FEELING hungry is a normal part of life and is a signal that your body is lacking the energy it needs to function to its highest ability.
Most people tend to get hungry before their next meal and hunger can also be increased if you’ve done more exercise than usual.
In order to curb our hunger we need to fuel our bodies with a balanced diet, as well as making sure we stay hydrated.
If you have an increased appetite it could be down to medication or a change in lifestyle.
Experts have warned though that if you’re always hungry then you might not be giving your body everything it needs to sustain it.
If you can’t keep those hunger pangs in check, experts say there are numerous reasons why you constantly feel like you have an empty stomach and warned that some symptoms could be down to underlying health conditions.
1. Mood disorders
Stress has an negative impact on our lives and can both increase and decrease our hunger levels.
An increase in hunger has also been linked to the fight or flight mode, with many people experiencing an increased hunger after a stressful situation.
David Schlundt, an associate psychology professor at Vanderbilt University said a severe increased appetite can be a sign of a major depressive disorder.
Speaking to Good Housekeeping he said people who don’t want to eat when they are stressed are experiencing a loss of control when it comes to their behaviour.
2. Lack of sleep
According to researchers at Loughborough University people who get less sleep have a higher body mass index (BMI) than those who don’t get the recommended six to eight hours a night.
One theory is that sleep deprivation impacts on the hormones, including leptin and ghrelin, that regulate our appetite.
Leptin is released from fat cells in the body and sends signals to the brain to inhibit hunger.
Ghrelin is released by the stomach to stimulate appetite, as well as encouraging the body to store fat.
It is thought a lack of sleep may reduce the release of leptin and elevate ghrelin production — which might explain the apparent link between sleep and obesity.
Studies also suggest a lack of sleep may increase the body’s release of insulin — the hormone that regulates blood glucose — as well as the “stress hormone” cortisol.
Both have been associated with weight gain and the body storing more fat. This research is not definitive and not all light sleepers are overweight, of course.
Being thirsty is often mistaken for hunger as the body sometimes processes feelings of thirst in the same way it processes hunger pangs.
How much water you drink can also have an impact on how full you feel.
If you think you’re hungry you might actually be dehydrated and experts say you should drink more water if you are trying to lose weight.
If you’re feeling thirsty it could also be down to the types of foods you are eating.
If you’re craving salty foods like crisps then it’s likely you’re actually dehydrated.
Salt stimulates thirst and helps your body hold on to water. So if you are not drinking enough, have been sick or exercising hard, it is common.
The body needs salt to function but too much can cause high blood pressure.
4. Skipping breakfast
Skipping meals will make you feel hungrier later on in the day and could lead to overeating.
Dietitian Jane Clark said you should always aim to start the day with a healthy meal.
Jane said that various studies have shown that eating soon after we wake can help to balance our blood sugar and hormone levels to give us vitality and mental focus for the day ahead, a habit she says everyone should embrace.
“You can make the most of supermarket deals to buy bags of fruit that you can stew in a batch and keep in the fridge ready for the morning.
“Apples, pears and berries stewed until soft in a little apple juice are delicious with protein-rich full-fat Greek yoghurt, and they’re great for your gut health.
“Or make some poached eggs on wholemeal toast to power you through to lunchtime.”
Jane also says that there’s a psychological effect of having a good breakfast; knowing you have eaten well helps you to feel in control, so you’re more inclined to keep up the good work throughout the day.
5. Emotional eating
We’ve all reached for that tub of ice cream or bar of chocolate when we’ve had a bad day and experts say that this is because you feel like you have no control and want a temporary relief.
Schlundt said that people who are emotional eaters can become overly restrictive with what they eat and when they eat – all of which he says can influence your appetite.
Jane added: “If you’re an emotional eater, you may find yourself eating to deal with uncomfortable emotions or craving sweets or unhealthy snacks when your stress levels are high.
“Stress eating is a common coping mechanism when dealing with pressure, but it’s far from a healthy way to handle stress”, she said.
6. Lack of protein
A diet lacking in protein can lead to an increased sense of hunger.
Obesity medicine specialist Julie Bernard said: “A diet low in protein can also lead to frequent feelings of hunger, even though one may be consuming a higher amount of calories”.
She added that protein is more effective than carbohydrates when it comes to keeping feelings of hunger at bay.
If you’re struggling to fit protein into your diet if you’re a vegetarian or vegan then many supermarket brands now stock alternatives such as vegan and vegetarian sausages and snacks and treats that will keep you going throughout the day.
A lack of protein can also lead to a decrease in muscle mass and can lead to a build up of fat in your liver.
7. Too much sugar
If you’ve got a sweet tooth then it’s likely you would have previously experienced a “sugar crash”.
This happens when you experience low blood sugar levels after eating something extremely sweet.
This can then cause you to reach for more food later on.
Constantly elevated levels of sugar in the blood can lead to prediabetes.
Insulin resistance can cut out the feeling of appetite control and may mean you feel hungry for longer periods of time.
Exercising a lot means that we need more food to fuel our bodies.
It’s important that your exercise routine matches your diet and that your body is getting what it needs to perform.
Exercise can trick your body into keeping your hunger in check and help suppress your appetite.
Not eating a wholesome meal before a work out could lead to hunger pangs later on in the day.
Correct nutrition is also paramount for muscle repair.
9. Lack of fibre
Julie said that a lack in fibre can cause frequent hunger pangs.
This she says is because fiber itself is slowly broken down by the gastrointestinal tract.
This leads to more stable blood sugar levels and therefore less feelings of hunger.
High fibre foods can also take longer to chew and therefore may promote feeling of satiety.
10. Too many carbs
While you should never fully remove a food group from your diet, consuming too many carbohydrates can be bad for you.
Foods like white bread and pasta can trigger a spike in insulin which would usually help regulate blood sugar levels.
Julie said that starchy treats result in a burst of energy which is burned quickly.
In turn your sugar levels deplete and then soon after it’s likely you will feel hungry once more.