Best Food To Improve Appetite

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A good appetite, neither overbearing nor meager, is a sign of health. Nevertheless, poor appetite is not necessarily cause for concern, since even the slightest physical and emotional problems can affect appetite. Other symptoms are bloating, indigestion, constipation, nausea or pain. However, when appetite loss continues, or is accompanied by weight loss, the cause should be investigated further to rule out more serious illnesses.


Poor appetite has a multitude of causes, but the most likely cause lies in the digestive tract and nearby organs. Almost every stomach and intestinal problem will disturb appetite, including constipation, diarrhea, indigestion and ulcers. Disorders of the gall-bladder, pancreas and liver can be a source of slow digestion from a lack of enzymes, and this in turn can cause appetite loss.

Best Food To Improve AppetiteStrong emotions such as grief, depression and stress or anxiety affect appetite. Even the mildest emotional distress can cause stomach upset and tame a hearty appetite in a susceptible person.

Bad eating habits also contribute. Common problems are snacking on sweets and soft drinks between meals, and eating large, heavy meals containing saturated fats. Deep-fried food is particularly hard to digest. In contrast, small meals rich in vegetables and fruit are easy to digest and taste good. Appealing taste is vital for a hearty appetite; for those who suffer from an inability to taste and smell properly, such as the elderly and the chronically ill, extra seasoning may be necessary. Many types of medications cause nausea, constipation and other stomach problems, and insufficient nutrients and alcoholism are other problems that affect appetite.

Appetite loss often serves a purpose. During a feverish infection, the body places all its energy into its defense mechanisms and food is irrelevant. In the case of digestive trouble, rest from food allows healing to occur more easily.


Eat small, frequent meals rather than one or two heavy meals, to encourage appetite and promote digestion. It is important that food has an appealing appearance and aroma, and that meals be taken in a relaxed and pleasant environment. Tangy, colorful fruits such as apricots, peaches or red currants stimulate the appetite. Fresh blueberries with milk are wonderfully refreshing and revitalizing, and are tolerated by even the weakest stomach. Lemon juice with water is a very refreshing and appetite-stimulating drink. Lemons and other fruit are an excellent source of vitamin C. Vitamin C deficiency can cause loss of appetite. Pineapple juice is also a good choice of drink to precede a meal. In addition to stimulating the appetite and providing vitamin C, pineapple contains an enzyme which facilitates digestion by breaking down proteins similarly to stomach acids. The herbs fennel and dill are known for their positive effect on appetite and should be used liberally in seasoning dishes. Leeks contain an oil which includes sulphur and allyl sulfide and has a mildly stimulating effect on the appetite and the digestive organs.

To promote weight gain and regeneration of the body, snacks between meals should provide proteins, the essential fatty acids omega-6 linoleic acid and omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid. Some examples are avocados, banana custard pudding, buttermilk, quark, nuts and nut butters, tuna and chicken. Lactic acid fermented foods such as natural, unsweetened yogurt or kefir are also very beneficial to digestion and optimal absorption of nutrients because they create a healthy bacterial environment in the intestines.

Whole oats are very rich in proteins, unsaturated fatty acids, complex carbohydrates and cellulose, which stimulates intestinal activity. A Swiss-style muesli of rolled oats, grated nuts, yogurt and apricots or peaches is an excellent starter in the morning or pick-me-up during the day.

Nutritional yeast is excellent for building strength and energy. Yeast, especially kefir-based yeast, is rich in B vitamins, which also serve to improve appetite.

Nutritional Supplements

When combating appetite loss over long periods, the body must keep up its strength and weight. A vitamin B complex can be taken instead of, or in conjunction with, the yeast. Many green foods, especially alfalfa, are highly nourishing and stimulate appetite. Alfalfa is available in capsules and powders, but sprouted alfalfa is best fresh in a salad.

A nutritional deficiency in vitamins A, C or E can also cause poor appetite and a troubled digestion. The elderly are most vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies, especially if fruits and vegetables are not adequate in the diet. If zinc is lacking, smell and taste will be affected. Medications including the contraceptive pill cause zinc and folic acid deficiencies. If appetite loss is due to depression, indigestion or nausea, refer to those sections.

Daily Dosage, with Meals:

  • Vitamin B complex, 50 mg one to three times daily
  • Alfalfa, 2-4 mg of the capsules or 1 tbsp. of powder, three times daily
  • Vitamin C, with bioflavonoids, 1,000 mg three times daily
  • Zinc, 20 mg, with 3 mg copper, three times daily until appetite returns, then reduce intake to 20 mg once daily
  • Vitamin A, 25,000 IU (avoid during pregnancy)
  • Vitamin E, with mixed tocopherols, 400-800 IU

Herbal Remedies

For a chronically depressed appetite, bitter herb juices, taken half an hour before meals, are excellent for stimulating the appetite. Any of the recommended herbs can be taken as teas or diluted tinctures, depending on personal preference and availability. However, juices are milder than tinctures and are gentle on the stomach and intestines. Especially for an undernourished person, the freshly pressed juices provide the vitamins and minerals needed.
  • Take 1 tbsp. of dandelion, wormwood, hyssop or yarrow juice in water fifteen minutes before meals.
  • Swedish bitters are an old proven combination of bitter herbs that stimulate bile flow and aid digestion. Take 1 tsp. before and after meals.
  • Green, leafy herbs, especially alfalfa, are highly nourishing and stimulate appetite. Take 1 tbsp. fresh juice before breakfast and lunch.
  • If appetite loss is emotional or stress-related, sip fennel, camomile, fenugreek, lemon balm or peppermint tea throughout the day. These herbs, taken alone or combined, have a soothing effect on the stomach. Use 1 tsp. of herbs per cup of boiling water.


Be sure to look at the underlying cause of this problem. Many homeopathic remedies exist for appetite loss, but if the symptoms fit one of the remedies recommended below, use the 6c strength. Take two pills under the tongue three times daily until the appetite improves or for up to ten days.

  • Nux vomica is useful when a poor appetite is due to an overindulgence in food, coffee, cigarettes and/or alcohol. The person generally feels terrible in the morning and may be nauseous and irritable.
  • Ignatia remedies an aversion to food, related to grief.

Tissue Salts

Take 4 tablets four times daily under the tongue.

  • Calc phos is particularly useful if digestion is slowed, especially when a little food causes gas pain. Children who fail to grow well and are easily exhausted and jittery will benefit.
  • Nat phos is needed for overacidity and sourness.
  • Nat sulph will assist when the cause lies in the overproduction of bile, noticeable by a bitter taste in the mouth.
  • Kali phos is helpful if there is nervous weakness and an empty feeling in the abdomen.

External/Physical Therapies

  • Dry skin-brushing the stomach area is simple and beneficial. Histamine is produced in the skin, which stimulates the stomach juices and digestive acids.
  • Warm, moist compresses and Kneipp water therapy on the stomach and liver area are very helpful.
  • Vigorous exercise like walking, swimming and biking can stimulate the appetite.
  • If appetite loss is due to an emotional problem, a temporary change of environment or location is advisable.

Other Suggestions

  • In the case of an acute illness, it is important not to put too much emphasis on food by forcing the person to eat, as this temporary state often rectifies itself within a few days. If appetite loss is a long-standing problem however, there are a few simple measures that go a long way. The importance of how food looks, smells and tastes cannot be overemphasized. Remember that large portions can make eating frustrating for someone who is not hungry. Preparing small, nutritious meals more often, and providing an environment that is enjoyable to eat in–not in front of the television–can make a difference. Sugary snacks, coffee and cigarettes should be avoided as much as possible, since they all suppress appetite.
  • Drinking during a meal can hinder digestion as well as appetite. Wait until some time after the meal.
  • Pay attention to the simple habits of overall health, such as exercise, fresh air and a happy outlook, since these also have an affect on appetite.
  • Sometimes a longer fasting period can regulate the metabolism and normalize body functions, to stimulate the appetite and regenerate the taste buds.
  • Shift workers who live against the biological rhythm of day and night/light and dark often have a problem with appetite.

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