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Loss of Appetite in Children, Adolescents and Adults — Reasons, How to Deal With It?

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Loss of appetite leads to weight loss and causes deficiencies of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates. So, we should always consult a doctor if observe it. It may sometimes also lead to reduced consumptions of fluids and dehydration.

What to Do for Reduced Appetite?

The first step if loss of appetite persists for 2 to 3 days should be to refer to your family doctor to determine the cause by conducting medical tests. Long-term loss of appetite is a threat to the body, therefore, eating disorders that can occur in people of all ages should not be underestimated. It is especially dangerous for infants, young children, the chronically ill and seniors, because it leads to a rapid weakening of the body, resulting in weak immunity.

There are different reasons, however, sometimes it may result from increased consumption of snacks, sweets and sweet juices. Each portion of food and drinks consumed should be recorded. Taking a note of each meal, snack, and portion of a drink can help you find the cause yourself.

Reduced hunger is a symptom of many diseases too, including eating disorders that may develop as a result of chronic stress, fatigue, emotional disorders, and problems with the digestive system. Eating disorders can also be caused by medications and the use of stimulants, such as smoking and alcohol abuse.

When Should You Worry?

Changes in hunger pattern can also be caused by high ambient temperature. If you do not feel to eat during hot weather, you should take care to increase the amount of fluids consumed and often reach for fruits, fruit and vegetable cocktails and fermented milk drinks. Anorexia often occurs along with other symptoms. This includes general weakness, a feeling of breakdown, abdominal pain, respiratory ailments such as runny nose and cough. These symptoms indicate viral or bacterial infections.

Reduced hunger is one of the common symptoms of colds, flu, and gastrointestinal diseases such as rotavirus infections. If it persists for an extended period of time and is not accompanied by other symptoms, then you have serious cause of concern. As prolonged symptoms may indicate developing gastrointestinal diseases, food allergies, and even cancer.

It should worry us if foods that we like, stop tempting us and when reluctance to eat is accompanied by a sudden weight loss, as well as:

  • Gagging when trying to eat a meal
  • Stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Swallowing problems
  • Taste disturbance
  • Sour or bitter taste in mouth
  • Disorders of secretion of saliva
  • Other digestive ailments (constipation, diarrhea, vomiting after eating a meal)

Causes of Reduced Appetite in Infants and Young Children

Loss of appetite in infants and young children is always an indication for a visit to a paediatrician. It can be caused by rhinitis, which in the case of infants significantly reduces the possibility of free sucking from the breast and taking food from the bottle, developing infection, food allergy and food intolerance, as well as serious diseases. Continuous monitoring of weight loss is essential in the case of reduced appetite in infants. If the child is gaining weight, it is worth looking at the number of snacks given to them and the portion of milk they receive between the meals.

Young children often refuse to eat, which may be related different stages of child growth, as well as imitating the behaviour of older siblings and peers from the preschool group. Children may also develop nutritional neophobia — which is an aversion to new foods.

It is worth knowing that forcing the child to eat, as well as constantly running after them with meals and snacks, can be counterproductive because the child, noticing the interest of the environment, starts to take advantage of the situation. Both in the case of infants and young children, the loss of appetite must be consulted with a doctor. It is also necessary to perform tests that will allow to detect possible pathological causes of eating problems.

Possible Causes of Loss of Appetite in Adolescents

School stress, failures, love competitions, bullying by peers, as well as the lack of acceptance by the environment significantly affect the child's appetite. An appetite disorder caused by stress is also indicated by nagging abdominal pain, which occurs, for example, before going to school.

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It is important to be vigilant when a teenager suddenly changes their eating habits, start dieting and is dissatisfied with the appearance of body. Avoiding meals may indicate the onset of anorexia.

If sudden change in behavior, e.g. low mood and isolation from peers is observed, a psychological consultation may be necessary because eating problems may be associated with emotions.

Possible Causes of Loss of Appetite in Adults

Anorexia in adults is mainly caused by stressful situations and diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, such as gastroesophageal reflux, gastritis and irritable bowel syndrome. In case of the adult who leads an stressful lifestyle, a decrease in appetite may also be associated with mental and physical exhaustion, neurotic disorders, gastric and duodenal ulcers.

Decreased appetite may also be related to dietary mistakes and the use of stimulants that may cause taste disturbances. It may also happen due to monotonous diet and the lack of willingness to prepare meals on one's own.

Everyday eating habits are also important. If we reach for sweet snacks, carbonated drinks, sweet juices, and energy drinks, we do not want a wholesome meal, because our body requires more simple sugar-rich foods.

Likewise, the abuse of nicotine and alcohol, as well as other stimulants, have a similar effect. In adults, it often results from a depressed mood and emotional disorders that may occur as a result of, for example, separation, relationship and professional problems, stress from work and typical problems of everyday life.

Moreover, sudden lack of appetite can cause disorders of the central nervous system and thyroid gland. It is worth paying attention to the situations in which appetite problems arise. The decreased appetite in adults should be an alarming signal. If it persists for a long time and causes weight loss, then it is necessary to undergo a check-up.

Causes of Appetite Loss in Seniors

Older people often suffer from anorexia. In seniors, as a result of it, the body weakens and the symptoms of other diseases typical of old age intensify. Why do the elderly refuse to eat? There are many reasons. The common ones include:

  • Slow intestinal movement
  • Taking a lot of medication
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Emotional disorders related to the feeling of loneliness and social exclusion
  • Taste disturbance
  • Diseases of organs and body systems
  • Problems with chewing food
  • Swallowing problems

Anorexia in old age is quite often a side effect of emotional disorders, depressed mood and disturbances in the sense of taste. Lack of appetite in the elderly is not the only problem. As a result of slow metabolism, disturbances in the functioning of the body and changes in the central nervous system, which are related to the natural aging processes. Seniors often experience annoying symptoms of the gastrointestinal disturbance such as, stomach tightness and abdominal pain.

How to improve appetite?

Before we start using methods to improve appetite, tests must be performed to detect the cause. Proven methods to increase appetite include the use of herbal syrups available in pharmacies and herbal stores, which not only improve the appetite, but also improve the functioning of the digestive system.

It is also worth changing your eating habits by eating smaller portions of easily digestible, well-balanced meals more often. The meals should not only be varied in terms of composition, but also aesthetically served, which has positive impact on the brain.

The appetite is also positively influenced by outdoor activities, physical activity and joint preparation of meals. Semi-liquid diets can help seniors which eliminate the problem with chewing and swallowing.

© 2022 Hamza Hussaini

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