- Diabetes can cause a range of symptoms, including increased thirst, increased hunger, unintentional weight loss, and blurry vision.
- Loss of appetite is not a common symptom of diabetes.
- Other conditions, some of which are related to diabetes, can cause loss of appetite in people with diabetes.
An estimated 37.3 million people in the United States have diabetes, including an estimated 8.5 million people suspected to be living with this condition with no diagnosis. Diabetes can cause an array of symptoms, including increased urination, increased thirst and hunger, unintentional weight loss, and even gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, like constipation, diarrhea, and bloating.
Though loss of appetite is not a symptom of diabetes, it can arise as a result of other conditions, some of which may be complications of diabetes. In this article, you’ll learn more about what to do if you experience loss of appetite if you have diabetes and when to reach out for help.
Nourish offers personalized nutrition counseling to help you customize your diet to meet your diabetes needs. If you’re ready to take the next step in your health, consider booking a virtual appointment with a registered dietitian.
Symptoms of Diabetes
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes usually take years to develop and most often occur in adults. The most common symptoms include:
- Frequent or increased urination (usually at night).
- Increased thirst and/or hunger.
- Unintentional weight loss.
- Blurred vision.
- Tingling of hands and feet.
- Dry skin.
- Slow-healing sores.
- Increased frequency of infections.
People with type 1 diabetes can experience similar symptoms, but they usually come on more suddenly and occur in children, teens, and young adults.
People with type 1 diabetes are also more likely to experience GI symptoms from the start, including nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. If you recognize these signs, consult your medical provider promptly.
Does Diabetes Cause Loss of Appetite?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes does not cause loss of appetite.
However, people who experience GI distress as a result of diabetes like nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain may temporarily lose their appetite while they’re experiencing symptoms. Other conditions, including complications of diabetes like gastroparesis, may also cause loss of appetite.
How to Eat with Appetite Loss
Managing your blood sugar levels is important when you have diabetes, and eating regular, balanced meals can help to ensure that your blood sugar levels remain stable. But if you experience appetite loss and stop eating according to your regular schedule, it can lower your blood sugar. When left untreated, low blood sugar can pose serious risks to your health.
However, there are some strategies you can implement to help you eat when you experience appetite loss:
- Try eating smaller snacks or meals throughout the day.
- Consider drinking a liquid meal or smoothie in place of solid foods.
- If blander foods are more appealing to you, consider swapping richer dishes for simpler alternatives, like toast, bananas, or rice.
- Prioritize foods that you enjoy and that incentivize you to eat.
- Ask your healthcare provider if any medications you’re currently taking could be causing your loss of appetite.
For more help on eating with appetite loss, Nourish can connect you with a registered dietitian specialized in food and nutrition management. Consider booking a virtual appointment today to ensure you are meeting your nutritional needs
Possible Causes of Appetite Loss
There are several possible causes of appetite loss, including infection, chronic conditions (some of which are a complication of diabetes), age, and psychological factors.
Infection is a common cause of appetite loss. Possible infections that can cause loss of appetite include:
- Bacterial infections (including campylobacter, E. coli, listeria, norovirus, and salmonella).
- Viral infections (including the flu, viral hepatitis, and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV).
Long-term health condition
Long-term or chronic conditions can also cause loss of appetite, including:
- Gastroparesis: Gastroparesis is a disorder that can affect people with diabetes. It causes movement in the stomach and small intestine to slow down or stop completely, which can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and difficulty managing blood sugar levels.
- Cancer: Some cancer treatments can cause a loss of appetite or change the way food tastes or smells. As a result, some people undergoing cancer treatment may struggle to get the nutrition they need through food.
- HIV: Some HIV medications can also cause loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, or make it difficult to eat or swallow food. People with advanced HIV can also be at risk for HIV wasting syndrome, which is marked by significant weight loss and loss of appetite.
- Dementia: The results of one study suggest that people with dementia may be more likely to experience a change in eating habits and food preferences, which may include loss of appetite. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, people with middle and late stages of Alzheimer’s may experience a change in eating behavior as a result of challenges with communicating, forgetting to eat, or thinking that they have already eaten.
Loss of appetite can occur in people of advanced age, including those living in care homes and as hospital inpatients. An estimated 15-30% of older people may experience loss of appetite, or what is sometimes referred to as “anorexia of aging.” Possible causes of appetite loss in older people include changes to their digestive system, hormonal changes, changes to their sense of taste and smell, as well as a decreased need for energy as they age.
Several psychological factors and conditions can also cause loss of appetite, including:
- Eating disorders or disordered eating behaviors: Some research shows that diabetes is associated with higher rates of disordered eating behaviors and eating disorders.
- Depression: Depression is a common mood disorder that can impact a person’s quality of life. Though specific symptoms can vary from person-to-person, many people with depression will experience a change in their appetite, including loss of appetite or unplanned weight changes.
- Stress: Everyone processes stress differently, but research shows that loss of appetite and the suppression of food intake is a common occurrence in a typical stress response. One review suggests that acute stress (or stress experienced infrequently and in the moment) is more likely to lead to a loss of appetite, whereas chronic stress (or stress experienced on a regular basis) is more likely to result in overeating.
- Grief: Grief is a psychological response that can occur in response to a loss of a loved one, loss of employment, or other traumatic event. People respond to grief differently, but one common reaction includes loss of appetite.
Managing Diabetes with an Dietitian
Not everyone with diabetes will have the same symptoms.
If you’re experiencing loss of appetite, it’s important to reach out to your healthcare provider to identify the underlying cause. You may also want to consider working with a diabetes nutritionist who can help you identify foods that will help you overcome your loss of appetite, satisfy your tastes, and support your overall health.
Book an appointment with Nourish and see a registered dietitian through your insurance.
Frequently Asked Questions
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