Should You Use Appetite Stimulants for Your Autistic Child?

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Medical professionals are often asked if appetite stimulants can be helpful to autistic children. Appetites fluctuate and lead to behaviors that may cause social or academic problems, putting a strain on the family budget. There is no conclusive evidence supporting their use yet, but parents of autistic children still report positive benefits thanks to better communication with their child after using them in conjunction with therapy treatment.

The “best vitamins for toddlers to increase appetite” is a question that many parents are asking. There are many different options available, but the best option will depend on your child’s needs.


Feeding issues, such as acute food rejection, are common in children with autism, particularly when they are young. To treat autistic youngsters with food challenges, appetite enhancers are not the solution.

If you have an autistic kid, you may be concerned about their physical health due to the foods they consume. It’s possible that your youngster isn’t eating enough. This indicates that they are not gaining enough weight to reach a healthy weight range for their age.

These are severe problems, and consulting your physician regarding short-term medicinal measures is a good idea.

Appetite stimulant drugs are unlikely to be prescribed by your doctor, and you should not give your kid appetite stimulant supplements. Appetite stimulants are powerful drugs with a slew of negative side effects. If you don’t grasp the underlying reasons of your child’s food rejection, they may be harmful.

Food refusal and other feeding issues are common in autistic children.

In young children with autism, feeding issues are fairly prevalent.

Many youngsters reject food, develop finicky eating habits, and become irritable or have tantrums at mealtimes, regardless of their developmental status. Children on the autistic spectrum, on the other hand, are more prone to have issues with food and eating. This might involve refusing to eat most things, refusing to try foods with specific textures, forming rituals around how to consume certain foods, and even ceasing to eat entirely.

According to one scientific research, 46 percent to 89 percent of children on the autistic spectrum have an eating difficulty, with food selectivity being one of the most prevalent.

Autistic parents are likely to be more concerned about their child’s general health than parents of neurotypical children. Autistic children may suffer from malnutrition, digestive diseases, and developmental difficulties connected to being underweight because they refuse to eat a wider variety of meals, refuse to try new foods, and sometimes even refuse to move away from baby food. Parents want to encourage their children to eat more and try a wider variety of foods. As a consequence, parents may resort to appetite stimulants in order to encourage their children to consume more food.

Food rejection is defined in scientific literature as the percentage of food supplied to a kid that is declined. While all children reject some of the food offered to them, it’s reasonable that parents of autistic children grow anxious when their kid declines the majority of the food offered.

What You Should Know About Appetite Stimulants 

Orexigenics are a term for appetite stimulants. Substances that enhance appetite may be especially promoted to assist individuals who are underweight feel hungry and consume adequate calories.

Prescription drugs and dietary supplements are the two main types of appetite stimulants.

  1. Only three prescription drugs have been certified by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as safe appetite stimulants: megestrol acetate, oxandrolone, and dronabinol. Megestrol acetate is a hormone-based medicine that helps patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, or anorexia increase their appetite and sensations of hunger. Oxandrolone is a steroid used to aid weight loss in individuals who have had surgery, have a persistent infection, or have been injured. Dronabinol is a cannabinoid-based drug that helps patients with AIDS-related anorexia regain their appetite. It may help with nausea and vomiting that come with chemotherapy. While a doctor may prescribe some of these medications off-label to treat certain ailments, this is a rare occurrence. Because of the medications’ adverse effects and potency, your child’s physician is unlikely to suggest them as a therapy for hunger problems.

  2. Dietary supplements: Because dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA, it is important to be wary of the ingredients of these over-the-counter medications. Some of them are quite safe to consume. The following are examples of good appetite-stimulating supplements:

    These are essential vitamins that should be included in a healthy diet. Supplementing with these vitamins may boost appetite in the short term and help children feel better in the long run for those who persistently undereat, such as children with autism who suffer with food rejection. They may be more willing to try new meals once they feel better. Bitter herbs are also a popular dietary supplement for increasing appetite. Bitters are a more prevalent kind of them. Supplements containing gentian and wormwood may be administered to “boost upper digestive action,” but you should check your physician before giving these powerful supplements to your kid. 

It’s understandable to want a quick fix to boost your child’s appetite, but giving him or her a powerful medicine or supplement isn’t the greatest option. Working with a behavior therapist to understand food rejection and other feeding issues gets to the root of the problem.

Your child’s therapist may assist you in determining if these concerns are due to a behavioral issue or a medical condition such as stomach discomfort.

Food refusal behaviors decline with age, according to a study.

Food rejection seems to strike many youngsters on the autistic spectrum when they are very young. Children with autism may grow out of their food rejection issues with time.

Many participants who suffered with high rates of food rejection, particularly to fresh fruits and vegetables, lowered their severe fussy eating over the period of 6.5 years, according to a research published in 2017. While there was an overall reduction in this issue among study participants at the follow-up, the researchers highlighted that there was still a lot of heterogeneity in the rate of food rejection. When the individuals with high food sensitivity were polled again years later, half of them still rejected a lot of food.

Furthermore, the dietary repertoire did not greatly expand, suggesting some possible difficulties.

  • Because parents stopped serving items that were declined, children apparently refused less food.

  • Even with more experimental eating, parents were prone to rely on food that their kid liked, so it was offered more often.

  • Even if you accept new meals, the consistency and regularity of your dietary repertoire may not change.

Many of the youngsters were classified as obese at the follow-up stage. This implies that focusing on good eating habits is the best way to fix feeding difficulties in autistic children.

Reduce the physical hazards of eating disorders by gradually introducing better meals like fruits and vegetables and promoting intake of such healthy foods. Even if your kid begins to eat more, focusing just on the foods you know they love will not assist to extend their diet or promote their general health.

While appetite stimulants may boost appetite temporarily, they are not suggested as a means of encouraging autistic youngsters to eat more. The best way to manage all sorts of autistic symptoms, including eating issues like food refusal, is to use applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment. If you’re worried about malnutrition or your child’s growth, talk to your physician about alternatives to appetite stimulants.


For children with autism, the picky eater is a common issue. The “autism toddler picky eater” discusses if appetite stimulants are a good idea for an autistic child.

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