Polyphagia or Increased Appetite

Dr. Rajalakshmi VK (AIIMS)MBBS

March 06, 2020

March 06, 2020

Polyphagia or Increased Appetite
Polyphagia or Increased Appetite

Polyphagia is a medical condition where the person feels excessively hungry or has suddenly increased appetite. 

Excessive hunger is considered normal if it is followed by some strenuous exercises. But if it persists for a longer period of time and is not triggered by any external activity, it can be an indication of a serious condition.

In most of the cases, polyphagia is a sign of diabetes. The other reasons for polyphagia can be stress, anxiety, improper sleeping habits, eating disorders, thyroid dysfunction and premenstrual syndrome.

A person can prevent polyphagia by eating healthy fibre-rich food, sleeping for 8 hours and meditating. The treatment of polyphagia depends upon the underlying condition.

What are the symptoms of polyphagia?

The symptoms of polyphagia are:

  • Eating more than the usual quantity
  • Increased portion size
  • Feeling hungry immediately after eating food
  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain
  • Unusual sweating
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What are the causes of polyphagia?

The common causes of polyphagia are:

  • Diabetes mellitus: In the case of uncontrolled diabetes, there is a lack of insulin in the body so the cells of the body cannot make food (energy) from the glucose or the sugar present in the blood. To compensate for the lack of energy, the appetite increases. Along with polyphagia, a person with diabetes would also suffer from polydipsia (excessive thirst) and polyuria (excessive urinating). 
  • Hypoglycemia: In the case of low sugar levels in the bloodstream, medically called hypoglycemia, the cells of the body lack energy and need food for their proper working. This leads to an increased appetite.
  • Stress and anxiety: During any stressful situation, the body releases the stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol increases appetite and the person feels hungry.
  • Lack of sleep: The level of ghrelin, the hunger hormone which spikes the appetite, increases in a sleep-deprived state. 
  • Bulimia nervosa: Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder where the person involves in eating way too much, followed by purging.
  • Binge eating disorder: Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder where the person eats an unusually large amount of food.
  • Hyperthyroidism: Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the thyroid hormone levels increase in the bloodstream which eventually speeds up the metabolism. Since the food gets metabolised faster, the affected person feels hungry very frequently. 
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): Premenstrual syndrome consists of a series of symptoms that a woman shows before menstruation. One of these symptoms includes excessive hunger. 

Although rare, polyphagia can also be seen in the case of Kleine-Levin Syndrome (excessive sleeping) and Prader-Willi Syndrome (a genetic disorder with persistent hunger).

How to prevent polyphagia?

There are no specific preventive measures for polyphagia but these are the few tips that can help prevent polyphagia:

  • You must sleep for at least 8 hours a day for the proper functioning of the body.
  • Avoid stressful situations as much as possible. 
  • Meditate to keep your mind calm and stress-free.
  • Eat fibre-rich food like whole grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

How to diagnose polyphagia?

The diagnosis of polyphagia depends on the underlying condition. Your doctor may prescribe you the following tests in order to diagnose the condition:

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How is polyphagia treated?

The treatment of polyphagia is done by treating the underlying conditions:

  • Diabetes mellitus is treated with the help of insulin which is either delivered in the form of a tablet or an injection. The insulin helps in maintaining the blood sugar levels in the body.
  • Glucose tablets are given to manage the condition of hypoglycemia. The person is asked to carry candies or juice cans with them all the time as the glucose levels can drop at any moment of the day which can be life-threatening. 
  • In the case of eating disorders, counselling from the psychotherapist, cognitive behavioural therapies and support groups can help in removing the negative thoughts and behaviours. These therapies encourage people to accept themselves the way they are. 
  • Hyperthyroidism can be treated with the help of antithyroid agents and beta-blockers which help in keeping the thyroid hormone levels in limits.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the medications given to women to manage the change in behaviour in PMS. SSRIs restrict the action of those chemical messengers of the brain (neurotransmitters) which activate mood swings.

Medicines for Polyphagia or Increased Appetite

Medicines listed below are available for Polyphagia or Increased Appetite. Please note that you should not take any medicines without doctor consultation. Taking any medicine without doctor's consultation can cause serious problems.

Medicine Name



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