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.
The medical term for extreme hunger is polyphagia. If you feel hungry all the time, see your doctor.
Several things can cause hunger.
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, symptoms of diabetes may include:
2. 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, neuroendocrine tumors in your pancreas (insulinomas), 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 may include:
- Feeling like your heart is skipping a beat
- Pale skin
- Tingling around the mouth
3. Lack of Sleep
Not getting enough rest 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 effects of sleep deprivation include:
- A hard time staying alert
- Change in mood
- More accidents
- Trouble staying awake during the day
- Weight gain
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 include:
- Angry outbursts
- Sleep problems
- Upset stomach
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.
Healthy fats like those found in nuts, fish, and sunflower oil can lower your cholesterol levels. They’re key to a balanced diet and can help you feel satisfied after you eat.
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. You may eat more than you should.
You might feel fuller after a meal if you take more time to chew and enjoy your food, rather than eating it quickly. It can also help to pay attention to what’s on your plate instead of the TV or your phone.
Some drugs can make you want to eat more than usual. Antihistamines, which treat allergies, are known for this, as are antidepressants called SSRIs, steroids, some diabetes medicines, and antipsychotic drugs.
If you've gained weight since you started a medication, the medicine could be making you feel hungry. Talk to your doctor to find out what other drugs might work for you.
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 3 months (your doctor will call this 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
- Upset stomach
- Sore breasts or breasts that get bigger
8. Thyroid Problems
The 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 hard, you could have hyperthyroidism.
Besides an enlarged thyroid gland, other signs of the problem may include:
- Fast pulse
- Feeling nervous
- More sweat than normal
- Muscle weakness
- Thirst even after drinking
9. 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, it turns on your "hunger switch" and tells you to get calories from food instead.
If diet soda is making you hungry, you may also notice:
- Sugar cravings
- Weight gain
Are you hungry or just thirsty? You can’t always tell the difference in the signals you get from your body.
Other signs of dehydration include:
- Feeling tired
- Peeing less often or having dark-colored pee
Some research shows that if you have a glass of water before or during a meal, you might feel full on fewer calories.
11. How Much You Exercise
Your body burns calories for fuel when you work out. This leads to a boost in your metabolism, the process by which your body uses energy. In some people, that can set off an increase in hunger.