ood gives us nutrition and energy for survival. The desire to eat is known as appetite. However, at times we lack this normal desire to eat, and suffer from appetite loss. It is normal to experience temporary loss of appetite due to an underlying physical or emotional problem. However, if the decreased desire to eat persists for a long time, it leads to serious health disorders. Therefore, if you or a near and dear one is experiencing appetite loss, the underlying cause needs to be identified. Taking care of the cause of appetite loss helps in restoring normal appetite, which is essential for maintenance of optimal health.
Regulation of appetite is a complex process. It involves the combined activities of the gastrointestinal system, multiple hormones and the central as well as the autonomic nervous system. The human appetite is primarily regulated by a portion of the hypothalamus of the brain known as the arcuate nucleus. The neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine affect the parts of the brain associated with regulation of appetite. Serotonin, through its effect on the neuropeptide Y or agouti-related peptides and POMC neurons in the arcuate nucleus, helps in stimulating appetite and satiety. The brain chemical dopamine influences the reward centers of the brain that generates the desire to eat. The hormones insulin and leptin also affect the same neurons and areas of the brain. However, unlike the neurotransmitters, they affect appetite. A number of other areas of the brain create the awareness of hunger, feeding behavior and palatability of food. 
Causes Of Loss Of Appetite
You may experience loss of appetite due to various reasons: 
Short-term infections are a common cause of temporary loss of appetite. Common cold, flu, chest infections, urinary infections are associated with decreased appetite. However, appetite loss is known to persist in case of serious long-term infections such as HIV infection and tuberculosis. Apart from appetite loss, there are a number of other symptoms of a specific infection.
2. Breathing Difficulty
Respiratory and heart disorders that cause breathing difficulty reduce appetite. Lack of appetite is a common problem in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary embolus, asthma, pneumonia and congestive heart failure.
3. Emotional Problems
Loss of appetite is a common symptom of depression, in addition to poor concentration, low mood and sleeping difficulties. Anxiety and stress too make you less hungry. Emotional problems affect the areas of the brain that regulate appetite and you lack the desire to eat.
4. Gastrointestinal Problems
Indigestion and acid reflux are common causes of appetite loss. More serious problems of the gut such as ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease and appendicitis lead to appetite loss. Abdominal pain triggered by gallstones especially after consuming fatty foods cause loss of appetite. Poor appetite is also associated with constipation.
5. Nasal Congestion
Infections, allergies and polyps that cause nasal congestion are known to decrease appetite.
6. Chronic Health Disorders
Appetite loss is a common symptom of a number of chronic health disorders such as underactive thyroid gland or hypothyroidism, Type II diabetes, chronic kidney and liver diseases, chronic pain and dementia.
7. Oral Problems
Oral and dental problems that make chewing or swallowing difficult or affect the sense of taste affect appetite. Your desire to eat diminishes when you are suffering from toothache, dental abscesses, jaw dysfunction, loss of taste or dry mouth. Even poorly-fitted dentures can reduce your desire to eat.
8. Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder. Individuals with anorexia nervosa tends to lose weight with a fear of gaining weight.
Poor appetite is a common problem in older adults. Decreased physical activity is believed to be one of the probable causes of poor appetite. Moreover, slow stomach emptying makes older adults feel full for a longer time and they tend to eat less.
Loss of appetite is a common symptom of cancer. In some cases, it is an early symptom of cancer. Cancer treatments can also affect appetite.
11. Side Effect Of Medicines
Medications such as certain types of antidepressants, type 2 diabetes drugs, opiates, chemotherapy and ADHD drugs can cause appetite loss.
Natural Remedies For Loss Of Appetite
However, you don’t have to live with appetite loss. The normal appetite can be restored with the help of natural remedies that are known to stimulate appetite and increase the desire to eat.
Nausea may lead to appetite loss. Because of its ability to fight nausea, ginger is considered an effective remedy for loss of appetite.  The spicy constituents of ginger help in promoting saliva flow and stimulate secretion of digestive enzymes. To stimulate appetite, ginger can be taken in various ways. To increase appetite, sprinkle grated ginger over your preferred food portions in a meal. Drinking ginger tea can also help. Add one to two tablespoons of freshly chopped or grated ginger to a cup and pour boiling water over the herb. Steep for 10 to 15 minutes, and then strain and sip the ginger tea. For additional benefits and to enhance the taste, add some honey and lemon juice to the tea. The ginger tea helps in reducing bloating and abdominal cramps and expels gas. For better result, drink the ginger tea after a meal.  Licking five grams of ground ginger with a small amount of salt once a day is also believed to be an effective remedy for appetite loss. 
2. Lime And Lemon
Foods with a natural sour taste help in stimulating appetite and increase saliva production. Lemon is one of these sour foods that help in increasing appetite.  Traditionally, lemon juice is used as an appetite stimulant.  To stimulate appetite, it can be taken alone or combined with 200 gm of tomato juice and some ginger.  Lime juice has a similar effect on appetite. Combine one teaspoon of lime juice with equal quantity of ginger juice and 1gm rock salt. For three days leave the mixture in the sunlight. Take a teaspoon of the mixture after a meal. 
3. Fenugreek Seeds
Fenugreek seed is approved for use for appetite loss by the German Commission E.  Ingesting two grams of fenugreek seed powder with some liquid thrice a day before each meal is known to improve appetite. You can also take fenugreek seeds in the form of tea.  To prepare the tea, steep 500 mg of fenugreek seeds in 150 ml of cold water for three hours. Drink a cup of fenugreek seed tea several times a day. 
Because of its appetite stimulating effect, dandelion helps in convalescence and is considered a beneficial herb for age-related decline in appetite and digestion.  Its use is approved by Commission E and European Scientific Co-Operative on Phytotherapy for loss of appetite.  To stimulate appetite, drink a cup of dandelion tea daily.  To make the tea, soak some fresh dandelion leaves for 2 to 3 minutes in pre-boiled water. 
5. Indian Gooseberry
In the traditional Indian medicine, Indian gooseberry, commonly known as Amla, is used for stimulating appetite. Ingesting the dry Indian gooseberry powder helps in increasing your desire to eat.  To stimulate appetite you can take Indian gooseberry mixed with honey. Combine two teaspoons of crushed Indian gooseberries or half a teaspoon of Indian gooseberry powder with a tablespoon of honey. Take the honey and Indian gooseberry mixture 30 minutes before a meal in the morning or at bedtime. 
Mint helps in promoting appetite. It is good for the digestive system and is known to work as a carminative. It soothes the stomach and can helps in stopping vomiting. Pour two cups of boiling water over two tablespoons of fresh mint leaves and one teaspoon of grated ginger and steep the herbs for five minutes. Strain the liquid. Add honey to enhance the taste.  To stimulate appetite, you can also take mint before a meal. Though mint appears to suppress appetite temporarily, after sometime the peristaltic action of the stomach becomes stronger and you feel hungry.  Though peppermint is stronger and effective, the mints with gentler spearmint taste are considered a better choice for children. 
Cardamom helps in stimulating appetite. To promote appetite, mix one gram of powdered cardamom seeds with half a cup of water and boil the mixture for about a minute. Remove the cardamom decoction from the heat and leave it aside for about 10 minutes. Strain the mixture. Take one tablespoon of the decoction every 15 minutes until the symptoms of appetite loss subside. 
Aniseed, a popular kitchen spice, is known to promote appetite. It also helps in reducing nausea and vomiting that are common causes of appetite loss. Blend some roasted aniseeds with a pinch of common salt or black salt and take the mixture to stimulate hunger. 
9. Holy Basil
The herb Ocimum basilicum, commonly known as holy basil or Tulsi, is a natural remedy for poor appetite. Smelling the freshly crushed holy basil leaf is known to stimulate appetite.  Drinking holy basil tea can also help people suffering from appetite loss. Boil 11 gm of crushed holy basil leaves in two cups of water. Cover the container with a lid and continue boiling the mixture until the water is reduced to half. Strain the decoction. Add one teaspoon of milk and 15gm of sugar. If desired, add some powdered cardamoms. Drink one cup of the holy basil tea thrice a day. 
Tamarind is considered an effective remedy for loss of appetite. Tamarind water mixed with a small amount of powdered clove is believed to work as an appetite stimulant.  You can also prepare an appetite stimulant by taking one tablespoon of tamarind pulp and mixing it with 500 ml of boiling water. Allow the mixture to cool. Strain the mixture and add one-fourth of a teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of ground Ajwain seeds. Stir to combine the ingredients. Drink the mixture when needed. 
German Commission E supports the use of coriander for stimulating appetite. Moreover, coriander seeds help in expelling gas, reducing cramps and improving digestion, thereby alleviating some of the common causes of poor appetite.  To enhance your desire to eat, drink 30 gram of fresh coriander leaf juice daily. 
12. Essential Oils
The aroma of certain essential oils can help in stimulating appetite. To improve appetite, add peppermint and ginger oils to your bath water. While soaking in the aromatic bath, you inhale the scent of the essential oils that act as appetite stimulant.  The essential oils of thyme, marjoram and melissa are also known for their appetite boosting effect. Rub a small amount of one of these undiluted essential oils on the back of the hands and feet or the solar plexus area on the abdomen. Alternatively, mix one drop of any of these essential oils with one drop of wheatgerm oil, soya oil and rub the oil mixture on the body.  Apart from the aforementioned essential oils, other essential oils that are known to stimulate appetite include bergamot, angelica, carrot seed, cardamom, caraway, black pepper, myrrh, Roman Chamomile, clove, cumin, calamus, hyssop, sage, lime, lemon, grapefruit, juniper, orange, yarrow, nutmeg and bay laurel. 
Loss of appetite is a symptom of an underlying health problem. Persistent lack of appetite without an obvious reason needs medical attention. While appropriate medical treatment helps in restoring normal appetite, changes in the diet such as adding favorite foods to the meals, eating small and frequent meals, eating when you feel like, changing the form of food to make it more appealing and appetizing can help in improving your appetite. Seasoning foods with herbs that are known to stimulate appetite, starting a meal with a soup and including appetizing ingredients in your dishes such as lemons, juniper berries, figs, strawberries, nutmeg and garlic help in increasing your desire to eat.