Anxiety and Loss of Appetite

Anxiety and Loss of Appetite

Sharing is caring!

Image of girl with anxiety and no appetite
Drawing by Britney Bartels, MS, RDN, LD

By Britney Bartels, MS, RDN, LD

Do you suffer from anxiety and have no appetite?

For some people, loss of appetite is a symptom of anxiety. The following article is my belief on why this happens and also what you can do. 

Jump to what you can do here.

Hormones. The body needs energy from food every day. Hormones tell your brain when the body needs energy, signaling the feeling of hunger. The opposite of hunger, which is fullness, is signaled by more hormones.

Why would being anxious stop you from consuming energy?

The amount of these hunger and fullness hormones effect your appetite. Like many hormones, they have other jobs in the body. Hunger hormones play a part in the reward or motivation signals in your brain. Further studies are needed, but these signals are linked to stress, anxiety and depression.

What is known is that anxiety is related to the number of hormones in the body that effect appetite. Chronic stress and the levels of these hormones are being further studied. Because everyone has different levels of these hormones, not everyone is effected in the same way by anxiety.

With this in mind, the more often you have anxiety, the more out of balance your hormones can become. For example, hormones produced when you are in danger, stress hormones, cause your body to focus on sending energy in the body to parts that will help your survive. Think of increased heart rate that helps pump blood to your muscles so you can fight or flee. Do you feel your heart race, breathing speed up, or muscles tense with anxiety?

Warning! The Following Image Contains a Scary Bear That May be Stressful for Some Viewers

Bear and person. Example of fight, flight, freeze scenario.
Drawing by Britney Bartels, MS, RDN, LD

What your body doesn’t need to do in times of danger, is stop to eat or use the restroom. 

With anxiety, your body doesn’t realize your stress is not from a hungry bear. It will send less energy to your gut for digestion, which is why some people experience nausea, indigestion, constipation and other side effects that reduce appetite. The longer you feel anxious the longer your body is in this state.

Why should you be concerned about not eating? 

Your body needs nutrition daily. Remember, your body needs energy from food to perform functions of life, such as breathing. Lack of nutrition will only make you feel worse over time. For example, magnesium from food helps our body and mind relax. Lack of magnesium in your diet from poor appetite could make anxiety worse with insomnia.

Food sources of Magnesium

Image of magnesium sources, yogurt, beans, leafy greens and whole grains.
Drawing by Britney Bartels, MS, RDN, LD

Another example how nutrition is important is how it effects your brain. Carbohydrates from food fuel your brain. When your brain is lacking this source of energy, it is unable to function well, leading to confusion, memory loss, and brain fog. Low blood sugar is also related to lack of food and can make it more difficult for you to handle stress, making even small problems seem impossible.

What Can You Do About Loss of Appetite?

  • Set an alarm on your phone for meals and snack times.
  • Choose times that fit into your schedule and allow you to eat every 3-4 hours.
  • Eat your first meal within 1-2 hours of waking up.
  • Have your last meal or snack no less than 2 hours before bed.
  • If nausea is a problem, start with liquids, e.g. soup, milk, juice, smoothies, and shakes.
  • Once you can take solid foods, work to include all five food groups daily.
Five food groups. Dairy/dairy alternative, grains, vegetables, fruit, protein.
Drawing by Britney Bartels, MS, RDN, LD
  • Add probiotic foods to your diet, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, buttermilk, or kombucha.ย 
  • Take a daily multivitamin until you are eating steady meals, that include a variety of nutrients.ย 
  • Stop using the alarm when your meal times are habit.

Thank you for taking the time to read my tips for anxiety and loss of appetite. If you suffer from loss of appetite I hope this information can help you live a healthier life with anxiety. I also want to encourage you to treat anxiety as you would any illness; talk to your doctor. There are many types of therapy and treatment options available. Sign up for email alerts to be notified of future articles for nutrition tips by me.

For more information, please visit my Resources page, where I have cited studies on this topic.

8 thoughts on “Anxiety and Loss of Appetite”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *