Published on Jan 23, 2017 and last reviewed on Feb 06, 2023 - 4 min read
Lack of appetite is the condition in which a person does not feel adequately hungry, resulting in growth retardation, weight loss, depression, headache, etc.
With the increase in age, the body functions decline gradually. So, the senses of taste and smell and the digestion process also deteriorate, leading to a slight or marked decrease in appetite. Loss of appetite can also occur due to various other conditions, like:
Psychological issues, such as anxiety, depression, and stress.
HIV and AIDS.
Kidney or heart failure and their diseases.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Loss of teeth and other dental problems.
Appetite loss also occurs due to certain medications, which include antibiotics, chemotherapeutic drugs, Codeine, Morphine, Amphetamines, Cocaine, and Heroin.
Many times, children and elderly people experience appetite decline due to continuous eating or drinking small meals or snacks during the day. For adults, maintaining a food diary can help in the recording of when and what is being eaten during the day. This problem can be further solved by following a proper meal schedule, avoiding junk and processed foods, and consuming a healthy diet.
A healthy appetite is important for numerous reasons, like maintaining sufficient energy and muscle mass. A healthy appetite leads to adequate diet intake, boosting immunity, strengthening muscle, and preventing skin damage. For underweight individuals, it is usually appropriate to gain a body weight of ½ to 2 pounds in a week. This goal can be easily achieved by having 250 to 500 added calories daily than they generally take.
A healthy appetite refers to a positive sign of healthy well-being. Many factors can contribute to the loss of appetites, such as emotional disturbances, mild illness, or severe health problems. Loss of appetite can cause depression, appendicitis, thyroid problems, infections, poor nutrition, and some types of cancer. If the doctor or dietitian recommends weight gain to a person, certain tips can aid in achieving that.
People of all ages who do not consume an adequate diet as per their age, gender, and other considerable factors eventually fall prey to malnutrition or diseases. The following are a few tips for maintaining a healthy appetite:
1) Daily Breakfast: It is the most important meal of the day. Consume a healthy balanced breakfast like sprouts, roti, idli, dosa, upma, egg, milk, and fruits to help your metabolism get active after a long night fasting. Breakfast will give you more energy to be more active throughout the day. It should be full of vitamins, proteins, and minerals.
2) Eat Small Frequent Meals: Eating small frequent meals rather than three meals a day is an excellent way to build a healthy appetite and is easier to digest. It also helps in decreasing bloating and sluggishness after eating. Try four to six small meals a day to avoid feeling overly full. It is advised to have foods containing lean proteins and energy-dense foods like meats and starches first. Also, avoid loading with less nutritious foods, such as refined foods, white bread, sweets, cookies, and beverages.
3) Snacks Between Meals: Try a small bowl of your favorite snacks like nuts, roasted chickpeas, fruit salads, popcorn, etc. Just remember that snacks are not meant to be eaten instead of meals but in addition to them.
4) Pick Your Favorite Food Items: Consume foods that give you satisfaction and that you enjoy. Also, store your favorite semi-cooked or ready-to-eat ingredients and foods like crab sticks, pre-formed burgers, hard-cooked eggs, cheese slices, fruits, and vegetables, or a chosen whole grain or nutcracker.
5) Use Aromatic Herbs and Spices in Cooking: Foods with a very pleasant or fragrant smell might enhance your appetite. Try to add herbs and spices of a nice aroma, like cinnamon, basil, oregano, asafoetida, etc. Preferred condiments and sauces can also be incorporated.
6) Eat Less Fibrous Food: It is present in fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain food, and it is an essential component of any healthy diet. It feels full, so the best is to have them in moderation. Fruits and vegetables can be consumed after having energy-dense foods.
7) Exercise: Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. So, go for a daily brisk walk for approximately 45 minutes, exercise, do yoga, meditate, cycle, swim, and always be relaxed.
8) Water: Drinking 4 to 5 liters of water daily is the best for the body's temperature regulation and keeping it cool.
9) Serve and Eat Foods Hot: Hot temperature of foods arouses their aroma, which stimulates the digestive juices, increases appetite, and enhances the taste.
10) Have Meals Together: Try to have food with family or friends, whether at home or outside. This tends to improve appetite. A pleasant conversation acts as an adjunct.
Some other tips that can assist in eating food in satisfying quantities and dealing with problems in finishing meals are:
Using attractive crockery and accessories like a placemat, mug, plate, etc., adds interest in having a meal.
Depending on the age and health condition, a walk or other physical activity prior to eating may promote the appetite.
Soft music in the background or a TV show can be enjoyed while eating.
Eat in a comfortable and calm environment.
Consume drinks and beverages, including water, half an hour to one hour before or after meals; they should not be taken along with meals.
Certain suggestions that can help in appetite loss due to changes in taste are:
Experiment with recipes by slightly changing ingredients or preparation methods to enhance your preference for them. For instance, in excessively sweet foods, a little bit of salt or vinegar can be added; or some sugar can be incorporated in too-salty foods.
If you face issues with eating whole meat pieces, chopped or sliced meat can be added to the platter, salads, or in a sandwich.
Use bone china or ceramic crockery to avoid the metallic taste of food.
A healthy and adequate appetite is essential for everyone to lead a healthy and fruitful life. However, there may be a decline in appetite due to various issues. Yet, these problems can be managed appropriately and should be dealt with seriously.
Eating certain food items can increase the appetite, like greek yogurt, veggies, eggs, fruits, protein bars, cottage cheese, and popcorn.
Short-term appetite loss can be caused by a wide range of reasons like colds, food, poisoning, infections, and side effects of medications. Long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer, and terminal illnesses can also precipitate prolonged appetite loss conditions.
Some of the ways to increase appetite are
- Small frequent meals.
- Nutrient-rich diet.
- Avoid empty calories.
- Take measures to add extra calories to the diet.
- Make mealtime fun.
- Use bigger plates during meals to trick the brain.
- Schedule meal timings.
- Avoid skipping breakfast.
- Less-fibrous diet.
- Calorific drinks.
- Healthy snacking.
- Choose your favorite food.
Supplements of vitamin B1 and zinc can increase the appetite if the loss is caused due to their deficiencies. Omega-3-fatty acid supplements can also boost the appetite.
In the short term, no one should force feed. Rather, consider replacement shakes (with carbohydrates and proteins) to meet dietary needs.
The stomach produces hydrochloric acid to break down the consumed food. Not consuming food for a long time, acid can build up in the stomach and result in the feeling of general unwellness. The acid accumulation can lead to acid reflux, nausea, and vomiting.
Overfeeding and uncontrolled eating can be coping mechanisms in patients suffering from mental health conditions like anxiety. Emotional regulation, dietary modifications, diet schedule, mindful eating, and professional mental health help can be made to deal with anxiety eating.
Not eating healthy and sufficient food can preset clinically as:
- Immune deficiency.
- Developmental slow down.
- Hair loss.
- Sexual health problems.
- Improper thermoregulation.
- Skin problems.
- Mental health problems.
Nutritionists recommend a schedule for eating as follows: Smaller frequent meals per day, including:
- Three balanced meals.
- 1 to 3 snacks per day.
Or three large meals per day.
Although it is inadvisable to fast for long, the body depletes the glucose and glycogen storage within 2 to 3 days, after which the body uses amino acids for caloric needs. In general, it is possible for an individual to go for two months without food. The highest ever fasting record has been achieved at 382 days where the person lived off tea, coffee, soda water, and vitamins, under regular medical evaluations.
To regain the appetite after stress, one can take certain steps:
- Identify the stressor.
- Get sufficient sleep.
- Stick to a meal schedule.
- Find the most tolerable food and stick to that.
Anxiety can trigger emotional and psychological shifts in the body, affecting the gastrointestinal system and causing significant appetite loss.
To manage appetite loss, one must focus on eating multiple smaller meals with light snacking in between light exercises.
To increase the appetite in aging individuals, one must:
- Create and stick to a meal schedule.
- Fortify the food.
- Eat with others and make the meals fun.
- Avoid dry mouth.
- Use finger foods.
- Increase snacking.
- Use appetite stimulants.
- Consume drinkable meals.
After fasting for eight or more hours, the body uses fats for energy. In the case of chronic appetite loss, the body starts depleting amino acids. When the glucose levels dip, the body produces Cortisol (stress hormone), which makes one anxious, depressed, irritated, or frustrated.
Last reviewed at:
06 Feb 2023 - 4 min read
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