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Learn about your loss of appetite, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your loss of appetite from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Loss of Appetite Checker

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Your Loss of Appetite May Also be Known as:
Abnormal appetite
Anorexia
Barely eaten
Barely eating
Can't eat
Cant eat
Decreased appetite
I can't eat
Low appetite

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 you have 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

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. 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 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 the 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.

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.

Top 9 Loss of Appetite Causes

  1. 1.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.

    You can safely treat this condition on your own. Tension-type headaches are diagnosed purely by your symptoms. Medications like over-the-counter pain killers (e.g., ibuprofen or Tylenol) may help. Be cautious with dosage and how often these are used. If these headaches become more chronic in nature, you should visit your primary care physician, who will evaluate your symptoms and may be able to prescribe a stronger medications.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    history of headaches, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, moderate headache, 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, hidden: both photo and phonophobia, throbbing headache, headache resulting from a head injury
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Holiday Blues

    The holiday blues is a mild form of seasonal affective disorder.

    You do not need treatment at this time. If your symptoms worsen or last longer than a month, it is recommended you see your physician for further evaluation.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, loss of appetite, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbance
    Symptoms that never occur with holiday blues:
    severe sadness
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch
  3. 3.Chronic Gastritis

    Chronic gastritis is longterm inflammation of your stomach. If it doesn't go away, this can become an ulcer. Causes include taking a medication that affects the stomach, an infection by a bug called, "H. Pylori", or your immune system reacting to yourself

    You should see your doctor in the coming day. There, they would assess whether you require a breath test for the bug, H. Pylori, and/or a test where they put a camera down the throat to look at the stomach wall. Treatment is dependent on the outcomes of the doctor's visit. If it's just because of a medication, the first treatment would be to stop it. If it's an infection, antibiotics would be appropriate. An autoimmune reaction might require supplements with Vitamin B12. Taking an antacid may be necessary for more than one of these scenarios.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea or vomiting, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, moderate abdominal pain, bloating after meals
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Mononucleosis Infection

    EBV Mononucleosis is a clinical syndrome characterized by fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes.

    You should visit your primary care physician within the next 24 hours. Diagnosis is confirmed by looking for antibodies against EBV. Treatment involves supportive care (hydration, antipyretics, and analgesics, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen). Aspirin should not be given to children because of the possibility of Reye syndrome. It is also recommended that you do not do any strenuous physical activity and contact sports in the initial 3 to 4 weeks of illness due to the potential for splenic rupture.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, abdominal pain (stomach ache), cough
    Symptoms that never occur with mononucleosis infection:
    rectal bleeding
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Loss of Appetite Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having loss of appetite.

    Take a quiz
  5. 5.Chronic Kidney Disease

    Chronic kidney disease, also known as chronic renal failure, is a disorder caused by gradual loss of kidney function. It is most common in elderly individuals.

    You should make an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss your symptoms as soon as possible.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, decreased sex drive, unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  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.

    You should discuss your symptoms with your primary care physician or psychiatrist. Resumption of, or adjustment to current treatment is often needed.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, stomach bloating, loss of appetite
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

    Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female genital structures like the uterus, fallopian tube, ovary, and the surrounding abdominal wall. It is typically caused by N. Gonorrhoeae or C. Trachomatis.

    You should contact your doctor today. There, physical exams and swabs of the vagina will be needed to look for infection. Further blood testing or imaging may also be needed. Treatment involves antibiotics (orally) for both you and your partner

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal discharge, nausea or vomiting, vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain, lower abdominal pain
    Symptoms that always occur with pelvic inflammatory disease:
    hidden: pid: pain fever or discharge
    Urgency:
    In-person visit
  8. 8.Influenza

    Influenza, or Flu, is an infection of the airway caused by the flu virus, which passes through the air and enters the body through the nose or mouth. The symptoms are similar to those of a cold, but the flu is usually more serious.

    If your flu-like symptoms are existing for less than 48 hours, it might be helpful to seek care by telephone or in a walk-in-clinic to get a course of oseltamivir (Tamiflu). Most people will get better on their own by drinking lots of fluids and taking an over-the-counter medication such as acetominophen (Tylenol) to help with aches or fever.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, cough, muscle aches
    Symptoms that never occur with influenza:
    headache resulting from a head injury
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  9. 9.Tension Headache (First Onset)

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

    You can safely treat this condition on your own. Tension-type headaches are diagnosed purely by your symptoms. Medications, such as over-the-counter pain killers (e.g., ibuprofen or Tylenol) may help. However, it is important not to take them too regularly. Taking them more than two or three times a week can cause more headaches, as the body gets used to the drug, and the headache comes back when you stop taking the medication. If these headaches become more chronic in nature, you should visit your primary care physician, as chronic tension-type headaches can be more effectively treated with prescription medications and additional non-drug therapies.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    new headache, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, moderate headache, mild headache
    Symptoms that always occur with tension headache (first onset):
    new headache
    Symptoms that never occur with tension headache (first onset):
    hidden: both photo and phonophobia, throbbing headache, headache resulting from a head injury
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

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

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 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. But water can also help speed up your digestive system if a slow system is the 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.

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.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Loss of Appetite

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

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

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Loss of Appetite Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced loss of appetite have also experienced:

    • 8% Fatigue
    • 8% Nausea
    • 5% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
  • People who have experienced loss of appetite were most often matched with:

    • 1% Chronic Gastritis
    • 1% Tension Headache (Previously Undiagnosed)

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    Loss of Appetite Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having loss of appetite.

    Take a quiz