How to stimulate appetite in a healthy manner in order to eat more? And what should be the approach in children?

The physiological bases of the terms appetite and hunger are radically different. Yet Cicero said: “Hunger is (the best) spice of meal.” If a person really feels hunger, it is naturally to meet his organism’s needs of food. When we are hungry the production of the hormone ghrelin is increased, also known as hunger hormone. It is released by the empty stomach into the bloodstream and activates specific brain receptors. As a result, the levels of another chemical substance – leptin, also known as the satiety hormone, are decreased.

Appetite may occur even in the absence of hunger, for example when serving a favorite food. Certain conditions should be met for its occurrence, such as good mood, lack of negative emotions, pleasant appearance and flavor of the food, good atmosphere and so on. Usually appetite is a question of creating a habit. If a person eats or drinks at specific time, the desire to eat will come regularly exactly at this time. One of the main differences between the two terms is exactly this – hunger does not occur at certain times, but only when the body has spent enough energy through a specific activity and this has led to the necessity of new food. The desire for tea, coffee, alcohol, candies and all these inventions, tempting the taste receptors, represents appetite, not hunger.

The lack of appetite in turn represents unwillingness to eat and is not determined by the satiety feeling. It may be a harmless passing condition, as well as a symptom of many diseases.

The prolonged lack of appetite may lead to complete aversion for food, as the so called aversion for a certain type of food is observed in some cases. It is typical for most of the infectious diseases, poisonings and it accompanies the treatment with some medications (digitalis, interferon). The problem disappears after improvement of the overall condition of the patient. The prolonged lack of appetite also suggests for stomach disorders.

Loss of appetite is observed in a number of diseases of the intestines, liver and endocrine glands. The condition of prolonged starvation due to lack of appetite is often combined with morning vomiting and is seen in people with chronic alcoholism.

Frequently, the lack of appetite is associated with unpleasant experiences and conflicts. This often happens to teenage girls and young women who in the desire to keep their figure slender, stay often hungry and some of them even resort to laxatives. Because of the occurred functional disorders in digestion, in the course of time the deliberate starvation is a cause for the occurrence of very serious eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. My advice is to look for a doctor when the first signs of causeless lack of appetite and weight loss occur.

When the reduced appetite is part of the person’s nature /the so called “poor eaters”/ and after we have excluded the possibility it is a symptom of disease, then we may resort to natural means that stimulate appetite such as the bitter herbs and their potions. These are gentian, centaury, parsley, anise, wormwood, ginger. The bitter glycosides in them stimulate the digestive processes by activating the secretion of gastric acid and enzymes.

Additional measure in case of lack of appetite is to increase the physical activity – a walk before meal or regular exercise (running, walking, swimming).

The situation in children is different and the poor eating child often comes into notice for the whole family. The systemic forced eating however is not a solution and the small middle snacks between the main courses do not allow the kids to feel real hunger which can be misinterpreted as lack of appetite. Modern medical understandings encourage the parents to leave their children feel hunger and ask for food by themselves. The games, entertainments, walks in the nature, the interesting pastime and positive emotions will help in regulating appetite. Royal jelly is a good appetite stimulant for children. It is one of the safest and at the same time useful means of appetite. It is best to use it naturally (which looks like cream). 10 g of royal jelly are placed in 200 g honey. If the child is allergic to or doesn’t like honey, it may be placed in glucose. One teaspoon from the jar may be given every morning. The additional benefit is that royal jelly has a powerful hypoallergenic effect.

Finally, the appetite in all children is decreased at certain periods. This may be related to a change in the weather conditions, unusual noise, music, disharmony in the child’s biorhythm, mother’s anxiety that is also transmitted to the child and so on.