Why Am I Always Hungry?

Your body relies on food for energy, so it's normal to feel hungry if you don't eat for a few hours. But if your stomach has a constant rumble, even after a meal, something could be going on with your health.

"Polyphagia" is the medical term for extreme hunger, and it can be a sign that you need to check in with your doctor.

Could It Be Diabetes?

Your body turns the sugar in food into fuel called glucose. But when you have diabetes, glucose can't reach your cells. Your body pees it out instead and tells you to eat more.

People who have type 1 diabetes, in particular, may eat large amounts of food and still lose weight.

In addition to a spike in your appetite, other symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • The need to pee more often
  • Weight loss you can’t explain
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts and bruises that take a long time to heal
  • Tingling or pain in your hands or feet
  • Fatigue

Could It Be Low Blood Sugar?

Hypoglycemia is what you have when the glucose in your body drops to very low levels. It’s a common concern for people with diabetes, but other health problems can cause it, too. They include hepatitis, kidney disorders, and problems with your adrenal or pituitary glands.

In severe cases, people with hypoglycemia may seem drunk. They may slur their words and have trouble walking. Other symptoms are:

  • Anxiety
  • Feeling like your heart is skipping a beat
  • Pale skin
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Tingling around the mouth

Could It Be a Lack of Sleep?

If you don't get enough rest, it can affect the hormones in your body that control hunger. People who are sleep deprived have a bigger appetite and find it harder to feel full. You're also more likely to crave high-fat, high-calorie foods when you're tired.

Other symptoms of sleep deprivation are:

  • Change in mood
  • Clumsiness
  • A hard time staying alert
  • More accidents
  • Trouble staying awake during the day
  • Weight gain

Continued

Could It Be Stress?

When you're anxious or tense, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This amps up your feeling of hunger. 

Many people under stress also crave foods high in sugar, fat, or both. It may be your body's attempt to "shut off" the part of your brain that causes you to worry.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Angry outbursts
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sleep problems
  • Upset stomach

Could It Be Your Diet?

Not all foods fill you up the same way. The ones that curb hunger best are high in protein -- like lean meats, fish, or dairy products -- or high in fiber. Good sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.

Pastries, white bread, many packaged meals, and fast foods lack these nutrients but are high in fat and unhealthy carbs. If you eat a lot of these, you could find yourself hungry again soon after a meal -- and you may eat more than you should.

Other signs that your food choices don't fill you up include:

  • Constipation
  • Small, hard stools
  • Stomach pain

Could It Be Your Medication?

Some drugs can make you want to eat more than usual. Antihistamines are known for this, as are antidepressants called SSRIs, steroids, some diabetes medicines, and antipsychotic drugs.

If you've gained weight since you started the medication, it could be that the medicine is making you feel hungry. Talk to you doctor to find out what other drugs might work for you.

Could You Be Pregnant?

Many moms-to-be notice a huge leap in appetite. This is your body's way of making sure the baby gets enough nutrients to grow.

Most women gain between 4 and 6 pounds during the first trimester and then 1 pound a week during the second and third.

Other signs that you might be pregnant are:

  • A missed period
  • The need to pee often
  • Nausea
  • Sore breasts or breasts that get bigger

Could It Be Your Thyroid?

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck. It makes hormones that control the rate at which every organ in your body works. If your thyroid is working too quickly, you could have hyperthyroidism.

Besides an enlarged thyroid gland, other signs of the problem are:

  • Fast pulse
  • Feeling nervous
  • More sweat than normal
  • Muscle weakness
  • Thirst even after drinking

Continued

Could It Be Diet Soda?

Many people drink sugar-free soda to cut back on calories or lose weight. But the fake sugar in these drinks tells your brain to expect calories it can use for fuel. When your body doesn't get any, your "hunger switch" is turned on and your body tells you to get calories from food instead.

If diet soda is making you hungry, other symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Sugar cravings
  • Weight gain
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on June 15, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Aldrich, N. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, May-June 2013.

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Antihistamines and Weight Gain."

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Eating During Pregnancy."

American Diabetes Association: "Diabetes Symptoms."

American Sleep Association: "Sleep Deprivation -- What is Sleep Deprivation?"

Chambers, L. Trends in Food Science and Technology, February 2015.

Cleveland Clinic: "Am I Pregnant?"

Coffin, C. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, April 2006.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: "Emotional Eating: Causes, Prevention, Treatment and Resources."

Harvard Health Publications: "Why stress causes people to overeat," "Could it be my thyroid?"

Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health: "Artificial Sweeteners," "Fiber," "Sleep: Waking Up to Sleep's Role in Weight Control," "Carbohydrates."

KidsHealth.org: "Polyphagia."

Mayo Clinic: "Diabetes symptoms: When diabetes symptoms are a concern," "Stress Management," "Depression (major depressive episode)," "Hypoglycemia."

University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences/Science Life: "Sleep loss boosts hunger and unhealthy food choices."

UC San Diego Health: "Wide Effect: Drugs That Promote Weight Gain."

University of Rochester Medical Center: "When Your Weight Gain Is Caused By Medicine."

Van Den Eeden, S. Neurology, October 1994.

Yang, Q. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, June 2010.

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