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Loss of Appetite in Children

Appetite is the internal driving force for the search, choice and ingestion of food. Subjective sensation of hunger, satiety, other appetite sensations, and desire to eat specific type of food may be influenced by a number of different internal factors including physiological and psychological variables. Many reasons can cause a child to experience loss of appetite during the first 6 years. Most of them are quite normal with no reason to alarm. When children do not feel well, they invariably have loss of appetite. Sometimes, it is difficult to distinguish a normal reduction in food needs from loss of appetite. If the child looses weight and exhibits other symptoms, it may be an appetite problem. External factors such as prior meals, physical activity, temperature, and weather may influence the subjective sensations. Loss of appetite is described as a person eating less than what he or she normally consumes. The person may also not eat at all lasting anywhere from one meal to several days. The problem is also known as anorexia which is a symptom and not a disease. Several factors and conditions can trigger loss of appetite including physical, biological, mental and emotional factors. Usually, when the condition is relieved and treated, a person’s appetite should be normal again.

Feeding behavior is the result of the complex central nervous system, integration of central and peripheral neural hormonal and neurochemical signals relating to the brain and metabolic states. Serotonin plays an important role in regulation of appetite and the subsequent releases of growth hormone. Changes in circulating glucose concentrations appear to elicit meal initiation and termination by regulating activity of specific hypothalamic neurons that respond to glucose. Loss of appetite in children is a very common complaint of mothers. Medications like cyproheptadineare commonly used to improve appetite. But this may lead to untoward effects like decrease in growth hormone release and inhibition of steroid release.

Anorexia is not considered a medical emergency since majority of people all around the world experience it time and again throughout the course of their lives. However, when an individual refuses to eat for a long period of time, his body can become immunocompromisedand lose disease-fighting agents makingthe condition serious in nature. Someindividuals may experience loss of appetiteonly during certain periods of the day orfor certain types of food while others avoidfood and drinks altogether.Since loss of appetite is a symptom itself,physicians usually notice accompanyingsymptoms to help them determine anddiagnose the underlying condition ordisease causing it. Examples of associatedsymptoms would be weight loss, lackof interest in food including knownfavorites, difficulty swallowing, mouth,tongue or lip sores, feeling of fullness,vomiting, gassiness, diarrhea, headache,nausea, dizziness, thinness and depressedmood. More associated symptoms includedistorted view of one’s own bodyweight,fear of becoming obese, denial ofhunger feeling, preoccupation with food preparation, dehydration, lethargy,irregular menstrual cycle among femalesand strange eating habits.

Diagnostic tests may also revealabnormalities in blood sugar levels, bloodpressure and other hormones. Dopamineand serotonin levels are known to be lowwhile the person’s glycemic index remainshigh or fluctuates throughout. For thoseexperiencing dizziness, blood glucose is generally low and the loss of appetite may be accompanied or caused by depression and other mental factors. Sufferers are also more likely to be withdrawn, irritable and very sensitive about comments regarding their physical appearance and weight.

Conventional causes of loss of appetitewould be the presence of underlying diseases and problems. These can result to gastrointestinal upset as well as hormone and neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain and body spurring the person to feel full or not want to eat. Examples of conditions would be cancer, depression, pain, constipation, drug side effects, HIV, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, cough, cold, fever, alcoholism, tuberculosis, normal aging, viral hepatitis, liver conditions,heart conditions, heart failure, hiatushernia, stomach ulcer, duodenal ulcer,constipation, zinc deficiency and motionsickness.

The main goal of treatment would beto address the underlying cause in order to alleviate the symptom of anorexia.Physical causes like cancer, fever, mouthsores, pain and other bodily disordersmay be treated with medications, surgeryand other alternative techniques like acupuncture, physical therapy andrelaxation in order to improve hormone levels leading to improvement in appetite.Some medications and substances may be causing a person to lose appetite socessation of intake will eventually improvethe condition.

For those who are having problemsproperly absorbing food and receivingenough nutrients, they may beintravenously provided with electrolytesand vitamins as well as eat via tubefeeding. High caloric and nutritious drinks and meal replacement supplements may be indicated so that patients donot need to consume much to receiveadequate dietary recommendations. Individuals who only prefer a certain typeof food may be served only their favoritemeals provided that other nutritionalcomponents are included by addingsauces, nuts and whole grains.