As the saying goes – You are what you eat. What does it mean if you are always hungry?
We tend to think of the body as an intuitive entity and that tells us when it needs something. Such as, when we feel hungry, it means we need sustenance. But is that always true?
Most people can go several hours between meals before feeling hungry again, though this isn’t the case for everyone.
There are several possible explanations for this, including a diet that lacks protein, fat, or fibre, as well as excessive stress or dehydration.
Here are 14 potential reasons why you may feel insatiable hunger.
- Insufficient protein
Protein has hunger-reducing properties that may help you automatically consume fewer calories during the day. It works by increasing the production of hormones that signal fullness and reducing the levels of hormones that stimulate hunger.
Due to these effects, you may feel hungry frequently if you’re not eating enough protein.
2. Insufficient sleep
Sleep is required for the proper functioning of your brain and immune system, and getting the recommended at least 7 hours of it per night is associated with a lower risk of several chronic illnesses, including heart disease and cancer.
Additionally, sleeping enough is a factor in appetite control, as it helps regulate ghrelin, the appetite-stimulating hormone. Lack of sleep leads to higher ghrelin levels, which is why you may feel hungrier when you are sleep deprived.
Getting enough sleep also helps ensure adequate levels of leptin, a hormone that promotes feelings of fullness.
3. Too much-refined carbohydrates
Refined carbohydrates such as white flour are virtually devoid of fibre. This means that your body digests them very quickly. This is a major reason why you may be hungry frequently if you eat a lot of refined carbs, as they do not promote significant feelings of fullness.
Furthermore, eating refined carbs may lead to rapid spikes in your blood sugar. This leads to increased levels of insulin, a hormone responsible for transporting sugar into your cells. When a lot of insulin is released at once in response to high blood sugar, it quickly removes sugar from your blood, which may lead to a sudden drop in blood sugar levels, a condition known as hypoglycemia. Low blood sugar levels signal your body that it needs more food, which is another reason why you may feel hungry often if refined carbs are a regular part of your diet.
4. Too little fat
Fat has a slow gastrointestinal transit time, meaning that it takes longer for you to digest and remains in your stomach for a long period. For this reason, you may feel frequent hunger if your diet is low in fat.
Water is filling and has the potential to reduce appetite when consumed before meals. Due to water’s role in keeping you full, you may find that you feel hungry frequently if you’re not drinking enough of it.
Feelings of thirst can be mistaken for feelings of hunger. If you aree always hungry, it may help to drink a glass or two of water to find out if you’re just thirsty.
6. Lack of fibre
Fibre-rich foods slow your stomach’s emptying rate and take longer to digest than low fibre foods.
Additionally, a high fibre intake influences the release of appetite-reducing hormones and the production of short-chain fatty acids, which have been shown to have fullness-promoting effects.
7. Eating without awareness
Distracted eating reduces your awareness of how much you’re consuming. It prevents you from recognising your body’s fullness signals as efficiently as when you’re not distracted.
To avoid distracted eating, you can try practising mindfulness, minimising screen time, and silencing your electronic devices. This will allow you to sit down and taste your food, helping you better recognise your body’s fullness signals.
8. You do a lot of exercise
Frequent exercise especially high-intensity exercise physical activity for long durations, such as in marathon training burns a lot of calories. This will mean that you need to consume more.
9. Too much alcohol
Studies have shown that alcohol may inhibit hormones that reduce appetite, such as leptin, especially when it is consumed before or with meals. For this reason, you may feel hungry often if you drink too much alcohol.
10. Liquid food
f you consume a lot of liquid foods, such as smoothies, meal replacement shakes, and soups, you may be hungrier more often than you would be if you ate more solid foods.
One major reason for this is that liquids pass through your stomach more quickly than solid foods do.
Excess stress is known to increase appetite.
This is mostly due to its effects on increasing levels of cortisol, a hormone that has been shown to promote hunger and food cravings. For this reason, you might find that you are always hungry if you experience frequent stress.
Several medications may increase your appetite as a side effect.
The most common appetite-inducing medications include antipsychotics, such as clozapine and olanzapine, as well as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, corticosteroids, and antiseizure drugs. Additionally, some diabetes medications, such as insulin, insulin secretagogues, and thiazolidinediones, are known to increase your hunger and appetite. There is also some anecdotal evidence that birth control pills have appetite-stimulating properties, but this is not supported by strong scientific research.
13. Eating too fast
Several studies have shown that fast eaters have greater appetites and a tendency to overeat at meals, compared with slow eaters. They are also more likely to have obesity or excess weight.
These effects are partly due to the lack of chewing and reduced awareness that occur when you eat too fast, both of which are necessary to alleviate feelings of hunger. Additionally, eating slowly and chewing thoroughly gives your body and brain more time to release anti-hunger hormones and convey fullness signals.
14. An underlying medical condition
Frequent hunger is a classic sign of diabetes. It occurs as a result of extremely high blood sugar levels and is typically accompanied by other symptoms, including excessive thirst, weight loss, and fatigue.
Hyperthyroidism, a condition characterized by an overactive thyroid, is also associated with increased hunger. This is because it causes excess production of thyroid hormones, which are known to promote appetite. Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels may also increase your hunger levels. Your blood sugar levels may fall if you haven’t eaten for a while, an effect that may be exacerbated by a diet high in refined carbs and sugar.
*This article and the information set out herein are not a substitute for qualified medical advice.