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Low Appetite and Hormonal Concerns

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

It's very common that women tell me they don't eat because they aren't hungry. Some of these women also complain that they don't know why they can't lose weight. Although this doesn't seem like a big deal, not having 'normal' hunger signals is a sign of something going on in the body.

You should go through phases of being hungry, eating, and being full (or satiated). A low appetite isn't normal.

Are you struggling with any of these symptoms?

woman sitting at table with tea

  • You don't feel hungry and have to force yourself to eat

  • You 'forget' to eat throughout the day

  • You opt for caffeine instead of eating

  • You don't feel like you eat enough, but also can't lose weight

  • Sometimes when you eat, you can't stop

Appetite is a complex interplay of physiological, psychological, and environmental factors. In some instances, women may find themselves with little to no appetite, leading to concerns about inadequate nutrition and overall well-being. This phenomenon is often related to a number of hormonal processes, particularly ghrelin, and the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis.

Ghrelin and Appetite:

Ghrelin, often referred to as the "hunger hormone," is produced primarily in the

stomach and plays a crucial role in stimulating appetite. It communicates with the brain, triggering the sensation of hunger and prompting the individual to consume food. In women experiencing low appetite, there may be an imbalance in ghrelin levels, leading to reduced hunger signals.

The HPA Axis and Stress:

The HPA axis, a complex set of interactions between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands, is intricately linked to stress response. Chronic stress can disrupt the HPA axis, leading to alterations in appetite regulation by increasing levels of ghrelin. Elevated stress hormones such as cortisol can contribute to a reduced desire to eat, as the body prioritizes the "fight or flight" response over the non-essential function of digestion.

tired, sad, woman next to bed
Hormonal Influences:

Apart from ghrelin and the HPA axis, other

hormones like leptin (which signals satiety or fullness) and insulin (which regulates blood sugar) also play a role in appetite control. Hormonal imbalances, whether due to stress, inadequate nutrition, or other factors, can disrupt the equilibrium that maintains a healthy appetite

How can you improve this?

Balanced Nutrition:

  • Ensure a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients to support overall health.

  • Include a mix of proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals

Regular Meal Patterns:

  • Establish regular eating patterns to help regulate ghrelin secretion and maintain a stable appetite. Make sure to eat BEFORE consuming caffeine in the morning as caffeine on an empty stomach can increase both glucose and cortisol levels.

Stress Management:

  • Incorporate stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to support a healthy HPA axis. All of these activities have been proven to regulate cortisol secretion and improve HPA axis function.

Adequate Sleep:

  • Prioritize sufficient and quality sleep, as sleep deprivation can disrupt hormonal balance and impact appetite. If you are getting <7 hours at night, this isn't enough! You NEED 7-8 hours at night to produce healthy hormones.


  • Ensure proper hydration, as dehydration can sometimes be mistaken for hunger, leading to under-eating. A good rule of thumb is to aim for half of your body weight (pounds) in ounces. So a 120 lb woman would drink 60oz. You should increase this if you are sweating or exercising.

Consult a Healthcare Professional:

  • If low appetite persists, seek guidance from a healthcare professional who can conduct thorough assessments and address underlying health concerns. Some women with PCOS whom I've worked with, struggle with this due to issues with their insulin levels (commonly seen in PCOS). I help women uncover the root of their appetite concerns and address additional hormonal issues that you may have. Book a call with me here.

Having hunger cues signal that it's time to eat regularly and to stop when you are full, are important factors when considering your low appetite and hormonal health.

Understanding how hormones influence appetite is crucial in addressing the challenges faced by women with little to no appetite. By adopting a holistic approach that considers nutrition, stress management, and overall well-being, individuals can nurture a healthier relationship with food and support their body's natural hunger signals.


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PMID: 29038331

Work With Me 👇

If you are looking for ways to improve your diet, weight, and hormones, you can click here to sign up with a complimentary 15 minute phone call with me. We can discuss your goals at that time and determine whether or not we will be a good fit for each other.

Dr. Katie Zaremba Natural fertility and hormonal support

About Dr. Zaremba

Dr. Zaremba received her bachelor's degree from Western Michigan University in Biomedical Sciences and minored in Chemistry and Psychology. She completed her doctoral training at Palmer College of Chiropractic. During her time in school, she took post-doctoral training through The Clinic on Disease and Internal Disorders (CDID) earning her a Diplomate from the American Board of Chiropractic Internists (DABCI).


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