Lack of Appetite – What Can It Be?

Hunger conditions us to feed ourselves and provide our bodies with the nutrients needed for our bodies to stay healthy. Lack of appetite can be caused by many reasons like constipation, viruses, eating disorders and even cancer, and it can indicate that something is not right. Understanding what a lack of appetite can be is important to managing the symptoms that can cause disinterest in food.

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The “absent hunger” or “reduced desire to eat” are some terms used for the lack of appetite. Our body controls appetite through the communication of various systems in our body, which involve the central nervous system, digestive, endocrine and sensory nerves, which together manage appetite in the short and long term. A healthy and balanced appetite is able to help the body to remain in a homeostatic state, that is, supplying the energy and nutrient needs to maintain a healthy body weight.

Punctual loss of appetite can happen in response to illness, overeating at the previous meal, lack of time or stress and is not necessarily a problem. But when it becomes a frequent condition, it can develop nutritional deficiencies or rapid weight loss and lead to serious complications.

The absence of prolonged nutrition means that the body does not receive the carbohydrates, proteins and fats that provide energy, in addition to vitamins and minerals. This triggers a stress reaction that leaves your body tired, can cause muscle loss and decreased strength and cognitive function.

  Main causes

What can be or cause a lack of appetite? Symptoms like stress, the presence of illnesses and medications you take are some of the causes. The body usually emits physical, mental and emotional signs and symptoms associated with a decrease in appetite.

– Presence of disease

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Chronic illnesses or small, occasional episodes can cause a decrease in appetite. Cases of hyperthyroidism, AIDS, eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia, flu, fever or headache, nausea due to conditions such as a stomach virus, food poisoning, digestive disorder, or pregnancy may be reasons for the lack of appetite.

Sudden loss of appetite is usually a condition that directly affects the digestive system, such as food poisoning or illness. When there is an illness, the body can change quickly, and even though your appetite is normal, you may not have the strength or desire to eat.

– Cancer

The American Society of Clinical Oncology states that changes in appetite are common during cancer treatment. This is because cancer and treatments such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy can cause many changes in metabolism, the digestive system, and hormone production. All these factors can reduce hunger.

– Medication

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Some medications are related to loss of appetite. Medicines to treat cancer, antibiotics, pain relievers, and over-the-counter medications to treat the common cold can all affect your appetite. The Mayo Clinic says health problems and medications can interfere with smell and taste or affect your chewing, which can contribute to decreased appetite.

– Emotional state

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The emotional state has a direct impact on appetite. Being bored, nervous, lonely, tense, and stressed often upset your stomach or make you lose your desire to eat. The National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health claim that when older people are depressed, lack of appetite can happen without other causes. Children and adults experience anxiety and worry and if they are not able to manage these emotions they can have a range of eating problems, including loss of appetite or more serious eating disorder.

– Pregnancy

Pregnancy can cause a lack of appetite in the first trimester, and this condition is considered normal. Lack of nutrition in early pregnancy can be related to the presence of nausea, and later on, in late pregnancy, women can also develop a diminished appetite because the body is preparing for childbirth.

– Diets for weight loss

Some types of diets and practices can also decrease your appetite. For example, the ketogenic diet usually conditions the production of ketone bodies that reduce appetite or  intermittent fasting . These dietary interventions usually do not cause a complete loss of appetite, but they can decrease cravings and avoid overeating. That’s why they are a great tool to promote weight loss in overweight or obese people.

– Overfeeding

Eating too much of the previous meal, day or week can increase satiety hormones, which makes you feel less hungry. Of course, the opposite is also true, as eating less can increase your ghrelin and lower your leptin levels, making you more hungry. 

– Sedentary lifestyle

A sedentary lifestyle can cause weight gain or an increase in leptin levels, which makes you feel less hungry.

– Age

Due to changes in the digestive system and a slowdown in metabolism, lack of appetite is a common problem in elderly people. The use of medication, low levels of activity, depression, pain, ill-fitting dentures or changes associated with aging in taste and smell are other factors that contribute to this.

– Bariatric surgery

Loss of appetite and feeling full too quickly can also be the result of bariatric weight loss surgery , as this decreases the volume of food that the stomach can comfortably accommodate.

Main symptoms

The most common symptoms of poor appetite can be not wanting to eat, not feeling hungry despite going without food for a long time, and consequently unintended weight loss. Other symptoms can happen at the same time, such as:

  • Feeling full after eating only a small amount of food.
  • Feeling bloated stomach, presence of nausea or indigestion symptoms such as heartburn and stomach pain.
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Difficulties in concentration and focus or brain fog.
  • Difficulty sleeping or insomnia.
  • Constipation.
  • Swelling and fluid retention.
  • Mood swings, including low motivation and depression.
  • Have a fever, chills or feel pain in the body if you are sick.


To treat a lack of appetite, it is necessary to identify and address the root cause, that is, the one causing this condition. Depending on how severe the loss of appetite is and any complications it may be causing, doctors can use various medications and interventions to normalize hunger levels. Some treatments that can be used to reverse loss of appetite and its effects may include:

  • Medicines for nausea, including those used during pregnancy.
  • Supplements and meal replacement products that can provide electrolytes and relieve constipation, cramps, or fatigue.
  • Medicines that contain progesterone, which can improve appetite and weight gain.
  • Steroid medications, which can lessen symptoms such as swelling, nausea, weakness, or pain associated with underlying illnesses.
  • Metoclopramide, which helps to promote digestion more easily.
  • Antidepressant or antianxiety medications.
  • Medicines to stimulate appetite.
  • Exercise programs that can stimulate appetite hormone secretion.
  • In severe cases, tube feeding can be used to get calories and nutrients directly from the stomach to treat weight loss and nutritional deficiencies.

Natural treatments for loss of appetite

When your appetite is small, it’s important to eat the foods you enjoy and get as many calories as possible. While fast foods and sweets are a flashy option, it’s smarter to eat healthy high-calorie foods. That way, you can prevent weight loss while getting all the nutrients your body needs.

1. Bet on foods rich in healthy nutrients

There are many nutritional and caloric options in all food groups. This includes avocados, bananas, dried fruits, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, peas and corn. For extra calories and protein, enjoy eggs, hummus, cheese, pudding, nuts and butters. From the grain group, try wholegrain breads and bagels, walnuts, quinoa and grape bran.

2. Eat often

Even if your breakfast is reinforced, don’t give up on a snack before lunch. Eating breakfast may increase your desire to eat, according to the University of Texas. You can also use this meal to bring in calories from eggs and whole wheat toast, a bread roll with sliced ​​cheese, or a bowl of raisin bran with whole milk.

Keeping your meals small and eating more often can also improve your intake when your appetite declines. Plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with two to three snacks between each meal.

Try to eat at regular times each day, as sticking to a pattern helps train your body and regulate your appetite, and try to make food taste more appealing by adding salt, spices, and flavorings you like.

Do not consume large amounts of fluids before meals, which can suppress your appetite. Drink moderate amounts of water between meals rather than with meals, and try to base your fluid intake on your thirst level. Also limit your consumption of caffeine, as it can increase nervousness and anxiety, upset your stomach, and decrease your appetite.

3. Bet on liquids

Liquids can be inserted more easily in cases of lack of appetite, but they tend to have fewer calories than food. Fruit juice and whole milk are good choices. You can also make a healthy, high-calorie fruit smoothie with a small banana, a tablespoon of peanut butter, and 1 cup of whole milk to create a 310-calorie smoothie. Or, mix orange juice with a cup of halved strawberries and 18 cashew nuts for 320 calories.

A nutritional supplement may also work for you. In ready-to-drink bottles, they are convenient and have up to 360 calories. Plus, they’re a good source of protein, fortified with vitamins and minerals, and they’re a good filler on those days you just don’t feel like eating.

4. Concentrate calories with food boosters

When lack of appetite is a reality, each calorie makes a big difference. Use “calorie boosters” to add concentrated calories to your food. Oil, butter, peanut butter, powdered milk, and gravy are good high-calorie blends that won’t make you feel too full.

Mixing 1/4 cup of powdered whole milk into a cup of mashed potatoes increases the calories from 230 to 385. Saute your vegetables in olive oil, which has 45 calories per teaspoon, and mix in your favorite grains to increase the calories. Butter added to bread, potatoes and vegetables is also a tasty way to increase calories, or mix dried fruits and nuts in hot cereal and yogurt.

5. Take care of the nausea

Loss of appetite is constantly associated with nausea, especially during pregnancy or when you are sick. Some natural interferences can help relieve nausea, including:

  • Sit for about an hour after eating to relieve any pressure on your stomach.
  • Try to eat at least three hours before bed to aid digestion.
  • Drink ginger tea or apply ginger essential oil to your chest or abdomen.
  • Take a supplement that contains vitamin B6, which helps reduce PMS, morning sickness and stomach upset symptoms. F
  • Make a drink to calm your stomach using chamomile tea and lemon juice.
  • Inhale peppermint essential oil or rub it into your neck and chest.
  • Get some fresh air, open a window, and take a leisurely walk outside.

6. Try to take care of underlying digestive problems

If your lack of appetite is related to digestive problems such as constipation, bloating or heartburn, it is essential to address the root cause of your symptoms. Some ways to help improve bowel health and digestion are:

  • Include fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy fats and protein sources such as fish, meat and eggs.
  • Eat fiber-rich foods to help prevent constipation, including chia seeds or flaxseed, cooked vegetables, avocados, root-roasted vegetables, and foods high in magnesium.
  • Eat  probiotic foods such as fermented yogurt or cultivated vegetables.
  • Limit consumption of conventional dairy products, gluten-containing foods, processed foods with synthetic additives, refined oils, fast foods, fried foods and processed meats.
  • Control your stress.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Get an adequate amount of exercise.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Do not take unnecessary medications.

7. Take care of depression and anxiety

Depression and anxiety can affect your appetite, altering stress hormones and increasing inflammation. If you experience depression or anxiety by drinking alcohol, smoking and drinking a lot of caffeine, be aware that these substances also affect hunger.

8. Get plenty of physical activity

Exercising can serve as a natural appetite regulator, especially aerobic modalities, vigorous, intense exercise, and strength training. Physical activity can increase your appetite and also help to normalize it in the long run because of how it affects hormones and inflammation.

It also has numerous other health benefits such as helping to relieve stress, reduce inflammation, improve sleep and maintain muscle mass, which is beneficial for your metabolism, especially as you get older.

9. Reduce fatigue and improve energy levels 

Fatigue can be managed when you get between seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Also, a diet rich in nutrients and low in sugar, processed grains and caffeine can help.

Other practices such as drinking green tea, which provides more stable energy, and mental breaks during the day to relax, rest, take a slow walk, or practice deep breathing can also help reduce fatigue and promote energy levels.

The lack of appetite can be caused by illness or stress – the point is that not having the desire to eat can be problematic and cause nutritional deficiencies that impact your health. If you’re struggling to eat enough, there are a number of strategies that can help you, but if it’s a medical condition or other health-related concerns, you need to see your doctor and nutritionist for guidance and tips for your specific health needs. diet. 

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