What to Eat When Medications Suppress Your Appetite

Zoomi Singh

June 3, 2022

Many people experience a lack of appetite while taking medicines. For instance, a study shows that medication with anticholinergic or sedative properties leads to poorer appetite. However, while poor appetite is a common side effect of drugs, it is often temporary. Your appetite restores after discontinuing the medication responsible for altering it in the first place. Nonetheless, when your medications continually suppress your appetite, it leads to adverse health outcomes. Sometimes it makes you eat less than average or even stop eating altogether. 

Decreased appetite during your medication course can pave the way for nutritional deficiencies. Other effects of unintentionally suppressed appetite are poor mental health, anaemia, and sudden weight loss. Your body, in these situations, will use all your reserved energy. As a result, it makes you feel lethargic and not want to do any work. Therefore, increasing your appetite while on medications is necessary to reverse these effects. 

What is Appetite?

Nutrition and calories are essential for your body to perform at its best.. Appetite is your body’s built-in mechanism that ensures the proper supply of required nutrients and calories. Appetite is the desire to eat food. We often confuse hunger and appetite since they share similarities and also have differences. For example, when you say you are hungry for Chinese food, you have an appetite for it. In simple terms, appetite is the psychological want for food, while hunger is the psychological need for food.

The relation between decreased appetite and medications is called chemosensory side effects. Numerous drugs can adversely influence your sense of taste and smell, suppressing your desire to eat. A study shows that most people experience unpleasant tastes and odours after taking a drug alone or with other medications. The primary class of drugs, such as antihypertensives, antimicrobials, sedatives, analgesics, and antidepressants, suppress appetite due to their metallic and sour components. The intensity of bitterness from taking medication varies from person to person.

Oral medications create aversive metallic sensations by interacting and activating specific receptors in the oral cavity. This metallic taste sensation can appear within seconds to minutes after taking the medicines. It lingers in your mouth, making the food taste unpleasant and causing you to stop eating it. Further, it drops your appetite throughout the day. The medicines’ selective blockage of saltiness and sweetness can also suppress your appetite. Some drugs can amplify the sense of smell, making you feel nauseous at the thought or smell of food. 

Tips to Eat When Medication Suppresses Appetite

If you are taking medication and experience appetite loss, consult your doctor to find out why. Remember that you still need to eat food, even if you don’t have a desire to. 

Here are some ways to eat when medicines lower your appetite:

Drink Soups

A bowl of soup is not just for colder months. You can have it while having a poor appetite. Drinking soup ensures that you receive tons of nutrients for fewer calories. Furthermore, soups are easy to drink since you don’t have to chew for a long time. Hence, an unwilling eater can eat soup with less effort.

The base for any soup is broth. This broth is either a vegetable broth or a meat-based broth. In either type of broth, you get by boiling numerous herbs. Hence, the nutrients and health benefits of these herbs, vegetables, and meat get infused into the broth. Therefore, soups are high in nutrients and can help people fight exhaustion. Although soups are a healthy choice, they contain high sodium levels. Control the salt you put in it and make them yourself because restaurant-made soup contains higher sodium content. 

Soups also help fight the dryness of the mouth that can come from taking certain medications. Patients can pick the type of soup that they like the most. In addition, soups are excellent appetisers, meaning it stimulates the appetite. Try to eat mindfully without distractions and put your spoon down between slurps. 

Eat What You Crave

When we do not have an appetite, eating food that usually induces cravings in us is a good idea. Food craving is a desire to eat specific foods. But people often think of junk foods like burgers, pizza, and fries. However, a burger can easily be made healthy and kept tasty at the same time by decreasing the amount of cheese and salt in it and making it at home. Add bulk to your homemade burger by filling on vegetables like tomatoes, lettuce, chile peppers and onions

Research states that 86% of snacks consumed by people are high in calories and often contain chocolate. High-calorie snacks might be suitable for people with appetite loss as they might have lost a significant amount of weight. High-calorie snacks will not only energise you but also help you gain weight. However, eat them in moderation. You can slowly reintroduce nutritious options into your diet by eating healthier alternatives to the foods and beverages you crave.

Drink Smoothies 

Smoothies are equally easy to drink as soups are. However, some smoothies provide more calories than soups because they contain calorie-dense fruits and leafy vegetables. But they also offer all the health benefits of blended fruits and leafy greens. In addition, smoothies provide a sweet taste that people often like. This sweet taste comes from the high amount of plant sugars in the fruits added to them.

Older adults on medication sometimes don’t have the mind or feeling to chew solid food. They mask this feeling as an appetite loss. There is no need to chew smoothies, and they also go down faster than solid foods. Therefore, you won’t register the unpleasant taste lingering in your mouth due to your medications. 


Exercise restores your suppressed appetite because the body burns calories as you exercise. As a result, it stimulates appetite to make up for the expended calories. A study shows that exercise-induced appetite is beneficial to individuals who are lean and are on medications. From a biological standpoint, the desire to eat after exercise hits women harder than men. However, those on a heavy dose of drugs should not do intense bouts of physical activity, as they further suppress the appetite.

Eat Foods That Keep Your Mouth Hydrated

People often experience dryness in the mouth when they are ill. Medicines you take while sick will not help to resolve this either. Dryness in the mouth can discourage people from eating. It is essential in these situations to drink plenty of water and consume other beverages, which will help keep your mouth moist. But drinking too much water further suppresses your appetite. You need to eat solid foods too. People with medicine induced dry mouth can eat a soft, high-protein diet. Eat moist foods by incorporating gravy, sauce, or broth in recipes. More soft natural foods include:

  • Mashed potatoes
  • Soft cooked/blended vegetables
  • Tender meats like chicken
  • Soft-cooked pasta
  • Oatmeal
  • Pudding

Eat Mini Meals

If you suffer from decreased appetite, you should stimulate it. You can do it by eating small amounts of food or mini-meals more frequently. Snacking between meals is easier on the stomach and does not make you feel bloated. This will aid in keeping your mouth moist. Instead of choosing fatty or fried snacks, opt for sweet potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and sandwiches. Hard-boiled eggs are a rich protein source and are simple for the body to consume and utilise.

Make Foods Attractive

A study shows that attractive food images stimulate visual hunger and increase your appetite for the same. So make your dishes look and smell good. It is a small trick to stimulate your appetite. But, on the other hand, foods with unpleasant odours are not pleasing. 

Take Supplements 

As discussed before, loss of appetite can result in eating less, ultimately resulting in depletion of nutrients in the body. The body can also experience tiredness due to the same. Taking supplements becomes necessary in this case. Research says that vitamins and minerals are essential to the energy-yielding metabolism, synthesis of DNA, oxygen transport, and neuronal functions. Hence, supplements that provide these vitamins and minerals can help aid this energy-yielding metabolism. Soon, you will start feeling more energised. When you’re feeling good the desire to eat gradually builds up. 


Medications usually have several side effects, including loss of appetite. For example, medicines like sedatives, analgesics, antidepressants, and antimicrobials suppress your appetite by negatively affecting your smell and taste. Decreased appetite makes you eat less. As a result, your body receives fewer nutrients and becomes weak. Other effects of reduced appetite are compromised mental health, anaemia, and rapid weight loss. While medication does cause appetite loss, there are other factors too. It can be a consequence of stress, poor sleep, health conditions, and some emotions. 

To stimulate appetite, start by eating the foods you crave. If they are fast foods, try to replace them with healthier alternatives. For example, drink soups and smoothies as they are easy to consume and rich in nutrients. It is also essential to eat hydrating foods. You can also take supplements to replenish any nutrient deficiencies that may have developed during appetite loss. Exercise can also increase appetite levels, and hence, you can incorporate it into your lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Does food decrease drug absorption?

A. Food tends to decrease or slow down drug absorption. They delay gastric emptying, which in turn slows down medicine absorption. However, one must still eat. Individuals can follow the timing prescribed for each medicine. Some are to be taken before a meal on an empty stomach, while others are after a meal.

Q. What foods interfere with medications?

A. Medicines can have several interactions. Each drug differs in what food it interacts with. However, some common foods that interfere with medication are alcohol, caffeine, and dairy. Often, food-drug interaction occurs between some antibiotics with milk, yoghurt, or cheese. Dairy products bind to the medications and interfere with their absorption. 

Q. What foods interfere with beta-blockers?

A. Caffeine can often interfere with beta-blockers. Hence, you should avoid tea, coffee, and chocolate drinks while taking beta-blockers. Similarly, grapefruit, chocolate, and bananas are other foods you must avoid while taking beta-blockers.

Q. Can your diet affect your medication?

A. Yes, your diet can affect your medication. Medicines can have drug interactions with certain foods, and eating can slow their absorption. For instance, spinach interacts with blood thinner drugs. Therefore, taking a new medication might mean switching up your foods. Before introducing medicines, ask your doctor about potential food-drug interactions. 

Q. What foods change the bioavailability of drugs?

A. Orange juice can affect the bioavailability of a beta-blocker called celiprolol. Furthermore, milk can make ciprofloxacin and tetracycline less bioavailable. In addition, milk products reduce the bioavailability of antibiotics and mercaptopurine. On the other hand, grapefruit can increase the bioavailability of the calcium channel. In addition, high-fat meals and grape juice increase the bioavailability of theophylline. Yet, in the case of esomeprazole, high-fat meals reduce their absorption. Hence, foods can either increase or decrease the bioavailability of these drugs negatively. 

Q. What foods should be avoided with SSRIs?

A. SSRIs are used in antidepressant medications. They stop the neurons’ reabsorption of serotonin, the happy hormone. SSRI can enhance the functioning of caffeine. Hence, people having both caffeine and SSRI can experience heart palpitations, sickness, restlessness, and insomnia. It is best to avoid foods containing caffeine while taking SSRI. Coffee, tea, and chocolate contain caffeine.

Q. Do bananas affect blood pressure medication?

A. Blood pressure medicine is known to interact with potassium. Bananas contain high levels of potassium. Hence, you must limit the intake of bananas when taking blood pressure medicine.

Q. What commonly prescribed drugs are most likely to cause food-drug interactions?

A. Antibiotics are the most commonly prescribed drugs that are likely to cause food-drug interactions. It is because antibiotics tend to interact with calcium. Calcium is abundantly present in dairy and carrots, which are commonly eaten daily by the majority of the population. Hyperthyroid drugs also cause food-drug interaction. Hence, doctors instruct you to take this first thing in the morning with a 30 to 60-minute break before consuming any food. 

Q. What can you not take with diltiazem?

A. Diltiazem helps in the treatment of high blood pressure or angina. However, it interacts with several other drugs, including anaesthetics, antifungals, ibuprofen, and anticonvulsants. In addition, it would be best to avoid pleurisy root, grapefruit juice, and alcohol when taking diltiazem.

About the Author

Zoomi, holds Masters degree in Nutritional Sciences from University of Allahabad, qualified CBSE-UGC-NET in Home Science and pursuing PhD in Nutritional Sciences, University of Allahabad, Prayagraj. A Strong research professional focused in Nutritional Sciences where she have more than 8 yrs of work experience in the field of Nutrition and Research, had work experience as a Dietician at Super-specialty hospitals. Skilled in Weight Management, Hypertension, Diabetes and Micronutrient related deficiencies. Additionally, she is well-versed in biostatistics and proficient in statistical tools such as SPSS and STATA. She is endowed with strong writing abilities and has authored her own book, more than six research papers, and six book chapters. Holder of various awards like Excellent Dietician, 2019 and 2020 by Saksham Society, Jaipur, Rajasthan, Academic Excellence at National Conference by Jayoti Vidyapeeth Women’s University, Jaipur (Rajasthan), India and Research Achievement Award-2020 for Research & Innovation by ACAIRS Global Network Pvt. Ltd. Life Member of Nutrition Society of India, NIN, Hyderabad and participated and presented papers in four International and six National conferences. Zoomi believes the right habits play the most crucial role in one’s health and wellness journey. The key to fit body is a fit mind and mental state.

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