Loss of appetite

Many people find they do not feel like eating as they near the end of life. This loss of appetite may be because of other symptoms, such as pain, nausea, constipation or breathlessness, or because the body’s energy needs have slowed down and it’s no longer necessary to eat as much.

You don’t have to force yourself to eat – eating more than you feel like may only make you uncomfortable, and can cause vomiting and stomach pain. Try having small meals or eating your favourite foods more frequently. Another option is liquid meals. Ask your doctor, nurse or dietitian to recommend something suitable.

It’s common for others to want to encourage you to eat, as preparing food for you is how they show they care. You may need to let them know that you don’t feel like eating, and suggest other ways they can show their love, such as by giving you a hand or foot massage or reading aloud to you.

As the disease progresses, the body reaches a point where it can no longer absorb or get nutrients from food. Clear fluids such as water or weak tea may be all you can handle. There will come a time when even this isn’t tolerated, and family or friends can help keep your mouth moist. See How you can help in the final stages for ways others can offer comfort.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on facing end of life.

This information was last reviewed in January 2017
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