Loss of appetite fatigue

What causes a loss of appetite?

Share on PinterestDigestive issues may lead to a person losing their appetite.

A loss of appetite can be physical or psychological. It is often temporary due to factors such as infections or digestive issues, in which case appetite will come back when a person has recovered.

Some people may also lose their appetite as a symptom of a long-term medical condition, such as in the late stages of serious illness, including cancer. This is part of a condition that doctors call cachexia.

The medical term for a complete loss of appetite over a more extended period of time is anorexia. This is different to the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, which is a mental health issue.

Below, we look at the possible causes for a loss of appetite.

Common causes

Common viral or bacterial infections, such as flu or gastroenteritis, are often to blame for appetite loss. A person’s appetite usually returns when they start to recover.

Common short-term causes of feeling a loss of appetite include:

  • colds
  • flu
  • respiratory infections
  • bacteria or viral infections
  • constipation
  • an upset stomach
  • digestive issues
  • acid reflux
  • food poisoning
  • allergies
  • food intolerances
  • a stomach bug or gastroenteritis
  • pregnancy
  • hormonal imbalances
  • stress
  • medication side effects
  • alcohol or drug use

People with pain in their mouths, such as sores, may also experience a loss of appetite if it becomes difficult to eat.

Medical conditions

Long-term medical conditions can cause a loss of appetite for a range of reasons that vary depending on the cause. Loss of appetite can be related to lowered immune system function, feeling unwell, and having an upset stomach.

Medical conditions that can cause a loss of appetite include:

  • digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease
  • a hormonal condition known as Addison’s disease
  • asthma
  • diabetes
  • chronic liver or kidney disease
  • high calcium levels in the blood
  • HIV and AIDS
  • underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism
  • overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism
  • COPD
  • heart failure
  • stomach or colon cancer

Side effect of medications

A loss of appetite is a common side effect of many medications, along with other digestive issues, such as constipation or diarrhea. This is common when medications pass through a person’s stomach and digestive tract.

Medications and treatments that often cause a loss of appetite include:

  • sedatives
  • some antibiotics
  • immunotherapy
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy to the stomach area

If people have recently undergone major surgery, they may experience a loss of appetite after the operation. This feeling can be partly related to anesthesia drugs.

Using drugs recreationally, such as cocaine, cannabis, and amphetamines can also cause a loss of appetite.

Psychological causes

Psychological factors and mental health conditions can have a significant impact on a person’s appetite. These can include:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • stress
  • grief
  • eating disorders, such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa


A loss of appetite can also be more common in older adults. This can be due to increased use of medications and changes in the body as it ages. These changes can affect:

  • the digestive system
  • the hormones
  • the sense of taste or smell

Some cancers

A loss of appetite or unexpected weight loss can sometimes be a symptom of certain cancers, such as pancreatic, ovarian, or stomach cancer.

Alongside a loss of appetite, people may experience the following symptoms:

  • stomach pains
  • heartburn
  • feeling full quickly
  • yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • blood in their stools

If people experience any of these symptoms, they should see a doctor who will be able to find out the underlying cause.

My Son’s Fatigue and Low Appetite

— Victoria, Canada

I always take a parent’s concern about a child being more tired than usual very seriously. Most often it is just related to increased activity and decreased sleep. If your son has a chronic medical condition like kidney disease, however, it is possible that there is a medical cause for his fatigue.

If your son takes any medications, make sure his fatigue is not related to a medication side effect. Another very common cause of fatigue is anemia. Anemia may be due to chronic disease, it can be caused by kidney disease in particular, or it may result from blood loss or low iron. A complete blood count can quickly let you know if your son is anemic.

You mentioned that your son has a decreased appetite and mild stomach pains. Infections can cause fatigue in addition to other symptoms. Epstein-Barr virus is notorious for causing “mono” and fatigue. Occasionally, stress or depression can also cause patients to feel fatigued. If your son has any weight loss or fever, that could signal something more serious.

I certainly would have your son evaluated by his pediatrician. A full history of all of his symptoms and an examination will help your doctor determine the cause. Probably some blood work will be done to make sure that infection, anemia, or some other type of inflammation is not the cause of his tiredness.

Q2. What is the best over-the-counter dietary supplement? I am 49 and looking for a supplement that would give me the vitamins and energy I need.

— Glo, Oklahoma

If you are generally in good health, there is nothing better than good nutrition to give you the vitamins and energy you need every day. There is something about taking in the vitamins and minerals in their natural state that promotes health better than taking a vitamin pill — most likely there are other substances in the food we eat that work together with vitamins to enhance their effect — such as phytochemicals.

Phytochemicals and other healthful substances are found mainly in fruits and vegetables and also whole grains, which typically have a lot of fiber. You could never get the same healthful substances that are found in these natural foods by taking a multivitamin.

However, taking a multivitamin every day won’t hurt, especially in case you miss all your nutrients on that occasional junk-food day. In that case, look for a standard reputable brand — perhaps a woman’s daily multivitamin with iron or a vitamin labeled for older folks. These preparations generally have extra calcium and iron. Also make sure that you take an additional calcium supplement with vitamin D for your perimenopausal age group and exercise!

Q3. I have Crohn’s disease and cannot tolerate fruits, vegetables, or vitamins.

— Nanette, Maryland

I’m glad you’ve brought this up because there is a lot you can do. Crohn’s disease is an inflammation that can occur anywhere along the length of the entire gastrointestinal tract; the most common sites are the ileum (the last portion of the small intestine) and the colon. Since specific intestinal regions are responsible for the absorption of specific nutrients — and since each patient with Crohn’s disease has different patterns of illness — it would be extremely helpful to know which portion of your digestive tract is involved. That way, if you are at risk for particular nutritional deficiencies, you can target those nutrients by eating foods that are rich in them or by taking supplements. So ask your doctor to be specific about which part or parts of your intestines are affected by your condition and what that means in terms of the nutrients you may be lacking.

Many patients with Crohn’s disease cannot tolerate roughage, including many fruits and vegetables. Cooked fruits and vegetables, however, are generally more easily digested, but don’t overcook them, because you’ll lose many important nutrients and vitamins. Further, different patients handle some produce better than others, so it’s helpful to keep a food diary in which you note your reactions to specific fruits and vegetables. Regarding vitamin supplements, it’s worth trying different formulations, including liquid ones, which may be easier to digest. Also, iron is a nutrient that has many digestive side effects, so try supplements without iron and see how you fare. (You can get the iron you need through iron-rich foods, including red meats, since most patients with Crohn’s disease can readily handle meat.) Another suggestion: Consult a nutritionist to devise a well-balanced diet that meets your specific needs and tastes. It may take some trial and error, but the ultimate result — a healthy eating plan you can tolerate — is well worth the effort.

Learn more in the Everyday Health Anemia Center.


Is Loss of Appetite in the Elderly a Sign of Something Else?

Wellness | May 23, 2017

Most often, a gradual decrease in appetite is considered a normal part of the aging process. Seniors have lower energy levels and often partake in less physical activity, which means they generally need less calories than a younger person. However, if your elderly loved one is refusing to eat and you’re noticing extreme weight loss, this can certainly be cause for concern. In fact, studies have shown that a 10% loss of overall body weight is linked to a higher mortality rate just six months after the initial weight loss.

Loss of Appetite – Causes and Symptoms

It also takes an emotional toll on a caregiver when a loved one won’t eat. And, there are a variety of reasons for appetite loss in the elderly that, as mentioned before, are perfectly normal. For instance, resting metabolic rate decreases because of reduced levels of hormones, and the elderly are often less active in their later years. Plus, changes in the senses causes food to taste differently, medication side effects, problems with dentures, or even loneliness can all be loss of appetite causes.

However, there are some instances when appetite loss is a sign of a more serious illness or condition. When seniors show no desire to eat, say they never feel hungry, or are experiencing unintentional weight loss, there may be an underlying medical reason. This is especially true if your loved one is often fatigued along with having no appetite.

The medical reasons that could be causing appetite loss in the elderly include:

  • Thyroid disorders. Medications to treat thyroid issues and thyroid disorders are often associated with loss of appetite in the elderly.
  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Throughout the progression of dementia, it’s common for both weight loss and appetite loss to occur.
  • Hepatitis or chronic liver disease. One of the first symptoms associated with hepatitis inflammation of the liver and chronic liver disease is loss of appetite.
  • Kidney failure. It’s common for up to 25% of chronic kidney disease patients to have reduced appetites as a main symptom.
  • Some cancers. In particular, ovarian, pancreatic, lung and stomach cancers are known to result in appetite loss. Plus, the pain, fatigue and other symptoms from the cancer also lead to a decreased appetite.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an irreversible and progressive decline in the ability to breathe. COPD also causes changes in hormones that are associated with a loss of appetite.

Contact a doctor if you notice your loved one has a decreased appetite that seems more severe than in the past, or if he or she is losing weight without trying.

Ways to Increase Appetite in the Elderly

Stimulating appetite in your loved one can be accomplished by utilizing a few different methods. First, enjoy a meal together or encourage your loved one to join others for a weekly lunch or dinner. Studies show that seniors who eat with others tend to eat more and make healthier food choices.

Secondly, remember that your loved one’s tastes may be changing. Try making nutritious meals that are bright, colorful and packed with vitamins and minerals. However, don’t overwhelm your loved ones with large portions, as a plate heaped with food may overwhelm them and deter them from eating altogether.

Finally, setting a schedule for eating meals makes it a routine part of your loved one’s day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks should be served at the same time throughout the day, every day of the week.

American Senior Communities offers a variety of senior healthcare services throughout our locations. Contact us today to request more information.

What causes loss of appetite and fatigue

A good appetite has always been considered a sign of health and normal body functioning. The feeling of hunger is a natural phenomenon, which signals that a person needs to “recharge” and restore energy. Sometimes loss of appetite can be accompanied by fatigue and nausea. So what causes loss of appetite?

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Loss of appetite

Symptoms and signs:

  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Loss of taste

Loss of appetite can be caused by various conditions and diseases. Some of the conditions may be temporary and reversible, for example, loss of appetite from the effects of medications. Some of the causes may be more serious, for example, cancer.

Of course, at least once in life, every person faces the problem of the loss of appetite. Our body is wise and capable of self-healing, so with a short-term loss of appetite, nothing terrible will happen. But the systematic refusals from food for long periods of time, may lead to extremely negative consequences for the body.

For people who are engaged in physical labor, loss of appetite may cause constant fatigue. It is difficult to imagine what the loss of appetite means for a nursing mother! So in all spheres of life of a person, loss of appetite will produce an adverse effect on the ability to work and live a normal life.

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Loss of appetite causes

The lack of appetite causes can be divided into pathological (those that are the result of failures of of the digestive system in the body) and non-pathological (those that do not present a threat to the health and not require medical intervention).

Non-pathological causes of loss of appetite

In this case, the appetite is absent for 3-5 days (maximum for a week). After this period, the functioning of the body normalizes. Such episodes of loss of appetite are repeated no more than once a month; they do not cause severe weight loss and are not accompanied by nausea, weakness, fever, and other symptoms.

  1. Lack of appetite can be caused by external factors, for example, by very hot weather or an abrupt change of climatic zones. In warm weather, most people experience the loss of appetite. It is a normal reaction of an organism on heating. You may notice how during colder periods people eat more and gain weight, so in hot periods the reverse process occurs.
  2. Chronic fatigue. The body spends a large amount of energy on the food digestion, and in case of chronic fatigue, the organism subconsciously tries to save his energy by refusing from food.
  3. Stress. Any serious emotions, negative or positive, can have an adverse effect on your appetite. But some negative situations can lead to prolonged depression and chronic lack of appetite, so be careful with it.
  4. Disorders of the food timetable. If you often have your meal on the go, in a hurry or do not have it at all, it may also cause a loss of appetite.
  5. Premenstrual syndrome and the period of pregnancy. Before menstruation and during pregnancy, a woman’s body is under the influence of hormones, which can cause weakness, headaches, and cramps in the abdomen. Although, some women eat more in the same situation. Forecasting the influence of hormones on the female body is difficult.
  6. Bad habits. Smoking, alcohol or drug abuse can cause loss of appetite too. Many people even significantly gain weight after giving up smoking or drinking.

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Pathological causes of the loss of appetite

These are the reasons for the loss of interest in food that are associated with various diseases. These causes may present a threat to human health, so if you suspect or feel that your loss of appetite may be caused by one of these factors, you should immediately resort to visiting your doctor.

  1. The body fails to accept vitamins and nutritive elements. It can lead to a general depletion and even death.
  2. Infectious diseases and exacerbations of chronic ailments
  3. Endocrine disruption
  4. Any disorders of the digestive system
  5. Parasite infection (helminthiasis)
  6. Serious mental disorders (neurosis, anorexia)
  7. Allergic reactions

In this case, loss of appetite is usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting, dizziness, abdominal pain, etc.

What causes loss of appetite, nausea, and fatigue?

If the symptoms last no more than 4-5 days, after which they pass on their own, the reasons are not related to the presence of a disease. They also do not require special medical treatment.

Loss of appetite and tiredness accompanied by nausea can be caused by:

  1. Menstruation and premenstrual syndrome. It happens during hormonal adjustment and preparation for fertilization. The body adapts gradually to sudden jumps of progesterone and estrogen, and this adaptation can provoke nausea, weakness, and loss of appetite.
  2. Overeating (especially at night). Eating heavy meals before bedtime leads to nausea, which indicates the inability of the pancreas to produce the right amount of enzymes. Especially acute symptoms are manifested in the morning when nausea can come as vomiting. The vomiting may entail weakness and lack of appetite.
  3. Starvation. The uncontrolled refusal of food to lose those extra pounds can cause nausea and weakness. If food does not get into the stomach for a long time, the process of secretion of gastric juice breaks, causing irritation. Sometimes nausea occurs when a person has a strong feeling of hunger. At the same time, the lack of food provokes weakness and fatigue.
  4. Chronic fatigue syndrome. People who are continually experiencing fatigue and work too much may suffer from nausea, loss of appetite and tiredness. Workaholism is commendable but affects health. Lack of proper sleep affects the nervous system and brain and the mind can give the wrong commands to the whole body.

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Other causes are associated with the presence of the disease in the body. In the majority of cases, medical care is required to eliminate them. This group includes the following:

  1. Dysbacteriosis. It is an intestinal disease, which disrupts the balance microorganisms involved in the digestive process. Poor digestion is problematic for the whole body since it is not possible to obtain from the food all the beneficial elements.
  2. Endocrine diseases. It is the lack of production of certain hormones, and it can provoke nausea, vomiting, weakness, and lack of appetite.
  3. Chronic diseases of the digestive system. Most often such symptoms are inherent. The causes are gastritis, gastric ulcer, and duodenal ulcer. Nausea, weakness, and lack of appetite are the first signs that the old diseases require particular attention and treatment.
  4. Mental disorders. If a person constantly experiences stress, depression may occur. This psycho-emotional state can lead to indifference to everything that happens around and is also accompanied by the lack of appetite, nausea and general weakness.
  5. Intoxication. In this case, vomiting and loss of appetite are the primary signs indicating the presence of pathogenic microflora in the human’s body.
  6. Cardiovascular diseases. Similar symptoms are familiar to people suffering from chronic arterial hypertension when the body has high blood pressure. Nausea can be manifested even after eating, and weakness is caused by the deterioration of blood vessels.
  7. Cancer or chemotherapy. In this situation, appetite decreases and fatigue and drowsiness may occur. Nausea and vomiting may occur, especially after chemotherapy.
  8. Infection. During the period of progressive elaboration of leukocyte cells, the body concentrates all its power on this process, allowing the patient to recover quickly. Lack of appetite, in this case, is a justified measure. Excessive amounts of toxins can provoke nausea and weakness, that can only be eliminated by maintaining sufficient water balance.

Remember, that prolonged refusal of food negatively influences a person’s health, subsequently provoking a complete disgust for any meal. Sharp weight loss often come with dizziness and insomnia. Entirely all processes in the body are disrupted. So you should be careful with loss of appetite problem but never panic beforehand. Be healthy and take care of yourself!

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Fatigue in Older Adults

Everyone feels tired now and then. But, after a good night’s sleep, most people feel refreshed and ready to face a new day. If, like Liang, you continue to feel tired for weeks, it’s time to see your doctor. He or she may be able to help you find out what’s causing your fatigue. In fact, your doctor may even suggest you become more active, as exercise may reduce fatigue and improve quality of life.

Some Illnesses Cause Fatigue

Sometimes, fatigue can be the first sign that something is wrong in your body. For example, people with rheumatoid arthritis, a painful condition that affects the joints, often complain of fatigue. People with cancer may feel fatigued from the disease, treatments, or both.

Many medical problems and treatments can add to fatigue. These include:

  • Taking certain medications, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, and medicines for nausea and pain
  • Having medical treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, or recovering from major surgery
  • Infections
  • Chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, thyroid disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Untreated pain and diseases like fibromyalgia
  • Anemia
  • Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders

Managing a health problem may make the fatigue go away. Your doctor can help.

Can Emotions Cause Fatigue?

Are you fearful about the future? Do you worry about your health and who will take care of you? Are you afraid you are no longer needed? Emotional stresses like these can take a toll on your energy. Fatigue can be linked to many conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Grief from loss of family or friends
  • Stress from financial or personal problems
  • Feeling that you no longer have control over your life

Not getting enough sleep can also contribute to fatigue. Regular physical activity can improve your sleep. It may also help reduce feelings of depression and stress while improving your mood and overall well-being. Yoga, meditation, or cognitive behavioral therapy could also help you get more rest. Talk with your doctor if your mental well-being is affecting your sleep or making you tired.

What Else Causes Fatigue?

Some lifestyle habits can make you feel tired. Here are some things that may be draining your energy:

  • Staying up too late. A good night’s sleep is important to feeling refreshed and energetic. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
  • Having too much caffeine. Drinking caffeinated drinks like soda, tea, or coffee late in the day can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep. Limit the amount of caffeine you have during the day and avoid it in the evening.
  • Drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol changes the way you think and act. It may also interact with your medicines.
  • Eating junk food. Say “no thanks” to food with empty calories, like fried foods and sweets, which have few nutrients and are high in fat and sugars. Choose nutritious foods to get the energy you need to do the things you enjoy.
  • Getting too little or too much exercise. Regular exercise can boost your energy levels, but don’t overdo it. Visit the Go4Life website to make a plan to get the right amount of exercise for you.

Read and share this infographic to get tips on how to get a good night’s sleep.

How Can I Feel Less Tired?

Some changes to your lifestyle can make you feel less tired. Here are some suggestions:

  • Keep a fatigue diary to help you find patterns throughout the day when you feel more or less tired.
  • Exercise regularly. Almost anyone, at any age, can do some type of physical activity. If you have concerns about starting an exercise program, ask your doctor if there are any activities you should avoid. Moderate exercise may improve your appetite, energy, and outlook. Some people find that exercises combining balance and breathing (for example, tai chi or yoga) improve their energy.
  • Try to avoid long naps (over 30 minutes) late in the day. Long naps can leave you feeling groggy and may make it harder to fall asleep at night. Read A Good Night’s Sleep for tips on getting better rest at night.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking is linked to many diseases and disorders, such as cancer, heart disease, and breathing problems, which can drain your energy.
  • Ask for help if you feel swamped. Some people have so much to do that just thinking about their schedules can make them feel tired. Working with others may help a job go faster and be more fun.

When Should I See a Doctor for Fatigue?

If you’ve been tired for several weeks with no relief, it may be time to call your healthcare provider. He or she will ask questions about your sleep, daily activities, appetite, and exercise and will likely give you a physical exam and order lab tests.

Your treatment will be based on your history and the results of your exam and lab tests. Your doctor may prescribe medications to target underlying health problems, such as anemia or irregular thyroid activity. He or she may suggest that you eat a well-balanced diet and begin an exercise program.

Read about this topic in Spanish. Lea sobre este tema en español.

For More Information About Fatigue

National Cancer Institute
1-800-422-6237 (toll-free)

National Library of Medicine

1-844-872-4681 (toll-free)

This content is provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure that it is accurate, authoritative, and up to date.

Content reviewed: July 22, 2019

When should you worry about fatigue?

On call

Published: March, 2019

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Q. I have been quite fatigued over the past two weeks. How long should I wait before seeing a doctor?

A. We all go through periods of low energy. Even a week of feeling more tired than usual is not uncommon.

Yet most people can tell when their fatigue feels like something more serious. If that’s the case, or your fatigue gets worse or lasts longer than a week or two, it’s time to see your doctor. Your fatigue might be related to an underlying illness or infection, especially if it’s accompanied by symptoms, such as a low-grade fever, shortness of breath, or loss of appetite.

Other reasons to see your doctor about fatigue are if you often wake up exhausted despite sleeping well, do not feel motivated to begin the day, or struggle to do activities that are ordinarily easy. These could be symptoms of a sleep disorder or depression.

During your exam, your doctor will try to rule out issues like medication side effects. He or she also may order blood tests to determine if the fatigue is related to a specific problem, such as anemia, an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), or liver inflammation (hepatitis). However, don’t be surprised if your doctor does not find a cause. I have found that in most cases people bounce back from fatigue after some rest and a good night’s sleep.

— by Howard LeWine, M.D.
Editor in Chief, Harvard Men’s Health Watch

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

How does loss of appetite affect cancer patients?

Loss of appetite is marked by a reduced or lack of desire for food. Appetite loss is common among cancer patients, and may be directly caused by cancer, particularly cancers of the gastrointestinal tract like stomach and pancreatic cancers, as well as ovarian and lung cancer. A loss of appetite may result from a condition called “cachexia,” or a metabolic change caused by the cancer itself, which can also be complicated by cancer treatments. Many anti-cancer drugs and treatments, such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation therapy treatments that are focused on the stomach and intestines, are also linked to a loss of appetite. Side effects that disrupt the gastrointestinal tract may prompt a loss in appetite, too. These include dry mouth; mouth sores; issues with chewing or swallowing; and constipation. Pain, fatigue and depression may also lead to loss of appetite. If left unchecked, appetite loss may lead to serious weight loss and wasting of muscle marked by loss of strength, as well as compromised immune function. Weight and muscle loss may also lead to increased treatment toxicity, as well as treatment interruptions and/or delays.

How likely are cancer patients to experience loss of appetite?

Loss of appetite is common in cancer patients, especially those with ovarian, lung, stomach or pancreatic cancer. It also is a frequent side effect of radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatments. Other side effects linked to these treatments, such as mouth sores and difficulties chewing and swallowing, may compound appetite loss.

How may integrative care help?

Integrative cancer care clinicians may help address appetite loss by targeting some of the underlying causes, such as nausea and altered taste. The supportive care services that may be recommended include:

Nutritional support

Consuming enough nutrients to maintain good nutritional status may be difficult for cancer patients if they don’t feel like eating. Dietitians may recommend scheduled eating times, instead of relying on hunger-based cues, which may be blunted or absent. Dietitians also work with patients’ medical oncologists to recommend appetite stimulants, if appropriate. If loss of appetite is caused by nausea, altered taste, mouth sores or pain, nutrition recommendations may include modified consistency foods and liquid nutrition that are well tolerated and easy to ingest. Dietitians may also recommend vitamin and/or mineral supplementation to make up for deficits in the diet. Additional supplements that contain fish oil or eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, may help correct underlying changes in metabolism. Patients may be prescribed a feeding tube or intravenous feeding for additional nutritional support. Dietitians regularly reassess patients’ response to other interventions and communicate with the care team if this type of nutritional support is needed. They will also provide education and monitoring to help patients manage these feedings.

Learn more about nutritional support

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