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If you want to eat more often or in larger quantities than you’re used to, your appetite has increased. If you eat more than your body requires, it leads to weight gain.
It’s normal to have an increased appetite after physical exertion or some other activities. But if your appetite is significantly increased over a prolonged period of time, it could be a symptom of a serious illness, such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism.
Mental health conditions, such as depression and stress, can also lead to appetite changes and overeating. If you’re experiencing excessive ongoing hunger, make an appointment with your doctor.
Your doctor may refer to your increased appetite as hyperphagia or polyphagia. Your treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your condition.
You may have an increased appetite after engaging in sports or other exercise. If it persists, it might be a symptom of an underlying health condition or other issue. For example, increased appetite can result from:
People who have used cannabis (marijuana) regularly and stop taking it may experience increased appetite as a withdrawal syndrome.
If your appetite has significantly and persistently increased, contact your doctor. It’s particularly important to contact them if changes in your appetite are accompanied by other symptoms.
Your doctor will probably want to perform a thorough physical examination and note your current weight. They will likely ask you a series of questions, such as:
Depending on your symptoms and medical history, they may order one or more diagnostic tests. For example, they may order blood tests and thyroid function testing to measure the level of thyroid hormones in your body.
If they can’t find a physical cause for your increased appetite, your doctor may recommend a psychological evaluation with a mental health professional.
Don’t attempt to treat changes in your appetite using over-the-counter appetite suppressants without talking to your doctor first. Their recommended treatment plan will depend on the cause of your increased appetite. If they diagnose you with an underlying medical conditions, they can help you learn how to treat and manage it.
If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor or dietitian can help you learn how to control your blood sugar levels. They can also instruct you how to recognize the early warning signs of low blood sugar, and how to take steps to correct the problem quickly.
Low blood sugar is also known as hypoglycemia and can be considered a medical emergency. If not properly treated, it can lead to loss of consciousness or even death.
If your appetite problems are caused by medications, your doctor may recommend alternative drugs or adjust your dosage. Never attempt to stop taking prescription medication or change your dosage without talking to your doctor first.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend psychological counseling. For example, an eating disorder, depression, or other mental health conditions usually include psychological counseling as part of the treatment.
Written by: Ann Pietrangelo
Medically reviewed on: Oct 19, 2016: Deborah Weatherspoon, PhD, RN, CRNA, COI
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