An appetite stimulant is a medication that increases a person's feeling of hunger.
Although an increase in appetite is considered negative by many, some people may need to have their desire to eat stimulated.
Certain conditions, such as cancer, psychological conditions, and ageing, can lead to unintended weight loss due to decreased appetite. Losing too much weight can affect a person's quality of life and increase the risk of disease.
Loss of appetite
Anorexia, a loss of appetite or a poor appetite are shown by a lack of interest in or even a rejection of food, which continuously occurs at mealtimes, and these issues are more common in the early and late stages of life - childhood and old age.
An adequate diet ensures the normal development and maintenance of the body, whilst providing reserves for situations such as acute conditions (flu, pharyngitis, etc.) and chronic conditions (depression, cancer, etc.) where appetite is usually reduced.
A lack of appetite during childhood
A lack of appetite or childhood anorexia is one of the most common problems that arise in paediatric consultations.
It is a common symptom in acute diseases such as infections ( colds, otitis, gastroenteritis, flu processes, etc.). Also in banal processes or when there are changes in the usual routine ( travel, starting nursery school, the birth of a sibling, weaning, new foods).
In these cases, the lack of appetite is usually temporary. It lasts a few days or weeks, until what triggered it is resolved. If the disease is severe or chronic, it can remain until adequate control or treatment is obtained.
There are also cases of "children that are picky eaters", whose parents live in anguish and fear. Mealtimes can be very painful for both children and parents.
The parents' fear arises from the idea that by eating little they may have deficiencies and that this prevents them from growing correctly, but in most cases these are healthy children, with little appetite, but with adequate and normal development.
Practical tips for treating a lack of appetite in children
The following recommendations from the AEPap (Spanish Association of Paediatrics and Primary Care) may be useful when treating the loss of appetite in children:
- It is advisable to adapt to the needs of the child. It is important to accept that there are different appetites and that they will vary over time. The important thing is to teach children how to eat properly, not a lot.
- It is good to have a relaxed atmosphere during mealtimes. Eat as a family whenever possible. It is easier to imitate habits and behaviours if they feel close.
- Use small plates and portions that the child can finish. It is better to have the option to have seconds if they want.
- If they reject a certain food, offer it occasionally. It is normal for some children not to accept new flavours and textures at first.
- Let them experiment, participate, express preferences. Educate and transmit healthy habits.
- Avoid eating between meals. Do not substitute foods for liquids (for example: milk, smoothies) or "easy" foods. The child will have less appetite when it is mealtime.
- The child should not have to be distracted by games or television in order to eat. Set a time for meals.
- Avoid shouting, threatening or blackmailing with rewards or punishments.
- Avoid forcing. This can lead us to an oppositional attitude. The rejection of food and everything to do with it can be perpetuated over time.
And it is always advisable to go to regular health checks. The paediatrician will check and monitor that the child's growth and development are correct.