Not Hungry? 9 Sudden Loss of Appetite Causes and Remedies

Having a lack of appetite can be concerning, especially if you feel nausea, fatigue, and are experiencing rapid weight loss. A loss of appetite can be caused by mental health issues like depression or anxiety, an infection or common cold, a stomach virus, or hypothyroidism. Read below for more information on why you may be having a lack of appetite.

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Contents

  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. 10 Possible Loss Of Appetite Conditions
  4. Treatments and Relief
  5. FAQs
  6. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  7. Statistics
  8. Related Articles
  9. References

Having a Sudden Loss of Appetite? Here are Some Possible Symptoms:

Food is a celebration. We gather for large feasts on holidays and schedule our days around meals. Time spent around the table as a family is precious. But when there's a refrigerator full of food and a missing appetite, one of our favorite pastimes can disappear. If you've ever found yourself skipping breakfast, only taking a couple of bites at lunch, and then realizing that dinnertime passed hours ago and your stomach is still content, you have a decreased appetite.

Common characteristics of a loss of appetite

If you're experiencing a loss of appetite, it will likely present with the following.

  • Not feeling hungry
  • Feeling repulsed by certain foods
  • Struggling to eat
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Less enthusiasm for events involving food
  • Weight loss [1,2]

Is there anything wrong with skipping a few meals? We need nutrients and energy, and our bodies obtain both through our diets, so while skipping lunch isn't the end of the world, not having the desire to eat for several meals or days should be investigated.

Possible Reasons You May Not be Feeling Hungry

There are many possible explanations for a loss of appetite. The following details may help you better understand your symptoms and if and when you need to see a physician.

Common causes of a loss of appetite

Here are some of the most common reasons that you've been avoiding the kitchen.

  • Infections: Many infections, from the common cold to the flu, to mononucleosis, can kill your appetite.
  • Stomach bugs: Food poisoning and infections of the stomach and gastrointestinal tract are common causes of a loss of appetite.
  • Cancer: If you have a tumor, your body will often suppress your appetite in response. Unfortunately, this reaction makes your ability to fight the tumor off even worse.
  • Peptic Ulcer Disease: A peptic ulcer is a break in the inner lining of the stomach. The sore will typically resolve on its own within several months, but while present, it can cause pain, nausea, and decreased appetite.
  • Hypothyroidism: An underactive thyroid is when the thyroid stops producing enough thyroid hormone. This condition can lead to fatigue, mood swings, and decreased appetite.
  • Kidney or liver failure: If these organs are not filtering blood correctly, toxins that build up can lead to a loss of appetite.
  • Eating disorders: These often lead to abnormal responses to food and need a prompt diagnosis [1,2].

If you're just having an off day and find yourself eating a little less, there's probably no reason to be concerned. But if the trend continues and worsens, monitor your symptoms and watch for other side effects of not eating.

10 Possible Loss Of Appetite Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced loss of appetite. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Depression

Depression is a mental disorder in which a person feels constantly sad, hopeless, discouraged, and loses interest in activities and life on more days than not. These symptoms interfere with daily life, work, and friendships.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, depressed mood, headache, anxiety, irritability

Symptoms that always occur with depression: depressed mood

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (copd)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive inflammation of the lungs that makes breathing difficult. It is caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases and/or dust particles, most often cigarette smoke.

Symptoms may take years to develop. They include a chronic cough with mucus (sputum), wheezing, chest tightness, fatigue, constant colds, swollen ankles, and cyanosis (blue tinge to the lips and/or fingernails.) Depression is often a factor due to reduced quality of life.

Treatment is important because there is a greater risk of heart disease and lung cancer in COPD patients. Though the condition cannot be cured, it can be managed to reduce risks and allow good quality of life.

COPD is commonly misdiagnosed and so careful testing is done. Diagnosis is made through patient history; physical examination; lung function tests; blood tests; and chest x-ray or CT scan.

Treatment involves quitting smoking and avoiding exposure to other lung irritants; use of inhalers to ease symptoms; steroids; lung therapies; and getting influenza and pneumonia vaccines as recommended.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, cough and dyspnea related to smoking, cough, shortness of breath, trouble sleeping

Symptoms that always occur with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (copd): cough and dyspnea related to smoking

Symptoms that never occur with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (copd): rectal bleeding

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, or "underactive thyroid," means that the thyroid gland in the neck does not produce enough of its hormones. This causes a slowing of the body's metabolism.

The condition can occur due to autoimmune disease; any surgery or radiation treatment to the thyroid gland; some medications; pregnancy; or consuming too much or too little iodine. It is often found among older women with a family history of the disease.

Common symptoms include fatigue, constantly feeling cold, weight gain, slow heart rate, and depression. If left untreated, these and other symptoms can worsen until they lead to very low blood pressure and body temperature, and even coma.

Diagnosis is made through a simple blood test.

Hypothyroidism is easily managed with daily oral medication. The patient usually starts feeling better after a couple of weeks and may even lose some extra weight. It's important for the patient to be monitored by a doctor and have routine blood testing so that the medication can be kept at the correct levels.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, muscle aches

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is also called gluten-sensitive enteropathy, coeliac, or sprue. It is an autoimmune response in the gut to gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley.

  • Repeated exposure to gluten causes damage to the lining of the small intestine.

Most at risk are Caucasians with:

  • Family history of celiac disease.
  • Down syndrome.
  • Type 1 diabetes.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease.

Symptoms include digestive upset with gas, bloating, and diarrhea. The malnutrition causes fatigue, weight loss, fragile bones, severe skin rash, mouth ulcers, anemia, and damage to the spleen and nervous system.

A swollen belly, failure to thrive, muscle wasting, and learning disabilities are seen in children, and normal growth and development can be severely affected.

Diagnosis is made through blood testing and endoscopy, and sometimes biopsy of the small intestine.

There is no cure for the condition, but celiac disease can be managed by removing all gluten from the diet. Nutritional supplements will be used and sometimes steroid medication is given to help heal the gut.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, stomach bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Hepatitis a

Hepatitis A is a contagious infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV causes swelling and inflammation of the liver that impairs its normal function. Hepatitis A can cause gastrointestinal upset, fever, malaise and other symptoms, and the infection can last from weeks to months....

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Loss Of Appetite Symptom Checker

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Recurrent depression

Depression, once diagnosed, can often recur with new episodes. Sometimes these episodes can be similar to ones in the past, sometimes the symptoms can be different. It's good to be aware off the fact that people who had a depression before, remain vulnerable.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, headache, stomach bloating

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Hyperparathyroidism

Hyperparathyroidism is a disorder in which the parathyroid glands in the neck are overactive and produce too much parathyroid hormone (PTH). This hormone causes calcium to be released from bones and into the blood.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), depressed mood, irritability, nausea or vomiting

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Mental or medical condition causing thoughts of suicide

When experiencing thoughts of suicide, you should go immediately to the ER. Consider calling a suicide-prevention hotline, the number is 1 (800) 273-8255 and is available 24/7.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: thoughts of suicide, hearing voices or seeing things that aren't there, severe pelvis pain, loss of vision, hard testicle lump

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Tension headache (previously undiagnosed)

Tension headache is described as feeling like there is a band around the head that gets tighter and tighter. The headaches may occur in episodes – a few times a week – or chronically, where they almost never entirely go away.

This is a common type of headache but the cause remains unclear. It may be a combination of stress and an overactive sensitivity to pain.

Symptoms include dull, aching pain and tightness in the forehead, sides, and back of the head, and sometimes pain in the neck and shoulder muscles. Unlike migraines, there is usually no nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light.

Tension headaches are not dangerous in themselves, but can interfere with work and with quality of life.

Diagnosis is made through patient history and sometimes physical examination. CT scan or MRI may be done to rule out a more serious cause of the headaches.

Over-the-counter and other pain relievers are sometimes prescribed. Lifestyle changes to reduce stress, improve diet, and increase exercise are often helpful, as is massage and biofeedback.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: history of headaches, nausea or vomiting, moderate headache, loss of appetite, mild headache

Symptoms that always occur with tension headache (previously undiagnosed): history of headaches

Symptoms that never occur with tension headache (previously undiagnosed): change in urine color, photo and phonophobia, throbbing headache, headache resulting from a head injury

Urgency: Self-treatment

Post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops as a reaction of trauma. One can get PTSD after living through or seeing a traumatic event, such as war, a hurricane, sexual assault, physical abuse, or a bad accident. PTSD causes stress and fear after the danger is over.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: psychological or physiological distress

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Loss of Appetite Treatment

When the body doesn't receive nourishment, it can cause a domino effect of symptoms. It's critical that you start focusing on reversing your decreased sense of appetite if it lasts more than a few days.

When to see a doctor

You should schedule an appointment with your doctor if you notice any of the following loss of appetite symptoms:

  • You become extremely tired or lethargic
  • You unintentionally lose weight
  • You develop a rapid heart rate
  • You develop a fever
  • You haven't eaten in more than 48 hours and you have no idea why [1,2]

At-home treatments

Luckily, there are a few treatments you can try to bring back your appetite, so hopefully, you'll be raiding the pantry in no time.

  • Eat green foods: Try to eat some kale, collards, or arugula. They promote the body to make more digestive enzymes and increase your appetite.
  • Water: It is especially important to drink water when you have less of appetite so that you're not battling dehydration on top of everything else. However, water can also help speed up your digestive system if a slow system is possibly your reason for not wanting to eat.
  • Spices: Both fennel and caraway can be used to aid in digestion and boost appetite. Try adding some to water or food. This treatment is designed to fight recurring decreased appetite.
  • Exercise: Don't go all out, but take a quick stroll through the neighborhood or put in some time on the treadmill. If you can speed up your body's energy use, your appetite should return.
  • Supplements: There are over-the-counter products you can pick up that are designed to increase your appetite, such as pills and powders [5].

Usually, a decreased sense of appetite is temporary, and you'll be back to enjoying your favorite foods in no time. But if you're finding that you need to force yourself to consume meals or snacks, start considering solutions sooner than later.

FAQs About Loss Of Appetite

Here are some frequently asked questions about a loss of appetite.

What can cause loss of appetite?

Loss of appetite can be due to many things, including stomach occlusion by restriction of size or an inability of the stomach to move food out [6]. Severe bodily illness and psychological illnesses such as depression can decrease appetite [2,3].

What causes loss of appetite and weight loss?

Loss of appetite and decreased calorie intake deprive the body of necessary nutrients that allow the body to maintain weight [1,2]. The body then begins to convert fat and eventually muscle to energy, leading to a decrease in body size. Loss of appetite can be due to a number of things, including blockage of the stomach or intestines (usually accompanied by nausea) as well as physical illness and psychological illness [3,4].

Why have I lost my appetite and feel tired?

You may be experiencing a systemic illness, which is often accompanied by aches, pains, and fever [1,2]. You may also have depression or another psychiatric disease [3,4]. While it is less common, you may also have a blockage of your stomach, causing feelings of fullness and nausea [6].

Why do I have a loss of appetite and nausea?

Loss of appetite and nausea is commonly caused by systemic illness. It will also present with a fever and vomiting or diarrhea [1,2]. Nausea can also cause loss of appetite [7]. If a food item or circumstance is associated with nausea, it can also cause loss of appetite. There is little information on the most common cause of nausea, as it can be due to behaviors (car or sea sickness), allergies to certain foods or stimuli, illnesses, or even viewing or tasting things that elicit disgust.

Why do you lose your appetite when you are depressed?

Intense personal stress can cause a rush of hormones that activates the sympathetic (fight or flight) branch of the nervous system [8]. This branch of the nervous system prepares the body to fight for one's life or flee. It also shuts down tasks that aren't helpful during a fight or flight situation, including hunger. This response also causes you to lose your appetite.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Loss Of Appetite

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Have you experienced any nausea?
  • Are you experiencing a headache?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Please take a quiz to find out what might be causing your loss of appetite. These questions are also covered.

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Loss Of Appetite Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced loss of appetite have also experienced:

  • 8% Nausea
  • 8% Fatigue
  • 7% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)

People who have experienced loss of appetite were most often matched with:

  • 40% Depression
  • 30% Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (Copd)
  • 30% Hypothyroidism

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

Loss Of Appetite Symptom Checker

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References

  1. Vorvick LJ. Appetite - Decreased. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Published July 13, 2016. MedlinePlus Link.
  2. Lusby FW. Corneal Ulcers and Infections. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Published August 20, 2016. MedlinePlus Link.
  3. Lieber A. Major Depression (Unipolar Depression). PSYCOM. Updated February 14, 2018. PSYCOM Link.
  4. Simmons WK, Burrows K, Avery JA, et al. Depression- Related Increases and Decreases in Appetite: Dissociable Patterns of Aberrant Activity in Reward and Interoceptive Neurocircuitry. The American Journal of Psychiatry. Published January 22, 2016. AJP Link.
  5. Appetite Stimulants. CareSearch. Updated January 17, 2017. CareSearch Link.
  6. Intestinal Obstruction. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated March 6, 2018. MedlinePlus Link.
  7. A Practical Guide to HIV Drug Side Effects. CATIE. CATIE Link.
  8. Understanding the Stress Response. Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publishing. Updated May 1, 2018. Harvard Health Publishing Link.