Loss of appetite and tiredness are symptoms that commonly occur together. A loss of appetite will cause a person to eat less, and this can result in reduced energy levels and tiredness.
In most cases, appetite loss and tiredness are the result of a minor illness or a change to a person’s diet or sleep routine. However, persistent appetite loss and tiredness may signal an underlying health problem that requires treatment.
In this article, we outline 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, we offer advice on when to see 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
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 such inflammation in these areas is viral gastroenteritis. Most cases of viral gastroenteritis are due to norovirus infection.
People who develop gastroenteritis may experience fatigue and a loss of appetite. Other symptoms typically include:
- a headache
- body aches
Most of the time, GI viruses are short-lived. If gastroenteritis is due to norovirus, it should go away on its own within 1–3 days. In the meantime, people should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
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 can cause nausea and a loss of appetite.
Common symptoms of seasonal allergies include:
- a runny nose with clear discharge
- itchy eyes, nose, or throat
People who experience tiredness or appetite loss as a result of allergies or antihistamine use should talk to their doctor for advice on how to manage 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 cramps
- constipation or diarrhea
- reduced tolerance to noise or light
- 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 see a doctor to discuss possible treatment options.
The symptoms of depression can manifest in various ways for different people. In some people, depression can cause tiredness and a loss of interest in food. Other symptoms may include:
- feelings of sadness or emptiness
- feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- feelings of anger or irritability
- difficulty focusing or remembering
- loss of interest in life
- behaving recklessly
- sleep changes
- weight loss or weight gain
- unexplained aches and pains
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
- mood changes
Women who suspect that they might be 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 4 million adults in the United States.
Fibromyalgia can affect various body systems, including the digestive system. Some digestive symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- loss of appetite
- abdominal pain
Fibromyalgia may also cause:
- sleep problems
- difficulty thinking or concentrating
- tingling in the hands or feet
Fibromyalgia can seriously interfere with a person’s day-to-day life. In severe cases, the condition can lead to major depression or even suicide. People should see a doctor if they believe that they have fibromyalgia. Treatment options are available to help manage the condition.
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.
Some potential 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 see their doctor for a diagnosis and treatment to help manage the condition.
The following medications can cause side effects that include tiredness and a loss of appetite:
- medications to control blood pressure
- proton pump inhibitors
- cold and flu medications
- opioid pain relievers, such as codeine, oxycodone, and morphine
- sleep aids
People who experience side effects while taking a medication should talk to a doctor. The doctor may recommend lowering the dosage of the medication or switching to an alternative.
It is important never to 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 7–9 hours per night. People may be able to improve the quality of their sleep by:
- sticking to a regular sleep schedule
- developing and maintaining a relaxing bedtime routine, which may involve reading or having a hot bath
- ensuring a relaxing sleep environment that is dark, quiet, and cool
- avoiding caffeine and other stimulants close to bedtime
Drink plenty of water
Dehydration can lead to decreased energy levels and feelings of fatigue. It is a good idea to take regular drinks of water throughout the day.
Eat a healthful, balanced diet
High sugar foods can cause spikes in blood glucose levels, which lead to reduced energy levels and tiredness. Opting for healthful, unprocessed foods that are free of added sugars can help keep energy levels constant.
Focus on stress management
Stress can lead to digestive issues, sleeping difficulties, and fatigue. Stress may also exacerbate underlying health conditions, such as depression, fibromyalgia, and Crohn’s disease. The following activities may help a person manage their stress levels:
- regular exercise
- talking therapy
Short term appetite changes and tiredness are not usually a cause for concern. These symptoms may occur as a result of a minor illness or be due to a change in the diet or sleep habits.
However, a person should see a doctor if they:
- experience persistent appetite loss or tiredness that does not improve in response to altering the diet or getting better quality sleep
- experience appetite loss or tiredness after starting a new medication
- have 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 see 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 see a doctor if their symptoms persist despite beneficial changes to their diet or sleep routine.
People should also see a doctor if they have a child or infant who is showing signs of tiredness or appetite loss. In either case, a doctor will work to diagnose the cause of the symptoms and provide appropriate treatments.