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What's Causing My Loss of Appetite and Nausea?

Overview

Loss of appetite happens when you lose the desire to eat at your typical mealtimes. When this happens, the idea of eating food becomes unappealing. In some cases, you may also experience nausea. Nausea occurs when you feel uneasy or sick to your stomach, as if you might vomit.

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Causes

What causes loss of appetite and nausea?

Loss of appetite and nausea can occur together when you’ve eaten something that doesn’t agree with your stomach. When this happens, symptoms typically subside quickly. But in some cases, loss of appetite and nausea can signal a more serious condition.

Causes involving infection and inflammation include:

Causes involving gastrointestinal factors include:

  • intestinal blockages

Causes involving cancer include:

Psychological factors can also contribute to headache and loss of appetite. These include:

Additional health conditions that can cause loss of appetite and nausea include:

Certain medications, such as some antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs, can also cause loss of appetite and nausea.

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See your doctor

When should you seek medical help?

Seek medical attention immediately if you experience loss of appetite and nausea accompanied by chest pain, blurred vision, weakness, loss of sensation in your body, or confusion. These symptoms could indicate a heart attack or stroke.

You should also seek immediate medical help if your loss of appetite and nausea are accompanied by:

  • symptoms of dehydration, such as low urine output, dry mouth, increased thirst, lethargy, and dizziness
  • a fever greater than 100.3°F (38°C)
  • the inability to eat or drink for more than 12 hours
  • the smell of feces on your breath
  • severe abdominal pain
  • severe headache
  • neck stiffness

This information is a summary. Always seek medical attention if you’re concerned that you may be experiencing a medical emergency.

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Treatment

How are loss of appetite and nausea treated?

Your doctor will address your symptoms by trying to diagnose and treat the underlying cause of your loss of appetite and nausea. For example, they may recommend:

  • changes to your medication routine, if your loss of appetite and nausea are related to certain medications that you take
  • starting an intravenous (IV) line to replenish your fluids if your symptoms are linked to dehydration
  • surgery or blood thinning medications if your symptoms are caused by a heart attack or stroke

Ask your doctor for more information about your specific diagnosis and treatment options.

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Home care

How can you treat loss of appetite and nausea at home?

If your loss of appetite and nausea are caused by mild dehydration, taking small sips of clear fluids or beverages containing electrolytes may help relieve your symptoms.

If they’re are caused by stress or anxiety, it may help to take a walk, conduct rhythmic breathing exercises, or practice other stress-relief strategies.

Certain foods may also help settle your stomach, including:

  • broth
  • cereal
  • crackers
  • plain toast
  • plain rice
  • ginger

Avoiding fatty, spicy, high-fiber, or raw foods until your symptoms subside may also help.

If your symptoms persist or recur regularly, make an appointment with your doctor. You might have an underlying medical condition that requires treatment. If left untreated, prolonged loss of appetite can lead to poor nutrition.

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Prevention

How can you prevent loss of appetite and nausea?

Some causes of loss of appetite and nausea are difficult prevent. But you can take steps to avoid other causes. For example:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids can help prevent dehydration.
  • Staying in a seated position after eating can help prevent acid reflux.

If you’re prone to loss of appetite and nausea, eating small meals throughout the day may help you maintain your appetite and ward off uncomfortable stomach symptoms. Eating cold or room-temperature foods may also help, since they don’t smell as strongly as hot foods.

If you experience loss of appetite and nausea related to pregnancy, adjusting your daily diet or eating schedule may help alleviate your symptoms. For example, try eating a few plain crackers before getting up in the morning.

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