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Lack of appetite: 5 main causes and what to do

Lack of appetite usually does not represent any health problem, as nutritional needs vary from person to person, as well as their eating habits and lifestyle, which directly influence appetite.

However, when lack of appetite is accompanied by other symptoms such as rapid weight loss and diarrhea, for example, it is important to seek medical attention so that the cause of loss of appetite is identified and appropriate treatment initiated. 

In this way, it is possible to avoid possible complications such as hormonal changes due to lack of nutrients and malnutrition. Understand the health consequences of malnutrition.

The main causes for lack of appetite can be: 

1. Emotional or psychological problems 

Depression and anxiety, for example, can decrease a person's appetite and can even result in weight loss and intestinal problems.

In addition to these psychological disorders, anorexia is considered one of the main causes of loss of appetite, because the person feels very overweight and is afraid to eat, which makes the appetite decrease.

What to do: The best option is to seek help from a psychologist or psychiatrist so that depression, anxiety, anorexia or other psychological problems can be identified and treated. In addition, it is important that the person follow up with a nutritionist so that a diet according to their nutritional needs is indicated.

2. Infections

Most infections, whether bacterial, viral or parasitic, have a lack of appetite and, in some cases, gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and abdominal pain, in addition to fever, nausea and vomiting.

What to do: when there are symptoms related to infectious diseases, it is important to go to the infectologist or general practitioner for tests to be performed, identifying the cause of the infection and thus starting the most appropriate treatment for the case, which may include the use of antibiotics or antivirals, for example.

3. Chronic diseases

Chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer can present as symptoms of loss of appetite. 

In the case of cancer specifically, in addition to lack of appetite, there is rapid weight loss without an apparent cause and changes in urine. 

What to do: It is important to seek guidance from the general practitioner if any chronic disease is suspected. Thus, it is possible to identify the cause of loss of appetite and start the appropriate treatment, avoiding complications and restoring the person's desire to eat and health.

4. Use of medications

Some drugs such as fluoxetine, tramadol and liraglutide have the side effect of decreasing appetite, which usually passes after the drug's adaptation phase, which is not serious, unless other symptoms arise that may interfere with quality of life of the person such as sleep disorders and headaches, for example.

What to do: if the loss of appetite is related to the use of medication and interferes with daily activities, it is important that this is communicated to the treating physician to assess the possibility of replacing the medication with another one that does not have this side effect.

5. Abuse of legal and illegal drugs

Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and other drugs can also interfere with appetite, reducing it and even eliminating it completely, in addition to causing other health complications, such as chemical dependency and the development of psychological disorders.

What to do: the best solution for these cases is to reduce or avoid the consumption of these substances, as in addition to regulating appetite, it prevents diseases such as hepatic steatosis, lung cancer and depression, for example. 

-when to go to the doctor

If the lack of appetite is associated with other symptoms, especially rapid weight loss, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and diarrhea, it is important to seek medical attention, as this condition can lead to severe malnutrition and dehydration. 

To investigate the cause of lack of appetite, the doctor may indicate tests such as complete blood count, lipid panel, blood glucose level and C-reactive protein (CRP), for example.

In addition, it is very important for the person to seek guidance from a nutritionist after the diagnosis has ruled out diseases and infections, so that through a complete nutritional assessment, the necessary nutrients can be provided for the return of the proper functioning of the body, which in some cases may indicate the use of food supplements.

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