By Bärbel Tschech ,

Hunger or appetite?

A healthy appetite signalises general health to us – at least for people of normal weight. Appetite is an emotional desire that can certainly also be abnormal. In contrast, hunger is a physical need for food intake which shows that the body needs to replenish its energy.

Lack of appetite usually means that something is not working properly in the body system – psychologically or physically. This means: Loss of appetite is not an illness but a symptom associated with other diseases or of feeling unwell. It is important to clarify the causes!

Loss of appetite is due to a variety of factors

Stress and grief cause some people to reach for chocolate in search of "la dolce vita", they make others lose their appetite.

However, many other things can trigger loss of appetite:

  • Acute disease or diseases we have just recovered from
  • Inflammatory gastrointestinal disease or infections
  • Diseases of internal organs such as the heart, liver, kidneys
  • Digestive disorders, Nausea
  • Lack of gastric acid and digestive Juices
  • Anaemia
  • Alcohol abuse, drug addiction
  • Lack of drive and psychological disorders (depression, anxiety)
  • Neurological disorders (dementia)
  • Various medications – primarily chemotherapy and those that influence the Psyche
  • Pregnancy
  • Natural reduction of the appetite with age

Should you go to the doctor because of loss of appetite?

As loss of appetite is not a disease per se, but rather a symptom with psychological or physical causes, it is important to clarify this. A serious disease that must be treated may potentially be hiding behind this. However, long-term loss of appetite also has consequences as it can rapidly lead to deficiencies of essential nutrients. This in turn can have far-reaching consequences – e.g., a weakened immune system and lack of physical capacity.

Loss of appetite in old age – what can you do when food is no longer enjoyable?

It is natural that the appetite decreases in old age. The digestive organs are often less active. Less digestive juices are produced in the stomach and gut and the food lies heavily in the stomach for a long time which does little to stimulate the appetite.

A further problem is that many older people eat alone and, as a result, have less inclination to prepare something involved and appetising. Loneliness at the dining table also does not stimulate the appetite!


  • You eat with your eyes: Ensure your food is attractively presented and that there you have an enjoyable feeling when eating.
  • Eating in company is more enjoyable and also stimulates appetite!
  • Bitter substances promote the production of digestive juices – a bitter aperitif, therefore, increases the appetite. Amara-Pascoe® is also suitable for this!
  • Choose easily digestible foods!
  • Take plenty of exercise in the fresh air!

What helps with loss of appetite in pregnant women and children?

This varies greatly from person to person and a consultation with a gynaecologist or paediatrician is important – maybe also consult a nutritionist or midwife!

In principal the following applies:

  • Don't force food intake
  • Give yourself time
  • Prepare smaller portions
  • Favour light, easily digestible Food
  • Take plenty of exercise – ideally in the fresh air
  • Use bitter substances
  • Sometimes liquids slip down better: Smoothies and other nutrient-rich drinks are helpful, possibly also broths.

Bitter substances stimulate the appetite

"What is bitter on the tongue, is good for the stomach”, popular German saying.

Bitter substances stimulate the appetite and support gastrointestinal function.

Bitter substances

  • Increase food tolerance
  • Stimulate Salivation
  • Stimulate the secretion of gastric Juices
  • Stimulate the digestion of fats

Eating salads with dandelion, chicory and endive which contain bitter substances prior to eating has favourable effects on the appetite and digestion. However, the proportion of bitter tasting foodstuffs is continually decreasing in modern nutrition. Many people even have a distinct aversion to anything bitter. The food industry responds to this by pushing sweet tastes. Vegetables such as chicory and radicchio that were once bitter have had the bitterness cultivated out.
Disadvantage: The benefits of bitter substances to health no longer Count.

Counter loss of appetite with natural medicine

In naturopathy bitter substances have become firmly established in treating digestive disorders and loss of appetite. Especially cinchona bark, cinnamon bark, gentian root and bitter orange peel are used. They make up the herbal drug Amara-Pascoe®.
Bitter substances should also be reintroduced to food! People with a strong aversion to bitter tastes can slowly re-accustom themselves to bitterness.

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