Depression and Loss of Appetite

What are the factors that usually curb your appetite? Why do depression and loss of appetite go hand in hand? Why is appetite loss followed by nausea? Find answers to all these questions and more in this article.
PsycholoGenie Staff
Several diseases and disorders can suppress your appetite. Even too much of dieting, excessive weight loss, overexertion can affect your appetite seriously. Several studies have shown that not only physical exertion but mental fatigue can also lead to appetite loss. Depression and loss of appetite go hand in hand. How is our mental health related with our physical health? How does our digestive system react to a depressed mind? This article tries to explore the relationship between mind and appetite.
Depression and Appetite Loss
Those who are interested in losing weight consume appetite suppressants to curb hunger pangs. But persistent appetite loss can prove to be harmful for health. Gastrointestinal disorders, stomach problems, intestinal blockage, development of ulcers or tumors in the gastrointestinal tract, viral/bacterial infections, chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, etc., are some of the important causes of loss of appetite. Along with these factors, stress and anxiety can also curb your appetite. Death of a beloved person, separation from loved ones, anxiety before exams or sudden diagnosis of a serious disease (like cancer) can suppress your appetite. All these examples help reveal mind-body relationship.
Excessive stress and emotional imbalance leads to depression. Nutritional deficiencies, lack of sleep, lack of love and affection, infertility, premenstrual syndrome, chronic diseases, disability, etc., can also lead to depression. Endocrine glands in the body like adrenal glands, thyroid, pituitary gland, hypothalamus, ovaries, testes, etc., release various hormones which play an important role in physical as well as mental health of an individual. Various chemical reactions take place in our body during body metabolism. Chemicals like dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine, which act as hormones as well as neurotransmitters, determine the 'flight or fight' response of the body, along with hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.
Hormones and neurotransmitters act on a large area of the brain. You feel hungry when certain digestive enzymes and hormones are produced by your body. Release of hormones and enzymes in the body is controlled by the brain. Hypothalamus is the part of the brain which controls the bodily functions related to appetite and satiety. The hormones leptin and ghrelin play an important role in regulation of your appetite. Hypothalamus reduces your appetite when there exist high blood levels of leptin and it triggers your appetite when there exist high levels of ghrelin.
The hormone serotonin plays an important role in developing the feeling of well-being. Normal levels of serotonin ensure sound sleep. As hormonal imbalance is the main cause and/or effect of depression, it leads to impaired functions of all these hormones and neurotransmitters, resulting in appetite loss. Due to stress, a person experiences impaired brain function, which causes poor sleep and a feeling of despair, leading to depression. Stress and depression inhibit the function of endocrine system which results in several physical and mental disorders. Thus, one experiences depression and loss of appetite when the required hormones or digestive enzymes are not secreted by the organs in the body in correct proportions.
Loss of Appetite and Nausea
Excessive stress and depression not only affects the function of the brain, but they also affect heart health. They lead to irregular or increased heart beats, high blood pressure and high blood sugar levels. Impaired heart and brain function, affected function of the glands, problems in blood circulation and severe fluctuations in blood glucose levels, etc., affect the function of the digestive system. Due to lack of hormones during depression, your body does not start preparing for intake of food. As the essential hormones are absent, appearance of food or food aroma cannot trigger your appetite. They cannot even trigger the release of saliva in mouth. Digestion is a process which starts long before you ingest your food. Excessive anxiety can lead to excessive secretion of acids in the stomach, giving a signal of fullness to the brain. Over anxious or depressed people do experience fullness in throat and difficulty in swallowing which curb the desire to eat. As the body does not want food, it exhibits the symptom 'nausea'.
Depression and Overeating
High level of anxiety can make you hyper. Sometimes, depressed people fall victim to eating disorders and exhibit hyper appetite and excessive craving for food. The hypothalamus becomes insensitive and does not respond to the message expressed by high blood levels of leptin. It ignores the signals sent by hormones as its function gets seriously affected by emotional over-eating or binge eating. This leads to more food cravings, weight gain and obesity. When the body does not respond to leptin, you are said to have developed leptin resistance. Obese people are often found to be leptin resistant.
You should consult a psychiatrist immediately if you are experiencing depression and loss of appetite. Correct medicines and proper therapies can help get rid of the symptoms fast. Practicing meditation and breathing exercises helps maintain hormonal balance. A doctor may prescribe nutritional supplements for fast recovery. Along with healthy diet, regular exercise plays an important role in maintaining hormonal balance. I hope you have found answers to the questions swirling in your mind.