The feeling of hunger is what we all experience when our stomach is empty and our body needs some food. Medically, hunger has been defined as the ‘sensation of needing food’.
If one were to look at the hunger mechanism itself, it would be quite a complicated thing to discuss. You may however be interested to learn that hunger is not abolished when food enters the stomach and distends it. It is actually abolished when the digested nutrients enter into the small intestine. When nutrients enter into the small intestine, there are a large number of hormones released that stimulate certain pathways that tell the brain that you have eaten enough.
Generally, when we are hungry, we eat whatever food is necessary to satiate that hunger. Of course, some of us tend to overeat as well. Once we have eaten, the stomach can contain food for a few hours after a meal which means that we should not get hungry for quite some time.
But why are there a few of us who tend to feel hungry so quickly that we have to have another meal again? Why does this happen? Why do some of us feel hungry all the time?
Here we shall take a look at the common reasons why you may be wanting to eat food time and again throughout the day.
It Could be Normal:
If you have started an exercise program recently or as a woman you are pregnant, it is quite natural for the appetite to increase as the body needs extra nutrition. Those who exercise intensely regularly burn more calories and require higher intake of food.
But there are some other reasons why you may be hungry all the time and still not be able to explain it.
Our sleep is extremely important to recharge our body and to rejuvenate the mind. If we do not sleep well in the night, we wake up in the morning feeling generally quite tired. This fatigue can last for the entire day and can lead to slumping energy levels.
This low energy levels and constant tiredness can increase our desire to eat. This is because we need some form of energy to try and recharge our body and this can only be achieved by eating foods that are rich in carbohydrates and sugars.
But how does poor sleep really lead to excessive hunger?
If you do not sleep for the recommended 7 to 8 hours a night, there appears to be a surge in a hormone called ghrelin. This is the hunger hormone that stimulates appetite. Furthermore, there is also a reduction in the levels of leptin which is the satiety hormone that tells us when our stomach is full.
A combination of this affects is what leads to increased hunger if you do not sleep well.
Have you ever heard of comfort food? This is the sort of food we often reach to when we are under a great deal of stress.
Foods that tend to be comfort foods include ice creams, junk foods, chocolates and sweets. The sugar hit our body gets after eating this sort of food can be quite relaxing though very unhealthy.
The problem with excessive stress is that it can increase the levels of certain stress hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones tell the brain that more energy is required to manage the stress and this in turn stimulates an increase in appetite.
In addition to this, excessive stress can result in lower levels of a chemical in the brain called serotonin. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to increased appetite and can make you feel hungry all the time.
Simple ways to manage stress include regular exercise, yoga, breathing exercises and relaxation therapies. Even listening to some good music can sometimes help relieve stress.
Too much Alcohol:
Many of us enjoy a drink from time to time. In fact, there are some studies that state that consuming one glass of wine every evening with your meal may in fact reduce your chance of developing heart disease.
However, there has been some research suggesting that people who drink alcohol and then decide to eat tend to consume foods that are high in calories.
While it is not very clear why this happens, excessive alcohol intake is known to increase thirst. However, the sensation can sometimes be confused with hunger instead.
Have you ever been out with some friends and had a few drinks and then found yourself quite hungry and wanting to scoff down a burger? This is quite a common thing that happens after binge drinking.
The best way to avoid this sort of hunger and thirst is to ensure that you stay well hydrated when drinking alcohol. Just drinking water is more than enough.
Insufficient Protein and Fiber Intake:
Protein and fibre have a filling effect after a meal. In other words, if you eat food that is high in protein and fibre, you are likely to stay fuller for longer. But if you eat foods that are low in protein and contain hardly any fibre, it is likely that you will feel hungry within a short time again.
The best sources of protein include soya protein, legumes, whole grains, eggs and lean meat. Similarly, fibre can be obtained from vegetables such as green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grain items and cereals.
You may be interested to know that if you do not consume sufficient amount of fat in your diet, it is also likely that you will feel hungry quickly. When we consume good quantities of unsaturated fats in our diet, this can slow down stomach emptying and can make you a lot more satisfied after the meal.
However, please be aware that too much of fat in the diet can also be harmful to health so make sure that it does not exceed more than 20 to 25% of your entire food portion every day.
It is a well-known fact that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Once you have your meal the night before, if you skip your breakfast you could go without food for over 14 to 16 hours.
As explained previously, if you miss meals, you increase the levels of the hunger hormone i.e. ghrelin, which in turn can increase your appetite. This will make you snack on junk foods rather than healthy foods, thus making you put on weight.
A good idea is to make sure you have at least a bowl of fruits and a handful of nuts if you are going to miss your meals. Fruits are full of good sugars and vitamins while nuts contain quality protein and fat. They also make great snack.
There are certain medicines such as oral steroids and antidepressant medication that may make you feel hungry all the time. Unfortunately, these side effects cannot be targeted specifically, especially if you need to take the medicines on a regular basis.
However, if you begin to notice that your weight is increasing and your appetite is just uncontrollable, it might be worthwhile speaking to your doctor and getting your medicines changed.
Feeling hungry all the time could be a sign of an underlying problem. Make sure you take your meals on time and keep them healthy and balanced. If you do need to snack, choose a healthy option instead of opting for junk foods.