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10 possible reasons why you’re experiencing an increased appetite

Dr Gareth

Medically reviewed by Gareth James, GP, GMC, DRCOG, DFFP, MRCGP on March 28, 2023. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Check My Body Health blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Why has my appetite increased

There could be a variety of reasons why your appetite has increased. Some possible causes include hormonal changes, stress, medications, lack of sleep, boredom, depression, genetics, illness, food availability, and age. It could also be due to an underlying medical condition such as hypothyroidism, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or Cushing’s syndrome. If your increase in appetite is extreme or very rapid onset, or you have concerns you should consider consulting with a healthcare professional to determine the specific cause of your increased appetite and to develop an appropriate treatment plan. Blood tests would be a good first step to see if there are any hormonal disorders.

Causes of increased appetite

  1. Hormonal imbalances, such as those caused by thyroid disorders, can increase appetite. Increased appetite is normal in pregnancy.
  2. Stress: High levels of stress can trigger the release of the hormone cortisol, which can increase appetite.
  3. Medications: Certain medications, such as antidepressants and corticosteroids, can increase appetite.
  4. Lack of sleep: Sleep deprivation can disrupt the balance of hormones that regulate appetite, leading to an increase in hunger.
  5. Boredom: Eating can become a form of entertainment or comfort when feeling bored
  6. Depression: People with depression may turn to food as a source of comfort, leading to an increase in appetite.
  7. Genetics: Some studies suggest that certain genetic variations may make some people more susceptible to increased appetite.
  8. Illness: Certain illnesses such as cancer, HIV, and diabetes can increase appetite.
  9. Food availability: Having a constant access to food and being surrounded by tempting foods can make it more difficult to resist eating.
  10. Age: As people age, their metabolism slows down, which can cause an increase in appetite.

What health conditions are related to an increased appetite?

There are several health conditions that can be related to an increased appetite. Some examples include:

  1. Hypothyroidism: An underactive thyroid gland can lead to a decrease in metabolism, which can result in an increase in appetite.
  2. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Hormonal imbalances in women with PCOS can lead to an increase in appetite.
  3. Cushing’s syndrome: A condition in which the body produces too much cortisol, which can increase appetite.
  4. Diabetes: High blood sugar levels can lead to an increase in appetite.
  5. Cancer: Certain types of cancer, such as stomach and lung cancer, can cause an increase in appetite.
  6. HIV/AIDS: The virus can cause changes in metabolism and hormone levels, leading to an increase in appetite.
  7. Depression and Anxiety: People with depression and anxiety may turn to food as a source of comfort, leading to an increase in appetite.
  8. Prader-Willi syndrome: A genetic disorder that causes insatiable hunger
  9. Other conditions such as neurological disorders and certain medications, can also cause an increase in appetite.

Seeking medical care for increased appetite

If your increase in appetite is extreme, has a very rapid onset, or you are unsure of the cause and have concerns you should consider consulting with a healthcare professional to determine the specific cause of your increased appetite and to develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Blood tests would be a good first step to see if there are any hormonal disorders.

During a medical appointment, the healthcare professional may ask you questions about your symptoms, such as when they started, how often they occur, and what makes them better or worse. They may also ask about your medical history, any medications you are taking, and any other symptoms you may be experiencing.

They may also perform a physical examination and undertake some tests (including blood tests as already mentioned, and possible some imaging). These tests can help determine if there is an underlying medical condition that is causing your increased appetite.

If an underlying condition is found, the healthcare professional will develop a treatment plan that may include medication, lifestyle changes, or therapy. In some cases, a referral to a specialist may be necessary. It is important to follow the treatment plan and to keep all follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider to monitor your progress.

In general, keeping a healthy diet, regular exercise and avoiding stress can help to control your appetite.

If you are experiencing an increased appetite, it is important to seek medical care to determine the cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

References

  1. King JA, Wasse LK, Stensel DJ. The acute effects of swimming on appetite, food intake, and plasma acylated ghrelin. J Obes. 2011;2011:351628. doi:10.1155/2011/351628
  2. Calder PC. Feeding the immune system. Proc Nutr Soc. 2013;72(3):299-309. doi:10.1017/S0029665113001286
  3. Demling RH. Nutrition, anabolism, and the wound healing process: an overview. Eplasty. 2009;9:e9.
  4. Ladyman SR, Augustine RA, Grattan DR. Hormone interactions regulating energy balance during pregnancy. J Neuroendocrinol. 2010;22(7):805-817. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2826.2010.02017.x
  5. Type 1 diabetes. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed February 18, 2020. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-1-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20353011)
  6. Polidori D, Sanghvi A, Seeley RJ, Hall KD. How Strongly Does Appetite Counter Weight Loss? Quantification of the Feedback Control of Human Energy Intake. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016;24(11):2289-2295. doi:10.1002/oby.21653
  7. Bendtsen LQ, Lorenzen JK, Bendsen NT, Rasmussen C, Astrup A. Effect of dairy proteins on appetite, energy expenditure, body weight, and composition: a review of the evidence from controlled clinical trials. Adv Nutr. 2013;4(4):418-438. doi:10.3945/an.113.003723
  8. Yau YH, Potenza MN. Stress and eating behaviors. Minerva Endocrinol. 2013;38(3):255-267.
  9. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed February 18, 2020. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperthyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20373659)
  10. Corticosteroids. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed February 18, 2020. (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/4812-corticosteroids)
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