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Hungry All of The Time?

Hunger is the physiological need for calories, water, and salt, and it’s driven by a mix of factors, including your diet, appetite hormones, and emotional factors, such as stress,” says Maggie Moon, RD, a Los Angeles-based nutritionist and owner of Everyday Healthy Eating. 

If you find yourself constantly fixated on food, it might feel normal. Yet, persistent hunger-driven thoughts could indicate an underlying medical concern. 

 

Thirst

The symptom of thirst is commonly misinterpreted. Persistent hunger when coupled with inadequate fluid intake or insufficient electrolytes in your system may indicate you are actually experiencing mild to moderate dehydration.

Our brain often confuses thirst with hunger as they are regulated by the same brain region, the hypothalamus. According to a study published in the Journal of Physiology & Behavior, we misinterpret thirst as hunger 60% of the time.

Water plays a vital role in transporting nutrients to their destinations. When our body lacks water, nutrient delivery is compromised, triggering hunger signals as our body perceives a shortage of fuel.

Signs You are Just Thirsty

The simplest method to assess your hydration level is by observing the color of your urine. A hue ranging from clear to light yellow indicates proper hydration. Conversely, a shade of moderate to dark yellow suggests the need for increased water intake. If your urine appears orange or dark brown, it is crucial to promptly seek medical assistance as these colors indicate severe dehydration.

“Mild dehydration is often masked as feelings of hunger, when really your body just needs fluids,” says Alissa Rumsey, RD, spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 

Young woman drinking water during jogging in city, healthy lifestyle and sport concept.

Hyperthyroidism 

Experiencing increased food intake, persistent hunger alongside weight loss could indicate a thyroid issue. Hyperthyroidism accelerates all bodily functions, leading to heightened metabolic processes. Consequently, insatiable hunger may manifest.

Signs of Hyperthyroidism

WebMD suggests that if hunger is accompanied by moodiness, fatigue, brittle nails, or hair loss, you might be showing signs of hyperthyroidism. The only way to confirm that you do not have this medical condition is by undergoing thyroid function tests administered by a doctor.

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Your Hormones Are off 

Apart from hyperthyroidism, various hormonal conditions can impact your metabolic function. Women’s Health Magazine highlights conditions such as prediabetes and diabetes, hypoglycemia, and other insulin and glucose-related issues as key factors contributing to sudden hunger spikes.

Foods That Trigger Hormone Imbalance

At times, hunger hormone responses can be regulated through specific dietary approaches. If your hunger stems from consuming high levels of refined carbohydrates, a nutritionist might advise decreasing your carbohydrate consumption. Consuming refined carbs like white starches and sugar is recognized for triggering uncontrollable cravings and unpredictable appetite patterns.

Reducing carb intake impacts insulin production and absorption in your metabolism. Your hormones play a crucial role in various bodily functions and should not be overlooked.

 

You Skip Meals 

Skipping meals in an attempt to burn fat is a mistake. When you skip a meal, your body switches to “storage” mode, holding onto fat cells in preparation for potential starvation.

How Frequently Should You Eat?

Ghrelin, the hormone that triggers your hunger, ramps up when your stomach is empty for an extended period. A general guideline is to avoid going without food for more than 4 to 5 hours and choose nutritious snacks instead. 

tired girl lying on sofa with earphones and laptop

Lack of Sleep 

Sleep plays a crucial role in hormone regulation, including stress hormones like cortisol that are closely tied to your sleep patterns. Moreover, inadequate sleep not only impacts hormone levels but can also lead to increased appetite.

Signs of Being Overly Tired

According to WebMD, craving high-fat, high-calorie foods can be a sign of fatigue. In addition to longing for unhealthy foods, you might experience mood swings, clumsiness, trouble concentrating, and weight gain.

If you’re experiencing all the symptoms and not getting your full eight hours of sleep each day, it might be beneficial to incorporate some additional rest into your daily routine. Doing so should lead to an instant reduction in stress responses caused by sleep deprivation.

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Rushing Through Meals

When you rush through your meals, you tend to consume more compared to those who mindfully savor their food. Engaging your senses during meals, even the sound of your food being chewed, triggers leptin, the hormone that signals fullness, after about 20 minutes of eating.

However, distractions like watching TV, using your phone, or working on a laptop prevent your brain from recognizing your mealtime, resulting in overeating by almost 40%.

Do This Instead

Encourage mindful eating by savoring each bite and taking your time. In our hectic lives, rushing through everything is the norm, leaving little room for reflection, especially during meals. It’s recommended to allocate 20-25 minutes for a meal since leptin, the satiety hormone, kicks in around the 20-minute mark, signaling fullness.

Research indicates that fast eaters consume 60% more calories than those who eat slowly. Prioritize mindful eating to enhance your overall well-being and make healthier food choices.

 

You’re Stressed Out 

Usually, when we experience stress, it’s common to lose our appetite initially. However, this loss of appetite is usually temporary. Prolonged stress can lead to an increase in the hormone cortisol, which in turn can stimulate our hunger.

Detrimental Effects of Stress

Cortisol has the effect of removing lipids from our bloodstream and depositing them into fat cells. This process can contribute to weight gain, which can further increase stress levels even more, resulting in a negative cyclic pattern.

Healthy food high in protein

Not Enough Protein 

Lean protein, like chicken, fish, and tofu, takes longer to digest due to its complex structure, keeping you feeling satisfied for an extended period. Additionally, the satiating effect of lean protein helps curb cravings and supports weight management goals.

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Healthy Sources of Protein

Protein comes in many forms, the most common being:

  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish

However, there are also other sources of healthy protein you can incorporate into your diet at any time of the day, such as:

 

Too Many Carbs 

Consuming a carbohydrate-rich meal results in a surge of sugars, notably glucose, into your bloodstream. This spike triggers a significant release of insulin to absorb the glucose swiftly. However, due to the rapid action of insulin, the sugar is depleted quickly, leading to a sudden decrease in blood sugar levels. This leads to hunger pangs and uncontrollable cravings.

Carbs to Avoid

Avoid refined carbs like sugar, white bread, rice, and pasta. Choose whole grains and follow a clean diet rich in whole foods, enhancing digestion and increasing metabolism.

 

Bottles of medications

Medications 

Certain medications may lead to an increase in appetite. This phenomenon can be attributed to the chemical nature of medications, as any substance you consume introduces a chemical component to your body. This interaction has the potential to disrupt the natural chemical equilibrium within your body, potentially influencing hunger levels and appetite regulation.

 

Final Thoughts

While the exact cause of persistent hunger remains uncertain, a few factors stand out as common contributors to ongoing hunger pangs. To start addressing this, prioritizing adequate hydration and sleep is key. If these basics are in place and hunger persists, consulting a healthcare provider is advisable.

In cases where hormonal levels are normal, psychological factors may be driving your appetite rather than genuine hunger. Techniques such as joining support groups like Overeaters Anonymous and practicing mindful eating can aid in managing your appetite effectively.

Mastering hunger control, especially when no physical issues are present, can lead to a healthier relationship with food and reduce constant thoughts about eating.

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