Appetite Stimulation

Symptom and Description

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 doctor 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


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

1. Stimulate appetite:

  • Eat small meals five to six times a day.

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

  • Eat high-protein foods such as cheeses, milk, yogurt, eggs, beans or meats, nuts, puddings.

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

  • Eat high-protein, high-carbohydrate snacks between meals.

  • Drink juices or milkshakes between meals.

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

  • 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.

  • Drink a glass of wine or juice before meals.

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

2. Feeling of fullness:

  • Avoid high-fat foods.

  • Take liquids 30 minutes before meals.

  • Chew food slowly.

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

3. 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.

4. Other methods of appetite stimulation may include the use of medications approved as appetite stimulants. The medications are Megace (megestrol acetate), Marinol (dronabinol), Serostim (recombinant human growth hormone).

  • Megestrol acetate (Megace) is a hormone that has been shown to help increase appetite and weight. Some of the common side effects are high blood pressure, a rise in blood sugar, fluid retention, bloating, constipation, fatigue, gastrointestinal upset, and blood clots.

  • Marinol is an antinausea medication that increases appetite and improve mood. Common side effects include dizziness, confusion, and sleepiness.

  • Serostim is a growth hormone that to increases weight and reverses muscle wasting. It is usually well tolerated, but side effects include headache, fluid retention, nausea, and allergy.

5. Managing side effects:

  • Report any side effects to your doctor or nurse.

  • Ask if your medication needs changing.

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

6. Evaluation: 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.


Notify your nurse and/or physician if any of the following occur:

  • Unable to drink fluids.

  • Feeling dizzy when standing.

  • Unable to take solid food.

  • Change in diet habits.

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