Poor appetite in a child is a complaint that pediatricians hear from almost every mother. Usually, food refusal is classified as a childhood whim, but in some cases it can be an alarming symptom and should not be ignored.
Chronic malnutrition is dangerous for the normal growth of the child: the results are weak immunity, decreased brain activity, memory impairment, frequent illnesses, and even developmental disabilities. Whatever the cause, malnutrition is stressful for the body, while it experiences a lack of nutrients. Identifying the cause of the lack of appetite and eliminating it is an important task for parents and a pediatrician.
1. Eliminate diseases leading to loss of appetite
The first thing a mother concerned about a lack of appetite in a child should do is to rule out diseases. Sometimes the refusal to eat is due to an acute or chronic illness. For example, loss of appetite often accompanies the flu or acute respiratory infections as an indicator of the body's fight against infection. In this case, you do not need to insist on eating – after the child recovers, the appetite will return to normal.
In addition to colds, there are other diseases accompanied by refusal of food:
- ascariasis. Loss of appetite in this case is caused by intoxication of the body. Also, the child has rapid fatigue, increased salivation, irritability, restless sleep;
- dysbacteriosis. An imbalance in the microflora in the intestines is a common cause of loss of appetite in children. After the normalization of the microflora, as a rule, the appetite is restored;
- anemia. Be careful! In addition to refusing food, a low level of hemoglobin in the blood is accompanied by weakness, dizziness, and pale skin.
Even the appetite in children worsens with liver diseases, stomatitis, a deficiency in the body of zinc or an excess of vitamin D. Therefore, if there are adverse symptoms accompanying poor appetite – pain, weakness, nausea, etc. – parents need to show the child to the pediatrician.
2. Follow the diet
Eating disorders are the main cause of poor appetite in children. Often parents do not consider it necessary to observe such a regime: the child eats uncontrollably, sometimes skips breakfast, overloads the stomach with food in the evening. Meanwhile, the lack of a meal schedule is a serious mistake that can lead not only to loss of appetite, but also to diseases of the digestive tract.
If the child eats at the same time, enough digestive juices are produced by the time of the meal, which stimulate the feeling of hunger. As a result, a healthy appetite appears and the food eaten is digested fully and quickly. If food intake occurs randomly, the secretion of digestive juices gradually decreases, as does appetite. To avoid this, it is recommended to follow the feeding regimen, for example, the one used in kindergartens:
- 8:30-9:00 – breakfast;
- 12:15-13:00 – lunch;
- 15:45–16:00 – afternoon tea;
- 17:30-18:00 – dinner.
When eating, one should neither rush nor delay the stay at the table. If the child eats on time, chews food thoroughly and follows the daily routine, alternating meals with outdoor activities and games, problems with appetite, as a rule, do not arise.
3. Limit sweets
Very often, parents, driven by the desire to feed the child at all costs, encourage his whims and give him not healthy food, but what he wants at the moment. And children usually want sweets. All foods containing sugar dull the feeling of hunger and permanently reduce the activity of the salivary glands. But although the child, having refreshed himself with cookies, does not feel the need for other food, his body continues to need vitamins and trace elements from healthy foods. The solution is simple: do not allow the child to replace a full meal with sweets, and also “bite” between meals. Leave the sweet for dessert. If at the same time you follow a diet, your appetite will be restored in a few days.
4. Lead an active lifestyle
Pediatrician E. O. Komarovsky believes that it is passivity that is often the root cause of a child’s lack of appetite. Spending time at a computer or TV, children do not need large amounts of food, because their energy loss is minimal. Not needing nutrients, the body does not signal a lack of them with a feeling of hunger, as a result of which the child eats sluggishly and reluctantly.
Outdoor games, outdoor activities cause a considerable expenditure of energy due to intense muscle activity. The body reacts to the expenditure of forces with an increased need for food. So, daily 1,5-2-hour walks in the fresh air, according to Komarovsky, in most cases save parents from children's whims at the table.
5. Use folk remedies
Natural remedies, used by our grandmothers, can be useful in case of poor appetite in a child. If you do not want to eat, due to the low activity of gastric juice, you can use the following methods to stimulate digestive enzymes:
- drink 0,5 cups of apple juice 20 minutes before meals;
- chew chokeberry, barberry, sea buckthorn, anise seeds, caraway seeds before meals;
- fresh aloe juice with honey take 1 tsp. 2-3 times a day before meals;
- raspberries, filled with 2 cups of hot water, take 0,5 cup 4 times a day before meals;
- infusions of dandelion root, yarrow, calamus, chicory take 0,5 cup before meals 3 times a day.
Remember: before giving your child any herbs and infusions, you should consult a pediatrician.
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