Increase Appetite: Appetite is a person’s desire to eat food. It differs from hunger, which is the body’s biological response to a lack of food. A person can have an appetite even if their body does not show need and vice versa.
Appetite can be increased or decreased by combining factors, sometimes causing people to eat less or more than the body needs.
This article looks at how to increase appetite, including factors that can affect appetite, and when to see a doctor.
What is the appetite?
Appetite is a general desire to eat. A person’s need may determine the amount of food they want to eat and the type of food they want to eat.
The starvation process occurs when the body realizes that it needs more food and sends a signal to the brain to eat. Signs of hunger often include:
- A sound or rumbling from the stomach
- A feeling of emptiness in the stomach
- Feeling dizzy
- Difficulty concentrating
- A headache
According to the Digestive Research Association, it is unlikely that a person will prefer what they want to eat when they are hungry. In contrast, a person with a desire to eat may find that certain factors increase their appetite. These may include:
- Boredom, stress, or any other emotional state.
- Seeing or smelling the food they like.
- A routine, habit, or special occasion.
Health conditions, medications, and environmental factors can also alter a person’s appetite. Lifestyle factors and health conditions can influence hunger, as well.
Factors affecting appetite
A wide range of factors can influence appetite. Here are some common examples below:
In a 2017 study on the ketogenic diet or keto diet, researchers noted that people who initiate a diet often experience increased appetite at first.
However, after losing weight and staying on a diet for 3 weeks, the study participants no longer had an increased appetite. The keto diet is high in fat and low in carbohydrates.
Other studies indicate that protein increases feelings of fullness after meals. Therefore, a diet containing an adequate amount of protein may help regulate a person’s appetite.
A person’s emotional state has a significant impact on their appetite. For some people, stress or sadness may cause them to eat more food to cope with how they are feeling, but for others, these feelings have the opposite effect.
Certain mental health conditions also affect appetite, including:
Some research suggests that depression can increase or decrease a person’s appetite. Some people associate food with a reward and may eat more to feel better.
- Eating disorders
Binge eating disorder involves periods of overeating, which are then followed by feelings of guilt. A person with this disorder may want to eat hard even if they are not hungry.
Anorexia nervosa, which causes a person to restrict eating, may reduce a person’s desire to eat despite the body’s need for food.
Nausea, constipation, and pressure on the stomach from a growing fetus can reduce a pregnant woman’s appetite. Nutritionists recommend pregnant women with a lack of desire to try:
- Eat smaller meals more often.
- Eat high-energy foods, such as fruits, nuts, and cheese.
- Prepare smoothies at home that contain a lot of energy and nutrients.
Pregnancy can also increase appetite by causing food cravings. A 2014 study suggests that cultural norms affect the foods women may crave during pregnancy, which can lead to overeating.
Many medications can affect a person’s appetite. Some of the medicines that can cause weight gain include:
- Medication to lower blood pressure, such as metoprolol (Lopressor).
- Some epilepsy medications.
- Some diabetes medications.
- Antipsychotic medications.
- Steroid hormones, such as prednisone (Deltasone).
- Some antidepressants, such as paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft).
Several medical conditions can lead to a loss of appetite or increased appetite, including:
Infection: Bacterial or viral diseases, such as viral gastroenteritis, can temporarily reduce a person’s appetite.
Thyroid disease: The thyroid gland has a significant effect on appetite. If someone suffers from hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, they may notice decreased or increased thirst.
Cancer: Cancer can sometimes directly cause a loss of appetite, depending on symptoms, the tumor’s location, and whether it releases hormones. It can also cause an indirect casualty of need due to a person’s response to treatment.
Parkinson’s disease: According to the Parkinson Foundation, this condition can cause a loss of taste or smell, which may reduce a person’s appetite.
Kidney disease: If the kidneys start to fail, some waste products will build up in the bloodstream. This buildup can lead to decreased appetite.
How to increase appetite?
If a person has a decrease in appetite due to a specific medical condition, treating it may improve it.
For long-term causes of decreased appetite, such as cancer, there are some suggestions that people adjust their eating habits to increase their cravings by:
- Eat delicious foods.
- Use spices and aromatic herbs to improve flavor.
- Make meals fun by playing music and serving food well.
- Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day.
- Eating at fixed times every day.
- Plan meals for the previous day.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
Because other lifestyle factors, such as sleep, exercise, and stress, also affect appetite, Pankan recommends:
- Get enough rest.
- Exercising regularly.
- Take medications to reduce nausea, if appropriate.
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How to reduce appetite?
A person who finds that they want to eat more food than the body needs can reduce their appetite by addressing the underlying cause.
If a person is eating due to stress or anxiety, mindfulness meditation may help. A 2014 review found that mindfulness meditation appears to be a useful tool for reducing emotional eating.
The Obesity Medicine Association also recommends eating mindfully. People can practice mindful eating by:
- Waiting until you are hungry and eating in moderation is not a binge.
- Avoid distractions, such as television, during meals.
- Take deep breaths before eating.
- Use your senses to appreciate how the food looks, smells, and tastes.
- Take small bites and chew well.
- Pay attention to the body’s signs that it is full.
A person can modify what they eat to increase fullness by avoiding processed foods and simple sugars. Instead, you can focus on meals with a balance of protein, healthy fats, fiber, and carbohydrates.
In a 2018 study, researchers found that drinking water before a meal helped reduce the number of calories that participants consumed during a meal. Although this may not directly affect appetite, it may help reduce hunger.
When to see a doctor?
A person should speak to their own doctor if they are experiencing unexplained changes in appetite, in case there is an underlying health condition that affects their desire. A doctor can also help to switch medication if its side effects are responsible for the appetite changes.
A person with a mental health condition that makes them want to overeat or severely limit their food intake should speak to a doctor or therapist for support.
Appetite describes a person’s desire to eat. Many factors can affect a person’s needs, including the environment, lifestyle, mental health, and physical health.
Mindful eating can help a person become alert when the body needs food. However, if a person with decreased or increased appetite suspects an underlying cause, they should speak to a doctor.