Everyone loses their appetite sometimes, but what about those who experience a lost appetite all of the time? Sometimes, food just doesn’t feel appealing, you just can’t stomach it, you’re simply not hungry, or food might make you feel a bit nauseous. There’s nothing wrong with a lost appetite happening occasionally, but it does leave us with a pressing question: what causes a loss of appetite?
Anything from medical conditions and eating disorders to stress and general illness can cause you to lose your appetite. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most common causes of a lost appetite, so that you have a better understanding of why you might not want to eat.
Of course, it goes without saying that if you’ve been experiencing a lost appetite for an extended period of time or you feel concerned about it, make sure you speak with your doctor to determine if there are any underlying causes or underlying health conditions causing a lost appetite.
Below are some common causes of lost appetite:
1. Viral or Bacterial Infections
When we talk about viral and bacterial infections, it’s in reference to general illnesses such as the flu or a stomach bug. The reason we often lose our appetite when we are sick is because our body produces chemicals known as cytokines as part of our immune response.
The result is that they suppress our appetite, putting us off our food while we are feeling our worst. It’s just part of the healing process, and not feeling hungry for a few days while you have a bug is perfectly normal.
If you’re sick, know that a lost appetite is common. While you may want to try to eat at least something even if you’re not hungry while you’re sick, you can be sure to regain your energy when you’re better.
2. Stress and Anxiety
When we are feeling stressed or anxious, the body produces adrenaline – also referred to as the fight or flight hormone. This slows down the digestive system, which can stop us from feeling hungry and cause us to lose our appetite.
Not everyone experiences a lost appetite when they’re stressed, as some people feel even hungrier when they’re stressed. Anxiety is more likely to cause a lost appetite than stress, however, major life stressors can completely take away some people’s appetite.
Stress-inducing life events such as breakups, death of a loved one, and financial pressure can all cause these feelings of stress and anxiety to increase and our appetite could decrease alongside it.
3. Other Psychological Factors for Lost Appetite
Our mental health can have a massive impact on our appetite and how much we eat. Conditions like depression can completely kill our appetite due to the production of the corticotropin hormone. This is why it is so easy to lose interest in food when you are depressed. Not everyone who’s depressed loses interest in food, but many do.
Additionally, ADHD can often lead to forgetting to eat for days at a time. This is often due to hyperfocus or distracted trains of thought.
Some mental health conditions that have lost appetite as a symptom (such as ADHD and depression) can be genetic. Check your DNA test results to see if your DNA puts you at higher risk for these conditions.
4. Certain Medications Can Reduce Appetite
There is a massive list of medications that have a potential side effect of lost appetite listed as one of the side effects. If you are experiencing this, the first thing you should do is check the leaflet for any medications you are taking. Opioid painkillers, antidepressants, antibiotics, ADHD meds, and medication for type 2 diabetes are just some examples of the types of drugs that can suppress your appetite.
Your pharmacist is a wealth of information. The pharmacist can tell you if lost appetite is a common side effect. For example, Dexedrine and other ADHD medications are known for causing a lesser appetite or forgetting to eat.
Forgetting to eat can impact your daily functioning because you can’t perform at your best cognitively or physically if you don’t eat enough.
5. Eating Disorders or Disordered Eating Behaviors
Many eating disorders involve restricting food consumption. Eating very little on purpose over long periods of time can curb your natural appetite and cause you to become full quickly. It’s not good for your body, and can cause damage over time as well as be life-threatening if left untreated.
6. Alcoholism or Substance Abuse
There are many signs of alcoholism, but one of the most prevalent is losing all interest in food, as alcohol becomes your main interest. Many people who suffer from alcoholism end up malnourished as their dependency on alcohol overtakes the need for self-care and ensuring you are eating a balanced diet.
In other words, some alcoholics are much more interested in alcohol than food.
Similarly, those who abuse substances and take drugs recreationally also tend to lose interest in food.
7. Chronic Pain
Can being in pain make you forget about food and cause a lost appetite? Absolutely. When you are in severe pain, all the focus from your neurons and central nervous system is on that.
It’s hard to ignore, it can make you feel nauseous, and it can also lead to your appetite becoming suppressed.
Some of the most common conditions that cause chronic pain and lead to a loss of appetite, as a result, are pain from migraines, fibromyalgia, and arthritis pain.
9. Digestive Issues
Conditions like IBS and IBD have painful symptoms such as stomach cramps and bloating. Additionally, they often cause diarrhea and gut spasms. All of this can put us off the idea of eating, even if we’re hungry, because the pain can be quite intense and long-lasting.
When IBS makes our stomach bloated and distended, we might mistake that for feeling full, or feel like we shouldn’t eat.
Furthermore, eating food can make the symptoms of IBS worse, so you might be inclined to stop eating until they pass completely.
While it’s fine to have a lower appetite, you do need to ensure you don’t lose weight too quickly and that you don’t end up with nutrient deficiencies.
As you can see, there are many factors that can cause you to lose your appetite. Maybe you’re feeling a little under the weather and just need a few days to get your appetite back, but there are also cases where it could be caused by something more serious that needs checking out.
Look out for your friends and family, and check in to make sure they are eating properly. Sometimes all it takes is a little nudge from the people we love to get on a healthier path and take steps to try and get better.
You can also find out if you have a higher or lower appetite control through a DNA test.