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Loss of appetite

Loss of appetite is described as a person eating less than what he or she normally consumes. The person may also not eat at all lasting anywhere from one meal to several days. The problem is also known as anorexia which is a symptom and not a disease. Several factors and conditions can trigger loss of appetite including physical, biological, mental and emotional factors. Usually, when the condition is relieved and treated, a person’s appetite should be normal again.

Anorexia is not considered a medical emergency since majority of people all around the world experience it time and again throughout the course of their lives. However, when an individual refuses to eat for a long period of time, his body can become immuno-compromised and lose disease-fighting agents making the condition serious in nature. Some individuals may experience loss of appetite only during certain periods of the day or for certain types of food while others avoid food and drinks altogether.


Since loss of appetite is a symptom itself, physicians usually notice accompanying symptoms to help them determine and diagnose the underlying condition or disease causing it. Examples of associated symptoms would be weight loss, lack of interest in food including known favorites, difficulty swallowing, mouth, tongue or lip sores, feeling of fullness, vomiting, gassiness, diarrhea, headache, nausea, dizziness, thinness and depressed mood. More associated symptoms include distorted view of one’s own bodyweight, fear of becoming obese, denial of hunger feeling, preoccupation with food preparation, dehydration, lethargy, irregular menstrual cycle among females and strange eating habits.


Diagnostic tests may also reveal abnormalities in blood sugar levels, blood pressure and other hormones. Dopamine and serotonin levels are known to be low while the person’s glycemic index remains high or fluctuates throughout. For those experiencing dizziness, blood glucose is generally low and the loss of appetite may be accompanied or caused by depression and other mental factors. Sufferers are also more likely to be withdrawn, irritable and very sensitive about comments regarding their physical appearance and weight.

There are 2 main types of loss of appetite which are anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Anorexia nervosa is described as conscious starvation wherein the person is at least 15% underweight. The person may exhibit obsession in food and weight as evidenced by bizarre eating habits and rituals. The true cause of the condition is unknown although social and environmental factors are said to play a huge role in its development. The problem simply starts as innocent dieting then slowly develops into extreme measures wherein the person intentionally starves himself with the aim to look better physically.

The second type of anorexia is called bulimia wherein the person indulges in binge eating sessions then induces vomiting afterwards via laxatives, cathartics or manual stimulation of the vagus nerve. The true cause of this type is also not fully known and the problem is usually present among celebrities, models and other individuals who try to maintain an appealing physical appearance constantly. Mental and environmental factors are still said to contribute much to its development.


Conventional causes of loss of appetite would be the presence of underlying diseases and problems. These can result to gastrointestinal upset as well as hormone and neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain and body spurring the person to feel full or not want to eat. Examples of conditions would b cancer, depression, pain, constipation, drug side effects, HIV, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, cough, cold, fever, alcoholism, tuberculosis, normal aging, viral hepatitis, liver conditions, heart conditions, heart failure, hiatus hernia, stomach ulcer, duodenal ulcer, constipation, zinc deficiency and motion sickness.


The main goal of treatment would be to address the underlying cause in order to alleviate the symptom of anorexia. Physical causes like cancer, fever, mouth sores, pain and other bodily disorders may be treated with medications, surgery and other alternative techniques like acupuncture, physical therapy and relaxation in order to improve hormone levels leading to improvement in appetite. Some medications and substances may be causing a person to lose appetite so cessation of intake will eventually improve the condition.

For those who are having problems properly absorbing food and receiving enough nutrients, they may be intravenously provided with electrolytes and vitamins as well as eat via tube feeding. High caloric and nutritious drinks and meal replacement supplements may be indicated so that patients do not need to consume much to receive adequate dietary recommendations. Individuals who only prefer a certain type of food may be served only their favorite meals provided that other nutritional components are included by adding sauces, nuts and whole grains.

As for mental causes of anorexia, the problem may be treated by helping the person improve mood and develop a healthier sense of well-being. Bulimic and anorexic patients need to be taught techniques and activities that boost self-esteem to help them overcome their obsession regarding weight and physical appearance. Relieving internal stress and providing medications to enhance mood and mental wellness will be helpful in boosting appetite. Anorexic patients need to be provided with nutritious and high caloric foods while bulimic patients need to be monitored to avoid purging.


There is no sure way to prevent loss of appetite. However, doctors suggest that a healthy lifestyle and good eating and exercise habits will keep people free from conditions that lead to anorexia. Individuals should consume enough vitamins, minerals, fiber and essential fatty acids in order to maintain normal hormone production responsible for triggering hunger signals. Exercise will also help maintain good metabolism. People should rest at least 8 straight hours every night and indulge in relaxation activities to keep stress levels low to avoid depression and other mental causes of loss of appetite.

At present, the media injects a lot of false information about how an ideal person should look like. People should develop a healthy outlook about their physical appearance and stay away from fad diets that may actually do them more harm than good.

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