Polyphagia or hyperphagia is a condition of excessive appetite. On the other hand, Anorexia (loss of appetite) is an eating disorder in which people restrict food intake as they fear weight gain.
Eating is not just for nutrition but also for pleasure.
Under certain conditions, it’s completely normal to have an urge for excessive eating. But increased appetite may be due to endocrine (diabetes, hyperthyroidism, etc) or psychiatric conditions (e.g. bulimia, stress, depression, etc).
Certain conditions in which it’s normal to have an increased appetite:
- Food cravings for favorite and delicious food or on special occasions.
- Physical activities that result in exertion for the body.
- Excessive exercise
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and mood swings.
- Red and yellow color and odor of some spices
How is it caused?
Leptin (appetite suppressant) and ghrelin (appetite enhancer) are hunger hormones. Their regulation is also affected by sleep.
In eating disorders, hunger signals may not work properly.
A hormone called leptin is responsible for hunger regulation. It is produced by fat-storing cells (adipose cells) in the body. It regulates energy balance by inhibiting hunger i.e. decreases appetite. It is appetite suppressor and reduces food intake and induce weight loss.
The action of leptin is opposite to ghrelin which is produced by cholinergic cells in the gastrointestinal tract and increases appetite.
A decrease in levels of leptin results in hunger, obesity, osteoarthritis, and lethargy.
Such longing for food on a regular basis might be an indication of underlying chronic disease. Increased appetite may also be because of:
- Depression may lead to compulsive eating.
- Stress and anxiety (although appetite may also decrease in such conditions).
- Hypoglycemia (too low blood glucose levels)
- Diabetes (a group of metabolic disorders in which blood glucose level is high due to inability to produce or inability to metabolize sufficient quantity of insulin hormone)
- Hyperthyroidism(excessive production of thyroid hormone which results in increased metabolism)
- Grave’s disease/ exophthalmic goiter (extreme hyperthyroidism which is accompanied by protrusion of eyeballs).
- Lack of sleep or excessive sleep
- Bulimia (a chronic eating disorder in which person have binge i.e. excessive eating and purge i.e. self-induced evacuation by vomiting cycles)
- Drug withdrawal
- Lack of a Balanced Diet
- Compulsive eating disorder (food may be a way to comfort, isolate from feelings and emotions; to cope up emotional pain).
Among this diabetes is the most common. Other symptoms of diabetes include dizziness, polyuria (excessive urination), polydipsia (excessive thirst), fatigue and nausea, slow wound healing, genital itching, etc.
How appetite can be cured through diet
Since increased appetite may be because of chronic disorder or psychological reasons, it can be cured by changes in diet and lifestyle.
- Lifestyle changes
- Practicing yoga
- Meditation will help in self-control on cravings.
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Getting enough sleep
- Dietary changes
- Water and liquids before meals
- Heavy breakfast
- Small plate eating
- Using a bigger spoon
- Increasing meal frequency and small meals
- Eating Solids more than liquids
- High protein foods e.g. legumes and pulses
- High fiber food e.g. green leafy vegetables (broccoli, lettuce)
- Flax seeds
- Dry fruits
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Curing the cause
If it’s because of endocrine disorders it is important to cure the cause to reduce appetite.
Prevention by Proven appetite depressants:
These work by providing a sensation of fullness. Most of these increases the release of CCK (cholecystokinin) which is responsible for gastric acid and pancreatic juice secretions. It provides a feeling of fullness by slowing the process of gastric emptying.
- Cinnamon contains methyl hydroxyl chaconne polymer which stimulates insulin. Also useful in diabetes.
A cinnamon stick or powder is boiled in water. Drink the water empty stomach. Also can be taken as cinnamon tea.
- Ginger contains gingerol which increases the leptin hormone (responsible for hunger). This can also be taken with tea or in food items.
- Apple cider vinegar reduces fluctuations in blood sugar levels and decreases glycemic index. 10ml with water before or after meals.
- Peppermint tea or smelling peppermint. As it is a strong stimulant it communicates with the brain and gives a sensation of fullness.
- Matcha green tea increases dopamine levels which slows down intestinal mobility thus food moves slowly and gives a sensation of fullness.
Reduced appetite leads to reduced immunity, weakness, and various other serious deficiencies.
Foods to increase appetite/appetizers:
- Karela juice
- Red colored food
- Pleasant Odorous food
- Salty snacks
- Chewing gum
- Low fiber food
- Fruits and vegetables
Eating disorders are not conspired or planned. They result in serious complications. Experiences vary from person to person and treatment should be planned accordingly with the focus to cure the cause. Seeking consultation and help from a Dietitian can be extremely beneficial if you have appetite issues.