Your lifestyle, certain medications and illness can squash your appetite, leading to possible unintentional weight loss that endangers your health. If you are too thin and have a body mass index of less than 18.5, this can compromise your immunity, energy, hormonal function and bone health. You know eating more would get you back to a healthy weight, but you feel full after only a few bites. Speak with your doctor about your lack of appetite and he might prescribe one of the approved medicinal pills for appetite stimulation. Only resort to pills once you've tried lifestyle interventions to stimulate your appetite, and only under guidance from your medical provider.
Prescribed Appetite Stimulants
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has officially approved only three pills for use as an appetite stimulant. Megastrol is a corticosteroid usually prescribed to people in the later stages of cancer treatment. Oxandrolone is an anabolic steroid that helps people gain weight after trauma, surgery or chronic illness. Dronabinol is a version of Cannibis sativa L., or marijuana, and is produced in a laboratory. Smoked Cannibas sativa promotes increased cravings for food and increases the enjoyment of food. The appetite-stimulant pill has none of the hallucinogenic properties or other substances found in smoked marijuana.
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All of these pills have potential negative side effects, so discuss with your doctor the appropriateness of any of these pills for your situation.
Zinc Therapy for Your Appetite
Zinc deficiency can stifle your appetite and can make food seem unappetizing. Speak with your doctor if you suspect you're getting inadequate amounts of this essential mineral. Zinc is found in a variety of foods such as oysters, red meat, cheese, shellfish, legumes, whole grains, tahini and sunflower seeds. A study published in a 2011 issue of Recent Patents on Food, Nutrition and Agriculture found that zinc supplementation increased appetite in zinc-deficient rats, showing promise for its use in humans. More research is needed to understand how well it works in people.
Consider Your Current Medications
Instead of adding a pill, think about the pills you're currently taking and how they may affect your appetite. Certain antibiotics can interfere with your taste buds and slow your digestion so you're not hungry as often. Sometimes, cancer patients find that drugs for chemotherapy can cause nausea and loss of appetite. Heart medications and diuretics can also negatively affect your appetite. Talk to your doctor about possible alternatives to drugs you're currently taking; never stop taking a medication without an OK from your physician.
Lifestyle Adjustments That May Help a Poor Appetite
A sedentary lifestyle can cause a poor appetite, so get up and move more, if possible. A brisk walk or other moderate-intensity cardiovascular activities -- even for 20 minutes -- may help you feel hungrier.
Make eating an event that you enjoy with family and friends, rather than a chore you do on your own. Experiment with new flavors -- add spices, herbs and citrus to food to make the food more delicious. Stay hydrated throughout the day, as dehydration can sometimes diminish your appetite.
If you still find that your appetite is poor, eat smaller portions more often. For example, split breakfast into two or three snack-sized meals. Start with an egg and a slice of toast; an hour or two later, eat a bowl of fruit with yogurt. Do the same with other meals, and grab a handful of nuts or dried fruit if you've gone several hours without eating.
- University of New Mexico: Poor Appetite/Feeling Full Early (Early Satiety)
- International Review of Psychiatry: Cannabinoids and Appetite: Food Craving and Food Pleasure
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Zinc
- University of Utah College of Pharmacy: Agents Used as Appetite Stimulants Drug Class Review
- United Healthcare: Don't Feel Like Eating? How to Get Your Appetite Back on Track
- Recent Patents on Food, Nutrition and Agriculture: Zinc as an Appetite Stimulator - The Possible Role of Zinc in the Progression of Diseases Such as Cachexia and Sarcopenia