Loss of appetite and tiredness are symptoms that commonly occur together. Causes may include cold or flu, stomach viruses, and pregnancy.
In most cases, appetite loss and tiredness result from minor illness or a change to a person’s diet or sleep routine. However, persistent appetite loss and fatigue may signal an underlying health problem that requires treatment.
A loss of appetite will cause a person to eat less, resulting in lower energy levels and fatigue.
This article outlines the potential causes of appetite loss and tiredness before providing a list of remedies that may help a person deal with these symptoms at home. Finally, it offers advice on when to consult a doctor.
A person may feel tired and have little or no appetite for several reasons. Possible causes include those below.
Cold or flu virus
A person with a common cold or the flu may feel tired and weak due to their body fighting off the viral infection. Other symptoms, such as congestion, nausea, or general discomfort, may also lead to a loss of appetite.
Different viruses are responsible for colds and the flu. However, these illnesses share some symptoms, including:
A person who has the flu may experience additional symptoms, such as:
Certain viruses cause inflammation within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the stomach and small intestine. The medical term for inflammation in these areas is viral gastroenteritis. Norovirus infections account for
People who develop gastroenteritis may experience fatigue and a loss of appetite. Other symptoms typically
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, fatigue is common among people with allergies. Seasonal allergy symptoms, such as a stuffy nose, can affect sleep, making a person feel tired throughout the day.
Drowsiness can also be a side effect of some antihistamine medications that people may take to help control their allergies. Allergies can cause excess nasal mucus to accumulate. Swallowing drainage from the nose may cause nausea and a loss of appetite.
Allergy symptoms include:
- a runny or stuffy nose
- wheezing or shortness of breath
- itchy eyes, nose, or throat
- nausea and vomiting
People who experience tiredness or appetite loss from allergies or antihistamine use should seek advice from a doctor on managing their symptoms.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) describes a group of symptoms that many people experience a week or two before their period.
The symptoms of PMS may differ among individuals, some of whom may experience tiredness and a loss of appetite.
Other potential symptoms of PMS include:
- swollen or tender breasts
- abdominal pain
- increased naps
- crying spells
- poor concentration or memory
- mood changes
In some cases, PMS symptoms may be so severe that they interfere with a person’s day-to-day activities. In such cases, it is advisable to discuss possible treatment options with a doctor.
The symptoms of depression can manifest in various ways for different people. In some cases, depression can cause tiredness and a loss of interest in food.
Other symptoms of depression include:
- disrupted sleep
- feeling especially tired or low in energy
- changes in appetite or weight
- poor concentration
- feelings of excessive guilt or low self-worth
- hopelessness about the future
- thoughts of death or suicide
- feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, or worthlessness
- feelings of anger or irritability
- difficulty focusing or remembering
- loss of interest in life
- behaving recklessly
The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can cause extreme fatigue and a loss of appetite, especially in the early weeks.
Other early signs of pregnancy include:
- a late or missed period
- breast pain or tenderness
- urinating more often than usual
- strange tastes, smells, and cravings
People who suspect that they are pregnant can take a home pregnancy test or contact a doctor.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread body pain and fatigue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fibromyalgia affects about
Fibromyalgia can seriously interfere with a person’s day-to-day life and may lead to depression. If someone believes that they have fibromyalgia, they should consult a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.
The hallmarks of Crohn’s disease include inflammation of the GI tract. The condition can involve any part of the GI tract, but it most commonly affects the last portion of the small intestine and the first part of the colon.
According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, Crohn’s disease affects an estimated 3 million people living in the U.S.
The inflammation that Crohn’s disease causes can result in various complications, including loss of appetite, reduced energy levels, and fatigue.
Other possible symptoms include:
- stomach cramps and pain
- an urgent need to empty the bowels
- a sensation of incomplete bowel emptying
- persistent diarrhea
- bleeding with bowel movements
Crohn’s disease is a long-term condition that can lead to serious health complications. A person who experiences symptoms of Crohn’s disease should consult a doctor.
The following medications may cause side effects that include tiredness and a loss of appetite:
The list above is not exhaustive. A person should discuss the possible adverse effects of any medications they are taking with the prescribing doctor.
People who experience side effects while taking a medication should talk with a doctor. The doctor may recommend lowering the dosage of the drug or switching to an alternative.
A person should never stop taking a medication unless a doctor advises it.
Below are some home remedies that may help alleviate tiredness and improve a person’s appetite.
Make sleep a priority
Getting enough sleep helps boost a person’s energy levels throughout the day. Sleep requirements vary from person to person, but most adults need
- sticking to a regular sleep schedule
- developing and maintaining a relaxing bedtime routine, which may involve reading or having a hot bath
- ensuring a comfortable sleep environment that is dark, quiet, and cool
- avoiding caffeine and other stimulants close to bedtime
Drink enough water
Dehydration can lead to decreased energy levels and feelings of fatigue. Therefore, taking regular drinks of water throughout the day is a good idea.
Eat a nutritious, balanced diet
High sugar foods can cause spikes in blood glucose levels, leading to reduced energy and tiredness. Opting for healthy, unprocessed foods free from added sugars can help keep energy levels constant.
Focus on stress management
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), stress affects all systems in the body and can have severe effects if it becomes long-term or chronic. Not addressing stress can lead to chronic fatigue, depression, and immune disorders.
The APA advises that the following strategies are beneficial for reducing stress:
- engaging in regular exercise
- maintaining a healthy social support network
- getting an adequate amount of sleep each night
People requiring additional support may wish to consult a licensed psychologist. The APA notes that these professionals can help people identify the challenges and stressors that affect their daily life and find ways to cope better.
Conditions such as Crohn’s disease, IBS, and stomach viruses may cause abdominal pain. Equally, gas and PMS can cause occasional stomach discomfort and pain.
However, if a person experiences persistent stomach pain, they should seek advice from a doctor. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation advises people who have troubling gut pain for more than a few days to schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional.
It is also important to seek medical advice if the following symptoms accompany stomach pain:
- constipation or diarrhea
- urgent bowel movements
- bloody bowel movements or blood on the toilet paper after wiping
- mucus in the stool
- the feeling of incomplete bowel movements
- nausea or vomiting
Short-term appetite changes and tiredness are not usually a cause for concern. However, these symptoms may result from illness or a change in dietary or sleep habits.
A person should consult a doctor if these symptoms:
- are persistent and do not improve in response to altering the diet or getting better quality sleep
- occur after starting a new medication
- last more than a few days, and the person has an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer
Children and infants who experience tiredness and appetite loss may have difficulty communicating how they feel. If a child seems weak and overly tired or refuses to eat, a parent or caregiver should take them to a pediatrician.
Short-term tiredness and loss of appetite are not usually a cause for concern. These symptoms may be the result of a minor illness or changes to a person’s diet or sleep routine.
However, persistent tiredness and loss of appetite may signal an underlying health condition that requires treatment. A person should consult a doctor if their symptoms persist despite them making beneficial changes to their diet or sleep routine.
Individuals who believe that stress or anxiety may be affecting their sleep or appetite can talk with a licensed psychologist or ask a doctor for advice.
People should also speak with a doctor if a child or infant in their care is showing signs of tiredness or appetite loss. In either case, a doctor will work to diagnose the cause and provide appropriate treatments.
Anyone who has stomach pain or other digestive symptoms for more than a few days should consult a doctor.