Human appetite is a complex process which triggers a desire in a person to eat food. Several factors govern appetite. Impulses or message sent from the stomach and intestine, hormones, and part of brain which responds to taste, smell, and sight of food all get activated to induce desire for food. When a person has normal appetite, he eats when he has desire for food. But soon stops eating thereafter when his stomach is full and his body indicates balance in blood sugar as well energy source.
Generally young individuals have good appetite as compared to people over the age of 70.Loss of appetite is common problem experienced by many elderly individuals. Just as other changes in the body, reduced appetite is normal phenomenon among elderly. As a person ages, many body functions become lax or work slow. Metabolism may reduce, the energy level will reduce, and sensory perceptions will also get affected.
Aside from physiological causes there are many organic reasons for loss of appetite which we will discuss in next paragraph. There is no specific way to stimulate appetite in an elderly. Addressing the underlying cause gradually increases the lost appetite.
What Causes Loss Of Appetite In The Elderly
Although it is normal for a person to have mild loss of appetite as he ages, there are several other causes that are associated with low appetite in old age.
- As a person grows older, his sense of taste and smell is affected. As a result he loses interest in eating food.
- Mental conditions such as depression, grief, memory loss and being alone all the time reduce his interest in his daily activities which also includes eating food.
- Old people get fatigued easily due to lack of energy. He or she may therefore avoid cooking food, especially when they are alone.
- Old age comes with many diseases. Several diseases such as heart failure, kidney disease, chronic liver disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can cause loss of appetite.
- Most elderly persons are on some type of medications such as anti hypertensive, anti diabetic, anti depressive etc. Many medications have loss of appetite as one of its side effect.
Natural Ways To Increase Appetite In Elderly
There is no specific treatment for loss of appetite in elderly individuals. If there is an underlying associated problem, addressing it may help to increase patient’s appetite. But if loss of appetite is due to normal aging process, adopting certain steps will help in improving appetite of an old person. The main purpose is to maintain healthy nutritional status of these persons.
- Make habit of eating meals at fixed time every day. Even if you are not hungry, eat your food.
- Eat small meals frequently if you are not able to eat large portion.
- When all family members eat together, including old people, their desire to eat food increases as the atmosphere is pleasant and social. Often eating alone reduces appetite.
- Eat sweet and fiber foods in moderate amount. Both these foods can keep you full for a longer period of time.
- Old people should avoid drinking tea, coffee, frequently as this may reduce their appetite.
- Taking a brisk walk for 10 to 20 minutes one or two hours before meal helps in increasing appetite.
- Mixture of gooseberry juice and pomegranate juice is beneficial in increasing diminished appetite, especially when it occurs with gastrointestinal problems.
- Cardamom is another natural home remedy for increasing appetite. Ground few cardamom seeds and add the powder in your tea.