Appetite is the desire to eat food due to hunger or sometimes just due to the taste of the food. There can be a lot of reason for poor appetite. A variety of conditions or diseases can result in poor appetite or loss of appetite. There are temporary conditions which can cause loss of appetite. Though it can be cured once the person is out of that particular situation for example a loss of appetite can occur due to the side effects of medicines. Poor appetite or loss of appetitie can also be caused due to some serious disease like cancer. A person should immediately visit a health care professional that is a nutritionist if he or anyone he knows is going through this phase. Even a temporary illness like fever can influence your regular appetite. Weight loss is a very common result of poor appetite or loss of appetite.

There are many common symptoms that can lead to poor appetite or loss of appetite. Some of them are cancer, especially of the colon, ovary or pancreas, aging, chronic disease, or side effects of high power medicines. There is a minimum desire to eat when a person has poor appetite or loss of appetite. Early stage of pregnancy is a very common span to have poor appetite which is also followed by nausea and vomiting. Effects on digestive system, infections, dehydration or chronic disease are the major reason for poor appetite or loss of appetite.

Poor appetite or loss of appetite is followed by several reasons like medications which include antibiotics, chemotherapy, and narcotics all of which are high power medicines. Also chronic diseases, such as heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, kidney failure and hepatitis, are causes for poor appetite or loss of appetite. Poor appetite can come or go or remain constant, it totally relies on the cause. There is a minimal chance of loss of appetite leading to a dangerous disease but it should never be ignored. Sometimes dehydration, which can occur due to poor appetite, if ignored can result in electrolyte imbalance, coma or shock. If you get indications of major dehydration, like confusion or becoming unconscious for even a fraction of seconds, cold skin, or reduced urine output seek instant medical care.

Poor Appetite: What Can Cause Loss of Appetite?

Poor Appetite: What Can Cause Loss of Appetite?

Poor appetite or loss of appetite is a condition which occurs when there is a decrease in the desire to eat. It is commonly experienced that older adults are less willing to eat due to minimized physical activities and changing taste buds. Some elders forget to cook for themselves due to the cognitive impairment. Several health conditions bring tastelessness in the food or interfere with proper digestion which leads to poor appetite or loss of appetite. Negative emotions such as nervousness, depression or sadness can be a common cause of loss of appetite. Major medications or treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, narcotic medications which include codeine or morphine, can be a common cause for poor appetite or loss of appetite. Not only medications but the disease like cancer and types of cancer can lead to it. Chronic conditions, such as heart or kidney failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can lead to difficulty in breathing or weakness or general malaise. All these conditions can be a regular cause of poor appetite.

  1. Poor Appetite or Loss of Appetite Caused Due to Diseases or Chronic Medical Conditions

    Poor appetite or loss of appetite can be caused by several long-lasting diseases. Some of the chronic conditions that can cause loss of apetite are cancers (ovarian, pancreatic, stomach, or colon), congestive heart failure which leads to deterioration of the heart's ability to pump blood, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, kidney or liver failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, gallbladder disease such as cholecystitis that is inflammation of the bladder, gastrointestinal infections and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).

  2. Poor Appetite or Loss of Appetite Caused Due to Medication Use

    Drugs are a major cause for poor appetite. Some of the high power drugs or medications which can result in poor appetite or loss of appetite are as follows:

    • Amphetamines, antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs are some of the types of medications which causes poor appetite.
    • Cocaine
    • Codeine
    • Heroin
    • Radiation therapy can also cause poor appetite.
  3. Other Common Causes of Poor Appetite or Loss of Appetite

    There are some common causes which can lead to poor appetite. These causes are sometimes temporary which can be constant for a particular phase. It includes aging – we often see that elderly adults lose their taste buds or sometimes forget to cook their meal; difficulty in swallowing, early months of pregnancy, loss of taste or smell, nausea with or without vomiting, negative emotions like anxiety, depression or sadness, and pain. All these causes can lead to poor appetite or loss of appetite in any individual.

  4. Poor Appetite or Loss of Appetite Caused Due to Serious or Life-Threatening Medical Conditions

    Unlike the common causes there can be serious causes which lead to poor appetite. These causes can also be life-threatening or can do some serious damage to our body. It includes dehydration, liver failure or kidney failure. With the indication one must not ignore these diseases. They can be dangerous to our life or can lead us to life time medication help.

Questions for Diagnosing the Cause of Poor Appetite or Loss of Appetite

Your condition can be diagnosed by your nutritionist or licensed health care practitioner. He will ask you a few questions to know exactly about your condition causing poor appetite. Questions which will be asked by him will be related to the food consumed by you or any medications you are under or any mental stress condition. You have to be really clear about your appetite with your doctor or nutritionist.

Causes of Poor Appetite or Loss of Appetite in Infants

There can be many possible causes of poor appetite in infants. Infants grow faster and healthier in the first few months of their life. The birth weight of a baby increases three times in their first year. Babies are unstoppable and so they need energy to play and grow. Therefore, we see that there is a healthy desire to eat amongst infants which increases with their age. Due to certain conditions and health related problems babies adapt poor appetite, which leads to slow growth or weight loss. Some of the causes for poor appetite or loss of appetite in infants are explained below:

There are many reasons for poor appetite or loss of appetite in infants. During their first months of life, infants exhibit rapid growth and development. According to the Nemours Foundation, babies triple their birth weight in their first year of life. Because of the energy requirements to achieve that growth, infants usually develop a healthy desire for food. But certain conditions can inhibit a baby's appetite, which can lead to growth retardation, poor weight gain and developmental delays.

Milk Protein Allergy can be a cause of poor appetite or loss of appetite in infants. Sometimes the infant is allergic to milk and milk products which leads to poor appetite. Milk Protein Allergy is a condition which works against the immune system of the infant as he is allergic to the protein, casein and whey found in milk. Avoiding milk and milk products can prevent the negative effects of it in the child. These products can be replaced by feeding the infant hypoallergenic formulas which can improve baby's appetite.

Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) could be a possible cause of poor appetite or loss of appetite in infants. Congenial heart disease is a condition that occurs when the child is born with heart defects which prevents them from feeding adequately. This can make the infant too weak to be fed. These conditions can lead to heart failure, leading with a weak heart which cannot pump blood effectively. When a baby's heart cannot pump blood properly it can be a very serious condition. This causes a pool of fluid in the lungs which leads to difficulty in breathing and feeding. There are surgical options which can improve the baby's condition. As the infant becomes too weak they require feeding with the help of the tube directly into the stomach.

Acid Reflux can cause poor appetite or loss of appetite in infants. Acidity can cause serious damage to an adult's body and an infant going through the same is very painful. Acid reflux is a condition where the acid in the stomach flows backward and the food reaches to the esophagus from the stomach. This kind of stomach acid can cause irritability, pain and poor appetite. There are symptoms which show acid reflux. It includes vomiting, cough, food aversion, respiratory distress and spit ups. These can be treated with the help of breast feeding or feeding the infant in a straight position. Medication is also available to decrease the acid in a baby's stomach.

Infections can cause poor appetite or loss of appetite in infants. In an early stage of babyhood, infants do not have a good immune system which can lead to serious infections. Some of these infections like viral and bacterial can cause decrease in appetite. Pneumonia, flu, and bronchiolitis are the diseases caused by these infections. Here, the baby is unable to coordinate between feeding and rapid breathing caused by the same.

Vaccinations can cause poor appetite in children. Vaccination, now a days, have become a very important part of an infant's life. Sometimes vaccination causes fever, rash and other problems which affect their appetite.

Sore throat can be a cause for poor appetite in infants. Throat has to be perfect to gulp food. A sore throat can lead to poor appetite or loss of appetite as the child is unable to gulp milk or food. Fever and swollen glands are also caused by a sore throat among infants. Swallowing food becomes difficult under these situations.

Causes for Poor Appetite or Loss of Appetite in Children

Stress can be a leading cause of poor appetite or loss of appetite in children. Children can have negative influence on them due to stress. Loss of appetite is a very common effect among children experiencing stress. To cure this parents have to know the root cause of the stress their kids are going through. Children may lose interest in eating or may get less sleep when under stress. Some common causes of stress are getting bullied by peer group, family crisis like death or divorce, inability to cope with studies and never ending expectations of parents.

Slow growth rate is a possible cause of poor appetite or loss of appetite in children. Every child goes through a stage where the growth rate decreases. The growth of the child slows down after the first year of his life. This is a perfectly normal situation in which the child deals with poor appetite or loss of appetite.

Sickness could be a cause of poor appetite or loss of appetite in children. It is very normal if the child loses a proper appetite when he/ she is sick. A child suffering from fever, cough, cold or any other temporary illness will tend to eat less than he normally does. Once he recovers from his illness their appetite automatically gets better.

Depression can cause poor appetite or loss of appetite in children. Depression is a serious problem where a child's appetite is affected. Depression and sadness are not the same as the former does not go with time but the latter does. Sometimes parents fail to understand the difference between the two and so the child doesn't get help from them. If the child is unable to perform a task which he used to do perfectly then there is a chance that the child is under depression. Eating habits will be drastically changed when a child under goes this phase. Parents must immediately seek medical help to improve their child's condition.

Constipation is also reason for poor appetite or loss of appetite in children. Drinking less water and irregular bowel movements in children can be a cause of constipation. Decline in appetite is a very common symptom of constipation.

Intestinal worms can cause poor appetite among children. Sometimes due to lack of proper nutrition or child's habit of eating junks and chocolates can allow worms to enter child's digestive system. This can cause loss of appetite. These worms can also cause dysentery, intestinal bleeding, etc.

Anemia is also a cause of poor appetite in children. A low count on iron in children who do not eat an iron-rich food can cause anemia. Due to anemia a child suffers with decline in appetite. Children who suffer from anemia are weak, irritable and tired all the time. This can lead to child's bad school performance if not treated properly. Blood tests are recommended if you see symptoms of anemia.

Anorexia nervosa may be a cause of poor appetite in children. If a child is not eating to compete with a screen idol, they are leading to poor appetite. They try not to eat so that they can avoid getting fat. Even if they eat they tend to regret it later. A nutritionist or a child's specialist will help you take your child out of this eating disorder.

Causes for Poor Appetite or Loss of Appetite in Elderly

Appetite in elderly tends to change with age. Sometimes its normal but there can also be a number of other reasons due to which elderly appetite changes. Depression or loneliness, the changing taste buds can lead to lack of interest in food, declining health conditions and strong side effects of medicines. All of the above can be a reason for poor appetite or loss of appetite in elderly.

There are other causes that tend to be a reason in poor appetite firstly, there is a lower metabolic rate and the physical activity of seniors is lessened due to which they need fewer calories. Secondly, dental problems can affect the food habits in elderly. Lastly, a change in sensation like taste or smell can lead to poor appetite or loss of appetite.

All these causes can get your loved ones into serious illness. It is very important for the seniors to get a full nutritional appetite. Any poor appetite or loss of appetite can cause serious health problems. Some of the illness that can be subjected due to loss of appetite includes:

  • Head and neck cancers can be caused due to poor appetite.
  • Thyroid disorders, salivary gland dysfunction are also a possible complication of poor appetite in elderly.
  • Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.
  • Mouth and throat infections or periodontal disease.

Signs and Symptoms of Poor Appetite or Loss of Appetite

Symptoms of loss of apetite may vary depending on the disease or the condition. Poor appetite or loss of appetite may be accompanied by affected digestive system which may also lead to other problems in your body. These problems can be cured and are mostly temporary. Some of the symptoms that affect the digestive system due to poor appetite are severe abdominal pain or regular cramps, change in taste or smell, chronic or persistent diarrhea, heartburn, jaundice, constipation, indigestion, and nausea with or without vomiting.

There are some other signs and symptoms that might occur along with lack of appetite or poor appetite. It includes:

  • Chronic cough.
  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing.
  • Ill feeling.
  • Mood changes and irritability.
  • Lethargy or Malaise.
  • Ongoing low level fever.
  • Tachycardia or rapid heart rate.
  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Weight loss due to unexplained reasons.

In few cases, you can land under a life threatening condition due to poor appetite which should immediately be taken care of. You must go and seek medical help if you or a close one you know, are under any of these symptoms including decreased urine output, severe abdominal pain, change in level of alertness or consciousness, such as unresponsiveness or passing out or sudden loss of balance or severe dizziness.

Complications of Poor Appetite or Loss of Appetite

There can be serious complications caused by poor appetite. Lack of proper medication and health checkups can lead to many severe complications which include:

  • Loss of strength and malnutrition is a serious complication in poor appetite.
  • Spread of cancer and spread of infections can be a complication of poor appetite.
  • Vitamin deficiencies.
  • Wasting syndrome.

Treatment for Poor Appetite or Loss of Appetite

Poor appetite or loss of appetite can be a serious issue which if not treated properly can lead to severe illness. One must consult the doctor immediately if there is a lack of appetite.

The symptoms of a condition which leads to poor appetite or loss of appetite are depression, certain forms of cancer, thyroid problems, infections and appendicitis. All the above conditions can be treated with the help of surgeries or medication or psychotherapy. Depression can be treated by antidepressant medicines or psychotherapy which has been proved very useful. Antibiotics are given to those with infectious system. All these medications will let the appetite resume normally.

Cancer treatments like radiation or chemotherapy can do very serious damage to one's body. These medical conditions leads to poor appetite or loss of appetite and people fighting these diseases may need nutrient supplementation to get back to their normal appetite. Any mental stress or heartbreak causing loss of appetite needs to be detected immediately. There are psychological treatments available for these mental conditions.

Youngsters generally try to skip meals to keep themselves in shape. This is a very common mistake people tend to make which is a deliberate poor appetite. In order to keep a healthy body one must eat on scheduled time. Eating light food in every two hours keeps the stomach full and light at the same time. Skipping meals can be harmful and it may become a habit also.

A lot of liquid intake can fill your stomach not leaving space for solid food. This can cause poor appetite or loss of appetite. Liquids should be taken sometimes between the meals. Enjoying fluids after the meal can be helpful. Also liquids can be healthy and nutritious like soups or protein shakes. These types can be gulped easily by those who do not like to eat solid food.

Healthy body depends on healthy mind and healthy environment. A pleasant environment can work wonders for people suffering with poor appetite. Comforting a child or an adult can make them eat nutritious food. Once in a while cooking food for your loved ones may make them eat healthy and stay fit.

A very obvious treatment for poor appetite or Loss of appetite is going under medications. Medicines like megestrol and dronabinol may be prescribed to improve one's poor appetite. There are different medicines for different conditions. But some of the medicines are followed by serious side effects which are not good for your health. Therefore, one should take medicines only when prescribed by a trusted doctor.

Home Remedies for Treating Poor Appetite or Loss of Appetite

Poor appetite or loss of appetite is a condition which can cause serious damage to your body. A child, an infant or an elderly are more likely to go through poor appetite or Loss of appetite. Sometimes we need to think out of the box for our loved ones. And in this case the problem of poor appetite or Loss of appetite can be solved with the help of home remedies. These remedies are all natural and safe for us and also boost our immune system without any side effects. Below are a few home remedies which can help us in times of need.

  • Coriander leaves can be a good home remedy for poor appetite or Loss of appetite. Coriander leaves are great in taste and are equally great in improving our digestive system. This is a commonly used herb which is mostly used in Indian cuisines. Coriander juice which is freshly prepared and taken once in a day can work wonders to cure indigestion. It also helps to boost our appetite and it is proved to be curing poor appetite or loss of appetite.
  • Lemon Juice can aid in treating and is an effective home remedy for poor appetite or loss of appetite. Lemon is one of the important fruit which helps to cure a lot of problems. Lemons kill germs in the stomach and kids feel relieved if they are going through a problem of acidity after gulping it. A glass of lemon juice can be proved very effective in killing the germs in your child's stomach. It also helps to digest food faster and flushes out the waste from the body. It is a great remedy to improve your appetite.
  • Asafoetida is an ingredient which is also commonly used in Indian Cuisines. It has great antioxidants and anti-flatulent property. These help to cure and boost poor appetite. A pinch of asafetida can work wonders for the digestion if added in the food.
  • Tamarind pulp can be a great home remedy for poor appetite. Improving your appetite can be done with the help of tamarind pulp which has a laxative effect. You need to soften a little quantity of the pulp in the water adding cloves, sugar and pepper to it. This juice can be given to your child regularly to get best results.
  • Cinnamon can contribute in treatment for poor appetite or loss of appetite and is a good home remedy. Cinnamon tastes amazing and it can be added to a lot of delicacies like smoothies, cakes and breads. It helps to treat many health problems and it also removes mouth odor. Cinnamon contains hydroxychalcone which helps to improve appetite.
  • Ginger Juice is a good home remedy to regain your lost appetite. Ginger has a bitter taste in itself. But when added to honey and lemon it can be easily given to kids as the taste enhances. This is a very effective method to boost appetite. It should be given empty stomach to cure indigestion and poor appetite.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: May 4, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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