Loss of Appetite (Anorexia): Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Loss of appetite is a type of eating disorder in which there is a reduced desire to eat. It can also be referred to as poor appetite or decreased appetite. The medical term for this condition is anorexia. Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by an unusual fear of gaining weight, where people who are affected by hunger severely limit the amount of food they eat to prevent weight gain.
The exact cause of this condition is unknown but sometimes it can occur with conditions that affect the digestive system, such as infection, dehydration, or chronic diseases.
Dietary restrictions can cause nutritional deficiency, which severely affects the overall health of an individual and can further result in life-threatening complications, so it's important to find the cause and treat the condition.
Causes of Anorexia
Loss of appetite can be a symptom of depression, along with other symptoms such as low mood, poor concentration, and troubled sleep.
These include short-term infections (such as flu, cold, urinary tract infection, chest infection, pelvic infection, etc.) and long-term infections such as tuberculosis (TB) or HIV. All these conditions can lead to loss of appetite.
Stress and anxiety-
Anxiety and stress can cause digestive problems such as nausea and upset stomach. These can be so uncomfortable that it reduces the desire to eat.
Many medicines can cause loss of appetite as a side effect, including some antidepressants such as methylphenidate for ADHD(Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), fluoxetine, chemotherapy, some medicines for type 2 diabetes, and strong painkillers (Opioids).
Appetite decreases with age and this may be due to the stomach emptying (process in which the stomach contents are moved into the duodenum) which comparatively becomes slower in older age, so older people can feel full for a longer time.
Long-term (chronic) health conditions-
Chronic kidney disease, chronic pain, chronic liver disease and dementia.
Many cancer treatments can cause loss of appetitewhich is usually accompanied by other symptoms that are specific to particular cancer, but sometimes loss of appetite can be an early symptom of cancer.
These can cause severe pain, especially after eating fatty foodsbecause of which the patient loses the desire to eat.
Oral and dental problems-
Any problem that makes it difficult for you to chew, swallow, or taste food can affect your appetite. For example, toothache, ill-fitting dentures, cavities, dry mouth, jaw dysfunction, or loss of taste.
Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid, which means it doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone. This slows down many of your body's functions, which can lead to a decreased appetite.
Symptoms of Loss of Appetite (Anorexia)
- Abdominal pain.
- Changes in taste or smell.
- Mood swings.
- Severe fatigue.
- Difficulty in breathing.
- Unintentional weight loss.
- Excessive use of alcohol or illegal drugs.
Treatment for Decreased Appetite (Anorexia)
Treatment for decreased appetite depends on the cause. If the cause is a bacterial or viral infection, then the doctor may prescribe you a course of anti-bacterial and anti-viral medications after which your appetite will return quickly once the infection is cured.
The main goal of the treatment would be to restore your body to a normal weight by establishing normal eating habits. A dietician can help you learn what to eat and how to eat properly. Eating frequent small meals can also help, and they are usually easier on the stomach than large meals.
Moderate exercise can also help increase appetite. To ensure you are getting proper nutrition from your diet, it should have an adequate amount of calories and proteinin it. You can also try a liquid protein drink.
It can be helpful to keep a diary of what you eat and drink for a few days. This will help your doctor or dietician to assess your diet.
Some medications can reduce your appetite. This includes narcotic drugs such as cocaine, heroin and amphetamines, as well as prescription drugs such as certain antibiotics, codeine, morphine, or chemotherapy drugs.Thus, one should limit or stop its usage under the observation of a doctor.
Home remedies for Loss of Appetite (Anorexia)
Black pepper has been used for a very long time. It is often used to improve digestion and increase appetite. It is also an excellent spice for relieving gastric and intestinal gas. Black pepper stimulates the appetite, which in turn increases the secretion of acid in the stomach, which improves digestion. For this, Mix one teaspoon of jaggery powder and half a teaspoon of ground black pepper. Consume this mixture regularly for a few daysuntil you get the desired results. Discontinue its usage if you experience heartburns.
Ginger is very good for relieving indigestion and stimulating appetite. It also helps relieve stomach aches. For this, take half a teaspoon of ginger juice and add a pinch of rock salt. Consume this mixture regularly, one hour before meals, for 10 days. You can also drink ginger tea.
Amla helps with loss of appetite caused by digestive problems. It improves digestive tract function and detoxifies the liver. Amla is rich in vitamin C and helps boost the immune system. For this, Mix two teaspoons of amla juice, lemon juice, and honey in a glass of water. Drink this every day in the morning on an empty stomach.
Cardamom helps increase the secretion of digestive juices, which in turn increases appetite. For this, you can simply chew two to three cardamoms before having a meal. You can also add cardamom powder to regular tea.
Carom seeds, also known as ajwainin Hindi, can cure all kinds of stomach-relatedproblems. These seeds help release enzymes and other acids needed to digest food. For this, add two to three teaspoons of carom seeds with a little quantity of lemon juice. Store the mixture in a dry place until it dries completely. Mix some black salt in it and drink with warm water every day. You can also chew half a teaspoon of carom seeds before having your meal.
When to seek medical help?
You should visit your doctor if you experience loss of appetite and nausea along with chest pain, blurred vision, weakness, loss of feeling or sensations in your body, or confusion.