How to Stimulate a Poor Appetite
Why do you have a poor appetite?
There are numerous reasons why someone can have a poor appetite and it affects us all at sometime or another. However, the first step in getting over a poor appetite is to discover the reason for it in the first place. Below is a list of some reasons that may cause you to not feel like eating. However, if you have a lack of appetite over an extended period along with weight loss and/or other symptoms then you must speak to a doctor.
Common reasons for poor appetite:
- Constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion, bloating.
- Feeling sick/nausea
- The first trimester of pregnancy can cause sick feelings leading to reluctance to eat.
- Recovering from some viruses for example flu, cold.
- As a result of serious illness - such as liver disease, kidney failure, cancer, emphysema etc.
- Oral thrush, dental problems or other problems with the mouth and teeth.
- Medication side effects - especially strong pain killers, anti-biotics, chemotherapy, radiotherapy etc.
- Alcohol side effects.
- Anxiety and/or depression.
- Food no longer tastes good - this occurs more with elderly people.
- If sense of smell is affected this can also make food less desirable.
- Time of day. This could be a problem for shift workers who regularly change the times of their main meal, especially when night shift.
- Pain - especially if someone suffers from chronic pain.
- Difficulty swallowing due to a sore throat for example. In addition there could be other conditions - physical or mental health conditions - that makes swallowing difficult causing a fear of choking.
Not only is weight loss a problem with a prolonged poor appetite but other health issues such as malnutrition will also arise. This condition, which is basically a lack of nutrients in the diet, can lead to:
- Weakness and fatigue that could cause problems in your day to day living
- Lack of protein may lead to fluid retention causing swelling particularly in the ankles and feet.
- Nutrient and mineral deficiency conditions.
- Healing of any wounds takes much longer.
- The person is more prone to pick up viruses, infections and other disorders.
- Bowel problems such as constipation or a worsening of a current bowel problem such as irritable bowel syndrome. This is a particular issue when people snack on the wrong kinds of food.
- Depression and other mental health problems.
Tips on stimulating your appetite when your mouth is sore
Tips when you have a sore mouth
1. Keep your mouth clean and fresh - using a mouth spray, ice lollies or ice cubes can help.
2. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day
3. Eat a soft, moist diet and/or nourishing drinks. Use a straw to drink if this helps.
4. Keep food moist by adding a gravy or sauce.
5. Avoid foods that could irritate your mouth such as hot spicy meals, very cold foods, salty, coarse foods and acidic foods could also cause discomfort.
6. Smoking and alcohol should be avoided as they can irritate a sore mouth
7. Chewing sugar free gum, sugar free boiled sweets or pastels are good for stimulating saliva that helps to heal and soothe your mouth. There are also oral preparations you can buy to help a sore mouth.
8. Tangy fruits, fizzy drinks can irritate the mouth rather than refresh it.
How to stimulate the appetite into accepting food
Whether you need to stimulate you own appetite or that of someone else, even a child, there are a number of things that can be done to get the digestive juices flowing again. The National Health Service Patient Advice UK offers a number of tips on how to encourage eating:
- Prepare small portions frequently throughout the day
- Eat when ever you or the person you care for is hungry - don't wait specifically for meal times.
- Try to drink after eating rather than just before as fluid can give the feeling of being full.
- You can often trick the mind and the appetite into accepting food - for example by using a very large dinner plate with food placed on it - this looks like a very small amount to eat and can encourage people to eat.
- Eat or offer favourite foods. Even if this means eating conventional food at odd times. When I cared for elderly people, who frequently had poor appetites, I've often given them things such as ice cream at breakfast time simply because they fancied some and it got them eating.
- Take or offer supplements and/or fortified drinks daily. If a person has lost weight then offer full fat options of milk etc.
- Ginger is very good for the digestive system. Even a ginger snap biscuit will help.
- Ensure that all meals are presented as attractively as possible.
- Ensure that you or the person you care for are allowed enough time to eat their food without hurrying.
- Make meal times as pleasant and relaxing as possible.
- Ensure during meal times or when a person is eating that there are no noxious odours in the area or other distractions such as being too hot, too cold, stuffy etc.
- A small glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage half an hour before a meal can stimulate the appetite
- If able, a short brisk walk or a swim can stimulate the appetite.
- For people who are worried about choking or are having difficulty swallowing, chewing or other mouth/throat problems, then concentrate on giving them a soft diet. There are plenty of healthy recipes around to ensure that even on a soft diet nutrition is maintained.
NHS - Ideas for nutritious snacks
Nutritious Snack Ideas
Cereal made with milk/fortified milk
Baked beans, cheese or sardines on toast
Crackers and cheese
Sandwiches - cheese & tomato, ham & pickle, cucumber & tuna
Bowl of creamy soup with bread roll/bread
Creamy yoghurts/milkshakes/malted drinks taken with mixed fruit &nuts, plain biscuits etc.
Things to remember about having a poor appetite
There are many ways to stimulate the desire for food when we don't really feel like it. Remember as well, you don't have to eat a lot to maintain nutrition. What is in the food is much more important than how much of it you eat.
One of the reasons that, for elderly people in particular, they can suffer from malnutrition even in hospital or care settings is that the quantity given may be high, but the nutrient content of the food is low. You can eat constantly, be over weight and yet still be malnourished. Therefore, the important thing about stimulating a poor appetite is not the quantity but the quality of food that is taken.