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Loss of Appetite 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 bites of lunch, and then realizing that dinner time passed hours ago and your stomach is still content, you have a decreased appetite.

Symptoms of a decreased appetite include:

  • 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.

Loss of Appetite Causes Overview

There are many possible explanations for a loss of appetite. In fact, there are so many that it would be nearly impossible for us to list them all.

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 very common causes of a loss of appetite.
  • Cancer: If you have a tumor, your body often will respond by suppressing your appetite. This makes your ability to fight the tumor off even worse, unfortunately.
  • 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: When the thyroid stops producing enough thyroid hormone, an underactive thyroid is diagnosed. This 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 to be diagnosed promptly. [1, 2]

If you're just having an off day and find yourself eating a little less than normal, there's probably no reason to be concerned. But if the trend continues and worsens, you should start monitoring your systems and look out for side effects of not eating.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Loss of Appetite

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced loss of appetite. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.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.

    Depression's course is highly variable, and it may last weeks, months, or years.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, headache, anxiety, irritability
    Symptoms that always occur with depression:
    depressed mood
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (Copd)

    COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a chronic condition of the lungs and the airways in the lungs. Damage has occured due to long-term exposure to substances that irritate and damage the lungs, such as cigarette smoke or air pollution. This damage can cause symptoms like shortness of breath, decreased exercise tolerance and cough. A common cold or other types of infection can cause symptoms to worden acutely, this is called an exacerbation.

    Often a lifelong condition

    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
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Hypothyroidism

    Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped organ inside the neck, no longer produces adequate levels of hormones. Thyroid hormones are essential for many bodily functions including breathing, heart rate, and metabolism.

    Most cases of hypothyroidism require lifelong hormone replacement therapy.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, muscle aches
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Celiac Disease

    Celiac disease is an immune disease in which gluten damages the small intestine. Avoid products containing gluten such as wheat, rye, & barley.

    Upon starting a gluten-free diet, nausea and bloating are likely to improve within a few days or weeks. It may take months or longer to feel completely better.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, stomach bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Hepatitis a

    Hepatitis A is inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV) and usually spreads through contact with infected blood. It can also spread through sex with an infected person and from mother to baby during childbirth.

    6 months

    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain (stomach ache), headache
    Primary care doctor

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  6. 6.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.

    Depression's course is highly variable, and it may last weeks, months, or years.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, headache, stomach bloating
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.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.

    With expert surgery, this condition is cured 99% of the time.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), depressed mood, irritability, nausea or vomiting
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.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.

    Duration of this symptom depends on it's cause.

    Top Symptoms:
    thoughts of suicide, hearing voices or seeing things that aren't there, severe pelvis pain, loss of vision, hard testicle lump
    Hospital emergency room
  9. 9.Tension Headache (Previously Undiagnosed)

    Tension-type headaches are the most common type of headache. It is pain or discomfort in the head and/or neck. It is often accompanied by muscle tightness in these areas. This condition can occur as little as once a year but as often as more than 15 days per month (chronic). The cause of tension-type headaches is not clear.

    Tension-type headache symptoms usually resolve within a few hours but can last up to a week. However, if this particular episode is unusually severe or debilitating, you may want to see a doctor urgently.

    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
  10. 10.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.


    Top Symptoms:
    psychological or physiological distress
    Primary care doctor

Loss of Appetite Treatments and Relief

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.

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]

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.

  • Green Eating: If you can, 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 little 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 is a treatment 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 appetite. You can find pills and powders to try. [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 loss of appetite.

What can cause loss of appetite?

Loss of appetite can be caused by many things, including occlusion of the stomach by restriction of size or inability to move food out of the stomach [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 deprives the body of calories and nutrients necessary to allow the body to maintain a 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 caused by 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 be experiencing depression or other psychiatric disease [3, 4]. While it is less common, you may also be experiencing 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 most commonly caused by a systemic illness and accompanied by 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 caused by 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 to body to fight for one's life or flee. It also shuts down those tasks that are not helpful during a fight or flight situation including eating. This causes an individual to lose his or her appetite.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Loss of Appetite

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

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our loss of appetite symptom checker to find out more.

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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 visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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  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.