Loss of appetite: When the desire for food disappears


If the appetite is missing, the body is often in crisis. What are the causes of loss of appetite and when is a doctor’s visit advisable?

“That hit me on the stomach.” or “I lost my appetite.” Everyone knows the connection between appetite and psyche. Sometimes it’s a quarrel that spoils your appetite. Stress in the job, problems in the relationship or another mental stress situation can also reduce the need for food intake. Even in old age there is often a lack of desire for food and a reduced feeling of thirst.

What is loss of appetite?

For those who do not feel like eating for a long time and who unwillingly lose weight should take it seriously. Both points to various diseases. Triggers are usually either somatic (physical) or mental illness. However, there are other causes for the lack of hunger.


Varied causes of loss of appetite

A symptom – numerous triggers. Especially with loss of appetite, the cause is sometimes difficult, because there are many possible triggers for loss of appetite. First and foremost, there are mental factors, but underlying diseases, medications or vitamin deficiencies can also be considered.

Psychic triggers

  • Mental stress: Especially in psychologically difficult situations, it is not uncommon that the appetite disappears. The pressure in the work is again too big, all tasks are best done at the same time? Then the desire for food often falls by the wayside. The same applies in the private sector. Problems in the relationship? Lovesickness? This also often hits the stomach.
  • Depression : The desire to eat can also be lost in the wake of serious mental illnesses. Depression is often associated with a lack of food intake. Added to lack of drive, concentration problems, a depressed mood and sleep disorders.
  • Anorexia (anorexia) : sufferers refuse to eat because they are very afraid of gaining weight. As a result, they are losing weight.

Physical causes

Loss of appetite is a symptom behind which very different clinical pictures can be found. First and foremost, these include diseases in the gastrointestinal tract and acute gastrointestinal infections. Kidney diseases or metabolic disorders as well as vitamin deficiencies (vitamin B, vitamin C) also lead to those affected do not feel like eating. Last but not least, little appetite can be linked to excessive consumption of alcohol and nicotine.

Gastrointestinal disorders

In addition to a lack of appetite, more symptoms often occur in the following diseases:

  • Irritable stomach : regurgitation, pain in upper abdomen, feeling of fullness, sometimes nausea, vomiting and flatulence
  • Gastritis : upper abdominal pain, belching, nausea or vomiting
  • Gastric ulcer : weight loss, upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or vomiting and tarry stools
  • Stomach cancer: weight loss, pressure and fullness, new aversion to meat or alcohol, fatigue, nausea

Intestinal diseases or parasitic infestations in the intestinal area

Typical additional symptoms in addition to the reluctance to eat are the following diseases:

  • Irritable bowel: flatulence, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, abdominal cramps
  • Appendicitis (appendicitis) : Acute, rapidly increasing abdominal pain, first in the entire abdomen, then in the right lower abdomen (pressure pain!); Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, sometimes fever
  • Celiac Disease : Young people often suffer from gluten intolerance. Typical: diarrhea, distended stomach, loss of appetite, fatty stools, diffuse abdominal pain.
  • Duodenal ulcer: weight loss in combination with loss of appetite, pain in the upper abdomen and in the right middle abdomen; Improvement of pain after eating; Nausea and vomiting; sometimes vomiting blood, tarry stool
  • Infection with parasites; for example, tapeworm infestation: weight loss, sometimes cravings, weakness, moderate abdominal pain; Partly vomiting and rash.

Other reasons for loss of appetite

  • High age
  • Side effect of certain medications or therapies (for example antibiotics or chemotherapy)
  • Acute or chronic infections of various kinds
  • Hepatitis A , Hepatitis B
  • Pancreatitis, gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis)
  • Chronic renal insufficiency
  • Heart failure (heart failure)
  • Metabolic Derailment in Diabetes Mellitus (Ketoacidosis)

Loss of appetite – when to go to the doctor better

In case of persistent or inexplicable loss of appetite and severe weight loss , a doctor should be consulted to clarify the causes. If these are known, you can take countermeasures. This is especially true when a sudden aversion to certain foods, such as meat developed. Or also, if at the same time other symptoms such as abdominal pain, stomach pain, nausea or fatigue occur.

The doctor will perform various examinations. In the first place is a detailed anamnesis interview. The doctor needs as much information as possible.

  • Since when does the loss of appetite last?
  • How much weight have you lost? Is a weight loss desired?
  • What is your professional and private situation – is there currently a heavy burden?
  • What does your diet look like?
  • Is the lack of appetite accompanied by additional symptoms?
  • Are there known underlying diseases?
  • Do you take certain medications?

Depending on which direction the first suspicion is, further investigations follow, such as:

  • Collection of different laboratory values ​​(blood test)
  • Urine and / or stool sample
  • Test for food intolerance
  • ultrasound
  • Computed Tomography
  • X-ray
  • gastroscopy
  • colonoscopy

Therapy: treat loss of appetite properly

If the loss of appetite is a symptom of a certain disease, the doctor initially treats the underlying disease. In case of gastritis, he will treat the gastritis according to common treatment standards. If a mental illness is behind the lack of appetite, psychotherapy – possibly in conjunction with a drug treatment – is the drug of choice. It is important that the disease is diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist.

If loss of appetite occurs as a side effect of certain medications, switching to another supplement may bring back the appetite for eating. Here it is important to plan and carry out the change of medication together with the attending physician. Sometimes it is already helpful to question your own lifestyle and nutritional style and adjust it if necessary.

What to do if there is a lack of appetite with no apparent cause?

If none of the above triggers apply, the following tips may help to get you started again:

  • The appetite comes with the food. It can help to cook with friends or to take time for the preparation and the food itself. Serve the meals appetizing and try something new more often.
  • It is better to eat several small portions throughout the day than to take three large meals.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks before eating as they will easily saturate. On the other hand, grapefruit juice has an appetizing effect.
  • Alcohol and nicotine reduce appetite.
  • Not everyone can handle everything well. Anyone who knows which foods he can not tolerate can easily avoid them.
  • Avoid spicy, very spicy or flatulent foods.
  • Move a lot in the fresh air.
  • When stress-reducing helps yoga or meditation .

Who wants to stimulate his appetite targeted, can also fall back on different preparations, herbs or teas. Here are some proven ways to increase your appetite:

  • Herbs such as basil, thyme, curry or ginger
  • Herbal active ingredients (for example in teas) such as gentian, yarrow, centaury or wormwood, Codurango bark, lemon balm, peppermint
  • Preparations based on antihistamines (ketotifen) or hormones (progestins)