How to Increase Appetite Naturally: Evidence-Based Tips

How to Increase Appetite Naturally 

Have you been experiencing a loss of appetite? Whether you need to consume more calories to help you gain muscles, improve your energy, or avoid losing weight, stimulating your appetite can get you back on track to looking and feeling your best. 

Read on to find out what causes hunger and the factors associated with a low appetite along with some of the best appetite stimulants that can enhance your food cravings.   

The Difference Between Appetite and Hunger

Hunger and appetite are two terms that often get confused with one another. 

Hunger is a physical sensation caused by certain hormones and chemical reactions that our bodies sense when we need food. Experiencing hunger is beneficial since it alerts our brains that we require fuel to maintain certain energy levels [1]. 

Appetite refers to the desire to eat. In other words, it’s a psychological reaction that can be triggered through emotions, experiences, or temptations such as boredom, having a memory of a restaurant we love, or smelling something delicious [2]. 

There are certain medical conditions that can raise or suppress our appetite – no matter if we are hungry or not! When our appetite is high, we are more likely to gain weight due to excessive food intake whereas a decreased appetite can put us at greater risk for unwanted weight loss and malnutrition. 

Common Causes of a Poor Appetite

If you’re struggling to regain a normal appetite, there may be a logical explanation for this. A low appetite or loss of appetite is associated with a range of mental or physical issues –  from food poisoning to more severe health conditions such as cancer or HIV. 

Here are some common causes of a poor appetite [3]: 

  • Bacterial or viral infection – pneumonia, colitis, or gastroenteritis

  • Psychological disorders –  anxiety, depression, or eating disorders

  • Medical conditions – chronic liver disease, kidney failure or heart failure

  • Digestive conditions –  irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease

  • Hormonal conditions –  Addison’s disease or hypothyroidism 

  • Prescription medications – antibiotics, morphine, or chemotherapy drugs

  • Lifestyle factors – smoking or lack of physical activity

If you suffer from any clinical conditions listed above, it’s important to address your symptoms with a healthcare professional immediately. In some instances, recovery can boost appetite, improve food consumption habits, and restore energy.  

Best Methods to Stimulate Appetite  

If you continue to lose weight despite taking precautions with medical and psychological checkups, there are plenty of other strategies for overcoming poor appetite! 

The following tips are meant to target our primary “appetite influencers” including stress, hormones, and social interactions to help us recognize hunger cues and stimulate appetite naturally. 

1. Exercise regularly 

Engaging in regular exercise is an effective way to stimulate appetite. When we exercise, we continue to burn calories as fuel to help us move our bodies. As a result, exercise boosts our appetite to encourage us to replace the calories we lost during our workout. 

Although exercise works as a natural appetite stimulant, there are many factors that can modify how much or how little it affects us. 

Fitness level 

If you’re new to exercising, you may notice an immediate spike in your appetite following a workout. However, this may taper over time as your fitness levels improve. 

Exercise intensity and duration 

The longer and more intensely you work out, the more calories you expend. As a result, you are more likely to have a greater appetite after a 1-hour run compared to a 10-minute walk. 

However, research has found that this is only effective up to a certain intensity level. Strenuous and prolonged bouts of exercise tend to blunt your appetite, causing you to eat fewer calories during post-exercise meals [4]. 

Activity type  

Though exercise is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle, there are certain types of activities that may be more advantageous than others. 

Research has found that strength or resistance training is proven to lead to a significant increase in appetite in young and older adults [5]. Compared to cardiovascular exercises, weight lifting builds muscle mass which burns more calories, promotes a higher metabolism, and helps increase your appetite.

2. Eat smaller meals more frequently

Spreading out your daily nutrient intake into smaller, more frequent meals can help you gain a healthy appetite.

When you experience a loss of appetite, there's a good chance you have no desire to consume a massive meal at any point in the day. Instead, it can benefit you more to plan meals in small portion sizes (with plenty of snacks) when you're actually feeling hungry.

Not only does this help aid in a more efficient metabolism, but it can contribute to healthy weight gain and maintenance of muscle mass.

3. Make mealtime more fun

Oftentimes, the loss of appetite is a direct result of feeling bored or dissatisfied during mealtime. For this reason, it may be beneficial to incorporate more entertainment or socialization during meal times.

For example, it can help to eat meals while watching your favorite television show or have a few friends over to socialize with. In a way, these methods help "trick us" into eating more calories than we would if we weren't so distracted.

4. Manage your stress levels 

There is a good chance stress may be causing you to lose your appetite.

Stress triggers an emotional and psychological response in your body to help you cope and overcome this "threatful" situation. Unfortunately, the hormones that are released can slow digestion, hunger, and appetite.

Stress management techniques can keep your hunger and stress hormones within a healthy range to improve appetite and prevent unnecessary weight loss or weight gain [5, 6]. Some of the best methods of stress management include light exercise, meditation, journaling, sleep, and proper nutrition [7].

5. Try appetite stimulant supplements 

Losing your appetite may be linked to a deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals. For this reason, you may want to consider trying the following appetite stimulant supplements. 

  • Zinc – zinc plays a role in regulating vagus nerve activity to help stimulate feelings of hunger. Without adequate levels of zinc in your diet, you may experience a loss of appetite and taste disturbances causing a low desire to eat [8]

  • Vitamin B1 – this vitamin is known to help the body convert food into energy. Vitamin B1 deficiency can result in loss of appetite and low food cravings [9]. 

  • Thiamine – a thiamine deficiency is associated with a reduced appetite as well as increased resting energy expenditure that may promote unhealthy weight loss [10

  • Fish/Krill oil – some studies have found that fish oil can increase appetite and minimize feelings of fullness in healthy adults after meals [11]

The link between CBD oil supplements and Appetite

CBD oil has become a popular supplement across most of the world. 

In recent years, studies have explored the potential effects CBD has on hunger and appetite. The research discovered that when added to certain foods and beverages, CBD oils may help to relieve symptoms of nausea, calm the nervous system, and boost appetite [12].

The Bottom Line

Learning the best ways to increase appetite naturally can make all the difference in your energy levels, cognitive abilities, and physical health. By engaging in regular exercise, eating more frequent small meals, distracting yourself, managing stress levels, and addressing any vitamin or mineral deficiencies, you may be able to improve your appetite in a matter of days.

For those who are experiencing significant loss of appetite and are unable to maintain a healthy weight, we recommend that you consult with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

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