COVID-19: Loss of Appetite
Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team
- COVID-19 can cause a loss of appetite due to several common COVID-19 symptoms.
- There are several strategies you can use to regain your appetite.
- If loss of appetite is accompanied by other symptoms, you may need to consult a healthcare provider.
- The duration of loss of appetite can vary depending on the severity of your COVID-19 illness.
Loss of appetite is a common symptom experienced by many individuals during various illnesses, and COVID-19 is no exception. In this article, we delve into the connection between COVID-19 and loss of appetite, exploring its underlying causes, potential concerns, and strategies for managing this symptom during the illness and throughout recovery.
By shedding light on this symptom, we hope to help you discover ways to recover and promote well-being.
What Causes a Loss of Appetite with COVID-19?
- Viral infection. When the SARS-CoV-2 virus infects the body, it triggers an immune response. The immune system releases cytokines, which are small proteins that play a crucial role in regulating inflammation. Elevated levels of cytokines are considered to lead to appetite suppression, causing a loss of interest in food.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms. COVID-19 can affect various organs, including the gastrointestinal system. The virus can directly invade the cells lining the digestive tract, causing inflammation and gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which can further contribute to the loss of appetite.
- Loss of smell and taste. An intriguing symptom of COVID-19 is the loss of the sense of smell (anosmia) and taste (ageusia). These sensory losses can significantly impact one's desire to eat, as food may lose its appeal and become less enjoyable.
- Stress and anxiety. The stress, anxiety, and fear associated with contracting COVID-19 can psychologically impact individuals, leading to changes in eating habits. Emotional distress may suppress appetite or lead to emotional eating, resulting in fluctuations in food intake.
How do you regain an appetite after COVID-19?
When you do not get enough nutrition for a long time, it weakens your immune system and makes it harder for your body to recover from illnesses. The same goes for COVID-19; having proper nutrition is essential for recovering from the disease and feeling better overall. Therefore, it’s imperative to eat a well-balanced diet while sick and during recovery.4
These techniques may help improve your appetite and the joy of eating.4
- Focusing on senses besides taste/smell. Since COVID-19 can affect taste and smell, some people pay more attention to their other senses, like the texture of the food, to enjoy eating.
- Sticking to familiar foods. When taste and smell were affected, people preferred foods they were already familiar with, as they knew what to expect.
- Creating a pleasant eating environment. People found that the surroundings and atmosphere during meals influenced their desire to eat and enjoy the food.
- Considering the overall feeling after eating. Choosing healthy foods and sharing meals with others positively impacted their overall well-being and enjoyment of food.
It’s fine to start with smaller, nutrient-dense food or meals. With time, you may be able to begin upping the portion sizes slowly.
When should you see a doctor about appetite loss due to COVID?
A temporary decrease in appetite for a little while when sick is usually nothing to worry about. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, you should consult your doctor on next steps:5
- Long-lasting loss of appetite
- Rapid unintentional weight loss of 10+ lbs
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or weakness
- Loss of consciousness
Remember that your body signals when something is wrong, and paying attention to these symptoms and seeking medical help can help prevent further health issues. It's always better to be safe and get professional advice if you experience any concerning symptoms.
The loss of appetite is a common symptom of COVID-19, mainly due to other factors such as the body's immune response, gastrointestinal involvement, and sensory disturbances. While it may resolve on its own in mild cases, persistent or severe loss of appetite, along with other concerning symptoms, warrants medical attention.
Q: How long does a loss of appetite last with COVID-19?
A: The duration of loss of appetite with COVID-19 can vary from person to person. In mild cases, it may resolve within 1 week or 2 as the body fights off the infection and recovers. However, in some cases, loss of appetite may persist during the illness or even linger during the recovery phase.
Q: What should I do if I experience a loss of appetite from COVID?
A: It's essential to focus on hydration and proper nutrition, even if appetite is diminished. Eating small, frequent meals, staying well-hydrated, and choosing nutrient-dense foods can help maintain energy levels and support the body's immune response.
Q: When should I be concerned about a loss of appetite with COVID?
A: You should be concerned if you are not receiving enjoyment from food or if you experience weight loss from your lack of appetite due to COVID-19.
Q: Should I force myself to eat if I’m not hungry?
A: If you have no appetite for a short time, it's okay not to force yourself to eat. If you feel sick with other symptoms like vomiting, eating may make it worse. But if loss of appetite persists or is accompanied by fatigue or shakiness, try small, nutrient-dense meals and gradually increase as you feel better.