Appetite loss is usually a symptom of another underlying problem, though it may occur more frequently with age. Aging adults have a decreased sense of taste and may take multiple medications or have chronic illnesses that hinder normal appetite. Emotional factors such as depression and anxiety may reduce appetite in addition to alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse. Heavy metal poisoning and nutritional deficiencies may also affect appetite. Consult your doctor for accurate diagnosis and treatment, because you may have a medical condition such as cancer, hypothyroidism, hepatitis, organ failure, HIV or pregnancy.
Eat foods that look attractive and smell enticing. Ask family members to supply you with favorite foods if you have a chronic illness. Find a comfortable environment in which to eat, and avoid loud, noisy or stressful situations. Avoid taking liquids before or during meals because they cause you to feel full more quickly.
Seek counseling if appetite loss is related to anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression. Follow your doctor's recommendations for medication and consider joining a support group to facilitate emotional healing. Use therapy to change your perspectives on food and your body image in cases of anorexia or eating disorders. Address underlying causes, because superficial efforts to stimulate appetite will fail if unhealthy emotional beliefs continue.
Stimulate appetite using herbs such as catnip, fennel seed, ginger root, ginseng, gotu kola, papaya leaves, peppermint leaves, palmetto berries, dandelion, devil's claw, lemon balm or yarrow. Do not use ginseng if you have high blood pressure. Take a high-potency multi-vitamin to improve nutritional deficiencies, get plenty of vitamin B to stimulate appetite and take zinc and copper to enhance your sense of taste. Use herbs and supplements only with your doctor's approval.
Exercise lightly to increase your appetite. Try walking, casual cycling, gentle yoga or slow-paced swimming to stimulate hunger without burning excess calories or aggravating medical conditions. Exercise helps you assimilate nutrients from food and it also increases hunger.
Quit smoking, which decreases appetite and increases your risk of cancer and other lethal complications. Give up stimulants such as caffeine, energy drinks and sugary foods and beverages because they decrease appetite and have little nutritional value. Reduce alcohol intake or give it up completely. Seek addiction counseling for more serious drug and alcohol abuse.
Drink milk or milk substitutes three times a day to gain needed calories and nutrients. Eat whole-grain bread, rolls, macaroni, crackers, cereals and cream based soups. Creamy soups have more calories and protein than broth-based soups. Snack on avocados, banana, pudding, yogurt fruit shakes and nut butters which are nutritious but easy to digest. Use probiotic yogurts and kefir to promote healthy intestinal bacteria.