What Affects Your Appetite for Food?
Nutrition experts tell us that the best way to deal with hunger and appetite is to follow your body’s natural cues. Your physical and psychological environments definitely affect appetite and hunger, sometimes leading you to eat more than normal, sometimes less.
Here are some insights into what prompts your interest in eating:
Baby, it’s cold outside: You’re more likely to feel hungry when you’re in a cool place than you are when you’re in a warm one. And you’re more likely to want high-calorie dishes in cold weather than in hot weather. Just think about the foods that tempt you in winter — stews, roasts, thick soups — versus those you find pleasing on a simmering summer day — salads, chilled fruit, simple sandwiches.
This difference is no accident. Food gives you calories. Calories keep you warm. Making sure that you get what you need, your body even processes food faster when it’s cold out. Your stomach empties more quickly as food speeds along through the digestive tract.
Exercising: People who exercise regularly are likely to have a healthy appetite, but they’re rarely hungry immediately after exercising because exercise pulls stored energy — glucose and fat — out of body tissues, so your glucose levels stay steady and you don’t feel hungry. Exercise slows the passage of food through the digestive tract. Your stomach empties more slowly and you feel fuller longer. And exercise (including mental exertion) reduces anxiety. For some people, that means less desire to reach for a snack.
If you eat a heavy meal right before heading for the gym or the stationary bike in your bedroom, the food sitting in your stomach may make you feel stuffed. Sometimes, you may develop cramps or heartburn.
Nursing your appetite back to health: Severe physical stress or trauma — a broken bone, surgery, a burn, a high fever — reduces appetite and slows the natural contractions of the intestinal tract. If you eat at times like this, the food may back up in your gut or even stretch your bowel enough to tear it. In situations like this, intravenous feeding — fluids with nutrients sent through a needle directly into a vein — give you nutrition without irritation.
Taking medicine, changing your appetite: Some drugs used to treat common conditions affect your appetite. This side effect is rarely mentioned when doctors hand out prescriptions, perhaps because it isn’t life-threatening and usually disappears when you stop taking the drug.
Some examples of appetite uppers are certain antidepressants (mood elevators), antihistamines (allergy pills), diuretics (drugs that make you urinate more frequently), steroids (drugs that fight inflammation), and tranquilizers (calming drugs). Appetite reducers include some antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, anti-seizure drugs, blood pressure medications, and cholesterol-lowering drugs.
The fact that a drug affects appetite is almost never a reason to avoid using it. But knowing that a relationship exists between the drug and your desire for food can be helpful. Plain common sense dictates that you ask your doctor about possible drug/appetite interactions whenever a drug is prescribed for you.
If the drug package the pharmacist gives you doesn’t come with an insert, ask for one. Read the fine print about side effects and other interesting details — such as the direction to avoid alcohol or driving or using heavy machinery.