finally, make sure to stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids can help to keep your body functioning correctly and can also help to prevent dehydration.