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Lost your appetite? What to do when food loses its appeal

Have you noticed that your favorite dessert doesn’t tempt you as much as it once did or that you can’t make your way through a modest lunch anymore? If so, your poor appetite may be stopping you from getting the calories and nutrients you need to maintain your energy and strength and to keep your mind and body in good health. Appetite loss can also be a sign you have an underlying medical condition that needs attention.

Why you’re not hungry

Appetite loss occurs for many reasons. You may lose some taste buds as you age, but more commonly, you’ll lose some sense of smell, which will make food less appealing. Tooth loss, gum disease and denture problems can make it hard for you to chew. A chronic dry mouth can make it difficult to swallow food. Good dental health is critical, but eating softer food that’s easier to swallow can also help.

Your appetite may also shrink if you have a medical condition such as a thyroid disorder, chronic sinus conditions, nasal polyps (noncancerous growths), infections or allergies. Depression, memory loss or extreme fatigue may also lead you to skip meals. Get a thorough medical evaluation so you can be diagnosed and treated.

Medical treatments such as cancer therapy and medications, including certain antibiotics and blood pressure pills, can dull your senses and your appetite. Continue taking your medication, but talk with your doctor about how to reduce your medication’s side effects.

If your doctor has ruled out a medical condition as a reason for your appetite loss, consider these tips to get the nutrition you need:

  • Eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods, including fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits.
  • Skip “empty-calorie” foods like cookies, chips, soda and alcohol.
  • Have your dentist take care of your tooth and gum problems.
  • Be physically active to boost your appetite.
  • Make your meals tastier and more appealing with herbs and spices.
  • If you fill up fast, eat small portions of food throughout the day.
  • Make your dining experience pleasant with table settings, candlelight and soft music.
  • Invite a friend or neighbor to eat with you.
  • Visit a senior-friendly restaurant.