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Appetite Stimulation

Loss of appetite is a loss of the desire to eat. Not eating can lead to weight loss. Weight loss can cause weakness and fatigue, which affect your ability to perform normal activities. Proper nutrition also helps your body prevent and fight infection. Weight loss or lack of appetite may be due to the cancer or sometimes to treatments for the cancer.

Learning needs

You will need to learn the possible causes for loss of appetite and inform your healthcare provider of the signs. You should report the following causes for loss of appetite:

  • Tiredness

  • Pain

  • Taste changes, such as with sugar, salt, caffeine, meat

  • Side effects from medications

Prevention and management

Increasing food intake is important in maintaining your weight. Maintaining your weight will help you perform your daily activities.

To stimulate appetite:

  • Eat small meals 5 to 6 times a day.

  • Limit liquids around meal time to avoid feeling full quickly. Drink liquids at least 30 minutes before meals.

  • Help family members plan meals you would like to eat.

  • Eat in pleasant surroundings in the company of friends and/or family.

  • Try using plastic utensils and cook in a glass pot if foods have a metal taste.

  • Allow others to prepare foods to your liking.

  • Avoid the area where food is being prepared if aromas bother you.

  • Serve cold foods if odors bother you.

  • Plan light exercise before meals.

  • Try new recipes.

  • Avoid cigarette smoke or smoking, which can affect your sense of smell, thus changing your sense of taste.

To avoid a feeling of fullness:

  • Avoid high-fat foods.

  • Drink liquids at least 30 minutes before meals.

  • Chew food slowly.

  • Avoid gas-forming foods, such as cabbage or broccoli and carbonated liquids such as beer or soda.

Safety considerations:

  • Cook all raw protein foods, such as eggs, meats, poultry, fish.

  • Thaw frozen foods in refrigerator or microwave, not at room temperature.

  • Wash all fruits and vegetables.

  • Use only pasteurized dairy products.

  • Wash hands well with soap and water when preparing or serving foods.

  • Use strict cleaning procedures for all utensils and cooking/storage containers.

  • Refrigerate all foods in need of refrigeration after shopping or meal completion.

  • Serve hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Avoid leaving foods at room temperature.

  • Do not use foods beyond expiration dates.

Other methods of appetite stimulation may include the use of medications approved as appetite stimulants, as recommended by your healthcare provider.

To manage side effects:

  • Report any side effects to your doctor or nurse, for instance, dry mouth, mouth sores, nausea and vomiting, or constipation.

  • Ask if your medication needs changing.

  • Keep a log or diary of changes in mood, appetite, or other feelings you experience.

Management of weight loss or lack of appetite is aimed at increasing food intake. To monitor your success:

  • You may be asked to keep a food diary.

  • Your weight should be recorded regularly.


Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider if any of the following occur:

  • Unable to drink fluids.

  • Feeling dizzy when standing.

  • Unable to take solid food.

  • Change in diet habits.

Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Online Medical Reviewer: Gersten, Todd, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 12/22/2015
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.