5 health conditions that can cause a loss of appetite



We all experience a temporary loss of appetite from time to time.

Whether a traumatic event or a bad cold eliminates your desire to eat, a loss of appetite for a few days—especially as you get older—generally isn’t something to worry about.

However, if you or someone you care about starts to lose weight without trying, a loss of appetite might be taking its toll.

Here are five conditions that could potentially cause a loss of appetite.

1. Mental health conditions

In many cases, a loss of appetite has no physical cause. Anxiety, depression, or grief can all lead to you losing your desire to eat—and you may not even notice it. If a mental health condition is causing a prolonged loss of appetite for you or a loved one, professional counseling and resources are available for support.

2. Medications

If you’ve started taking a new medication and your appetite has changed, take a look at the prescribing information that was included with your medicine. Loss of appetite is a common, known side effect of many drugs, especially opioid medications. Failure to follow a doctor’s instructions about dosing, or using opioids illegally, may intensify side effects like appetite loss. If you think a medicine that you’re taking is impacting your appetite, talk to your doctor to see if changes to your dosage or frequency are necessary.

3. Cancer

People suffering from cancer may experience loss of appetite among their earliest symptoms. Colon cancer, ovarian cancer, stomach cancer, and pancreatic cancer are all notable for reducing your desire to eat. Patient care plans often include recommendations about foods that are tolerable during cancer treatment and strategies for fighting nausea and encouraging healthy eating.

4. Hypothyroidism

An underactive thyroid can cause trouble with eating. This can be due to a problem with your thyroid glands or pregnancy. If your thyroid feels swollen, schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider. For women in their first trimester of pregnancy who are experiencing low appetite, make sure to tell your obstetrician at your next appointment.

5. Chronic illnesses

People suffering from chronic illnesses, such as liver disease, kidney disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may have less interest in eating. If you have one of these diseases, focus on increasing your caloric intake by eating more frequently throughout the day.

Consider keeping a food diary for a few days if you are concerned about your loss of appetite. Logging what you do eat can be helpful for your healthcare provider as they try to determine a cause. You can also try to prepare some of your favorite foods to get your appetite going.

It’s important to note that virtually any illness (in addition to the five above) can cause lack of appetite; sometimes there is no physical cause at all. If you’re still losing weight and can’t figure out why, make an appointment with your physician to ensure your loss of appetite is not indicative of a more serious condition.

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