Various factors — such as stress, increased activity, and certain medical conditions — can cause an elevated appetite. In females, low estrogen can play a role.
Increased appetite is not always a cause for concern. However, it can be a sign of some medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes.
Once people receive a diagnosis, they can begin management and treatment, which
This article discusses the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of an increased appetite and explains when it is not a problem.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
An increased appetite may be a symptom of various conditions, or it may relate to other factors.
Although symptoms occur quickly in type 1 diabetes, they develop
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland makes more thyroid hormones than a person needs. This increases a person’s appetite. However, despite this effect, the condition results in weight loss.
Other symptoms include nervousness, a fast heartbeat, and frequent bowel movements.
People with both depression and obesity have a higher risk of developing a worsening of depression symptoms. Therefore, it is important to treat depression symptoms in order to manage appetite.
A 2021 study reports that approximately
Some people with this condition experience increased appetite.
Increased appetite is a common symptom people experience when they quit smoking.
The absence of nicotine can cause a person’s sense of taste and smell to return to normal, which makes eating more enjoyable. Additionally, nicotine is an appetite suppressant, so stopping smoking can cause a person’s appetite to increase.
Consequently, stages of a female’s life that associate with reduced estradiol have a link to increased appetite and weight gain. These include:
- Adolescence: This is the period between puberty and adulthood.
- Pregnancy: It is normal for a person to have an increased appetite during pregnancy as their daily calorie needs increase.
- Perimenopause: This period is when a female’s body makes the natural transition to menopause.
- Menopause: This is the time in the life of a female that begins
12 monthsafter the last menstrual cycle.
A doctor bases a diagnosis on a medical history and exam, which includes asking about all medications a person takes and their co-occurring symptoms.
The diagnostic process involves blood tests and, depending on the suspected condition, imaging and other tests.
Treatment and management depend on the underlying cause of increased appetite. The below interventions provide a general idea of treatment approaches:
- Diabetes: Treatment for this may
includedietary recommendations and encouragement to stop smoking, but medications may also be necessary.
- Hyperthyroidism: This may
requiremedications, surgery, or radioiodine therapy, which slowly destroys thyroid gland cells.
- Depression or insomnia: Early interventions may include getting regular exercise as this improves mood and sleep. However, some people may need medications or other treatments.
- Quitting smoking: Management of an increased appetite resulting from quitting smoking may entail keeping healthy snacks — such as carrot and celery sticks — on hand.
An increased appetite is not always a problem. For instance, exercise stimulates the drive to eat due to the higher energy expenditure.
Sometimes a doctor may prescribe a steroid for a person to take only for a limited time. When this is the case, the increased appetite is merely a side effect that will disappear once a person finishes their prescription.
That said, if an individual takes steroids long-term and they experience an increased appetite, they should discuss it with a doctor.
Since other medications may also increase appetite, anyone who experiences this symptom after starting on a new prescription should report it to their doctor.
When an increased appetite persists over time, a person should contact a doctor. This is especially true if other symptoms co-occur or if it results in weight gain.
Because an increased appetite is a symptom that may indicate the presence of a condition that needs treatment, it is important to get medical attention.
Causes of an increased appetite include diabetes, hyperthyroidism, depression, post-COVID-19 syndrome, insomnia, and quitting smoking. A diagnosis involves a history, exam, blood tests, and possibly imaging and other tests.
Sometimes, an increased appetite does not indicate a problem. It may happen in response to exercise, or it may be a side effect of medication that is only necessary to take short-term.
When treatment is necessary, the goal is to manage the underlying condition.