While it seems that the majority of people have the opposite problem – an excessive appetite – there are many individuals who experience a lack of desire to eat. This tends to affect many older people, but can also be common in children and adults, too. There are many factors that can cause one’s appetite to diminish. Examples include nutrient deficiency, depression, chronic disease, acute infection, low stomach acid, insufficient pancreatic enzyme levels, or a side effect of taking medications. Undereating can result in poor muscle tone, reduced strength, and lowered immune function.
When appetite is diminished, it is important to make eating nutritious foods the highest priority whenever food is eaten. Avoid eating processed or refined foods, which tend to be devoid of nutrients and can be harmful to the body. Concentrate on eating nutrient dense foods that nourish and fuel the body. Examples include fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, chicken, eggs, nuts and seeds, whole grains and legumes. Shakes or smoothies make great snacks and are a wonderful way to easily get high-quality protein and healthy fat. One of my favorite smoothie combinations is vanilla Plant Fusion protein powder, coconut milk, frozen blueberries and strawberries, and yogurt.
Here are some suggestions for helping to boost one’s appetite:
1) Check zinc status: Zinc is a critical mineral involved in many body functions, including taste, sense of smell, and appetite. Deficiencies are very common and can cause food to have an unpleasant taste or smell, or have no taste or smell at all. The company Metagenics has a liquid product called Zinc Tally that allows you to easily test your zinc status at home. To perform the test, put two teaspoons of Zinc Tally into your mouth and hold for 10 seconds. A lack of taste or a delayed taste perception suggests a possible zinc insufficiency. An immediate taste perception suggests zinc status may be adequate. If deficient, it is generally recommended that you supplement with 25 mg of zinc daily. Consider taking a high-quality multivitamin to address other possible nutrient deficiencies, such as B vitamins, as well.
2) Supplement with key digestive supportive nutrients: Digestive complaints such as nausea, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and cramping can definitely hinder appetite. Taking friendly bacteria (probiotics), digestive enzymes, stomach acid (HCl), and herbs such as ginger, DGL licorice, and fennel and help address these complaints and correct possible imbalances. I also recommend taking 5-10 drops of a tincture of bitter herbs such as gentian or artichoke approximately 15 minutes prior to eating. Bitters help to release digestive hormones, stimulate appetite, increase bile flow, and support liver detoxification.