10 Reasons You Are Always Hungry
For some people food is fuel, they eat what they need when they need to give them enough energy to get through the day. For other people food is one of life’s great pleasures and they love nothing more than exploring different recipes and fine dining around the world. For others still food is a compulsion, no matter how much they eat they never have enough.
There are a number of different types of compulsive eating. Some people are genuinely overweight and have lost all sense of portion control. They can eat and eat and never feel full. Other people might suddenly find that they are so ravenously hungry that while they know that they have had more than enough their body craves more food.
This constant feeling of hunger can be very distressing, particularly in a person who has previously tried to maintain a healthy diet and good portion control. There are a number of reasons why you might suddenly be unable to satisfy your cravings for food. Some are rooted in lifestyle issues, some in medical issues. Here are our top 10 causes.
10. You are pregnant
In the old days the saying was that a pregnant woman was eating for two. These days we recognize that the second person’s needs are actually quite small – an extra 200 calories or so. Nevertheless a pregnant woman’s body is working hard to grow a placenta and fetus and keep them healthy.
For some women, particularly those who suffered from excessive morning sickness in the first trimester, and therefore gained very little or even lost some weight, the end of morning sickness in the second trimester can cause a woman to feel ravenous. For some women, no matter how much they eat they can never have enough and this can sometimes be compounded by cravings for bizarre combinations of food.
It is possible to be quite far along in pregnancy and not know it. Some women (as many as 1 in 450) have absolutely no symptoms whatsoever, their periods don’t even stop. For some women the symptoms are so mild that they are put down to feeling under the weather. As a result they can be completely unaware that they are pregnant. Any woman who is sexually active and experiencing sudden onset extreme hunger should rule out a pregnancy by taking a test. You should do this whether or not you take contraceptives and even if you are convinced you could not be pregnant. A quick and cheap test will either rule it out (and you can start considering the other options on the list) or confirm a pregnancy in which case you need to start taking prenatal vitamins and speak to the doctor to decide what you want to do.
If you are pregnant and hungry all the time it is your body’s signal that it needs more energy to help grow the baby and keep you going too. Eat a balanced diet and avoid the foods on the pregnancy risk list.
9. You are growing
Parents who had fussy toddlers and young children might be surprised to see their children putting away more food than they might think is humanly possible but children go through growth spurts that can continue until the age of 21 and these spurts call for energy and lots of it. Boys in particular require a lot of extra calories when they are growing– up to 3,500 a day.
While women typically have their major growth period before the age of 14 and men before the age of 16, most people continue to grow up until the age of 21. If you are younger than this and find that you are suddenly ravenous the chances are that you are going through a growth spurt. Your body can grow at an amazing rate – up to 4 inches in a single year and you need to fuel that growth. If you do not eat enough then you may stunt your growth. Try, if you can to eat a balanced diet – make sure that you get enough protein to ensure that your body has the building blocks it needs to build muscle and grow bone. Carbohydrates will give you the energy you need to see you through the day. The foods that will help to satisfy you include bread, potatoes, rice, milkshakes, cheese, bananas, yoghurt, eggs and as much lean meat as you can eat.
You will probably find that your hunger tails off as your body stops growing and settles in to its adult size.
8. You have worms
We think they are gross (and they are), we think the people who get them are dirty, we don’t like to talk about them, even doctors like to pretend that they don’t exist. The shocking truth, however, is that approximately one in six Americans may be hosting worms.
There are many different types of worm the most commonly known of which is the tapeworm. If you find that you are tired all the time, eat insatiably but are never full, feel bloated and get constipation or diarrhea then you may have worms – you should take yourself to the doctor for a test and he can prescribe a medicine to expel them.
There are three main risk factors for getting worms – sushi is a key risk food as are other uncooked meats. Always make sure that your sushi is fresh and prepared in a well-regarded restaurant with excellent hygiene standards. Don’t ever eat old sushi! Make sure that your meat, particularly pork, is cooked all the way through. Fruit and vegetables are also a potential source of worms (and other nasties such as e-coli) you should wash them thoroughly as soon as you get them home to make sure that they are completely clean. All root vegetables and potatoes that are grown in soil should be scrubbed to remove all traces of dirt. Finally if your sexual proclivities involve the rectal area you can be at risk of contracting or passing on worms – always use a condom!
If you get worms you can pass them on to others all too easily particularly if you don’t wash your hands after using the toilet. Make sure that you and all your family members wash your hands (remind teens that a wave under a running tap does not constitute a wash) after using the bathroom and before eating. Make sure that everyone washes their hands thoroughly before preparing food.
7. You have a genetic disorder
There are some genetic and chromosomal disorders that can cause you to be hungry all the time. The most common of these is Prader-Willi syndrome. People with PWS have an appetite that is completely out of control and which often leads to obesity. The chances are that if you have this syndrome you will have been diagnosed with it already. Children are often diagnosed at around age 2 when their appetite starts to run out of control. If you have a child with PWS you will need to help them moderate their diet.
Chromosomal mutations or abnormalities can affect how our bodies manage hunger through use of hunger hormones such as Ghrelin. Our hypothalamus (a small section of the brain) is responsible for regulating the balance between the energy we use and the amount of food we eat to compensate. It does this by monitoring the balance of certain hormones within the body. If the structures of the hypothalamus malfunction or were poorly formed in the first place then your body will be unable to regulate its hormones and you will feel excessively hungry all the time.
It will be almost impossible for you to diagnose yourself a chromosomal problem that causes you to be hungry all the time. If, however, there are no other explanations then your doctor will be able to run tests to confirm or rule it out as a potential cause.
6. Your diet is not nutritious enough
Our modern diet is not particularly healthy. We tend to eat more refined sugars and simple carbohydrates than we should, these foods provide bulk but very little satisfaction and leave our bodies wanting more food. There are six main food groups; protein, whole grains, dairy, fats, fruits and vegetables. Your three main meals of the day should include between 3 and 5 of these groups and your snacks between 2 and 3. If you do this then your body will be getting enough of all the nutrients it needs over the course of the day and will not crave more.
If you like to drink diet soda drinks that provide energy spikes but do not contain any calories then you may be tricking your body into being hungry. Diet soda drinks are addictive and it is easy to drink a large amount thinking that you are taking in only a single (or even zero) calories while you do so. The problem is that the sweetness of the drink makes your body think that it is getting food, it then starts to crave calories even if you have already eaten.
If you are trying to eat healthily or lose weight by restricting your calories you could also be restricting your intake too much. Women should eat about 2,000 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight while me should be looking at about 2,500. These are, of course average amounts, those who exercise heavily will of course need more and those who lead a sedentary life will need less. It can be tempting to think that by making a drastic restriction in the number of calories you are taking in you will lose weight more quickly. Even when dieting, however, caloric intake should be maintained at a minimum level of 1,200 for women and 1,500 for men. Any less than this and you may end up feeling hungry all the time. The danger with that is that you are more likely to break a diet if you are hungry!
5. Your portion size is out of control
Do you know what a normal portion of food is? Most people don’t. In many developed countries worldwide, people have allowed their portions to creep up over the years. This creeping increase has been fueled by restaurants and food outlets. Just look at the size of drinks served in the cinema or in a coffee shop. Does someone really need 16 fluid ounces of coffee? Add in the milk and flavor shots and that is 16 fluid ounces of jittery calories! Look at the recommended portion sizes on the nutrition information sections of food packaging. Weigh it out and you will almost certainly be surprised at how small a portion actually is.
The trouble with portion creep is that our bodies get used to it over time. It can become very difficult to know what normal is and, when faced with a normal sized portion of food, it can be easy to become hungry. If you are trying to restrict your portions you should not cut down to normal sizes overnight. Reduce your portions gradually so that your body has time to adjust.
4. You are thirsty
Most of us drink nowhere near enough water to keep our bodies from being dehydrated. The advice from health professionals is to drink about 11/2 large bottles of water daily. The easiest way to check is to look at the color of your urine. If it is a light yellow you are drinking enough, if it is any darker you need more water. Without water our cells are unable to metabolize properly and will send us a signal to say they need more water. Because so many of us are used to being thirsty all the time we interpret this signal as needing food not water.
If you are habitually hungry see whether increasing your fluid intake helps to relieve your hunger pangs. Try carrying a bottle of water around with you so that you have it to hand, sip regularly through the day and take a deeper drink if you start to feel hungry. You may find that this resolves your persistent hunger issues. There are a whole host of other health benefits as well. Drinking more water helps to clear toxins from your system and your skin and hair will look healthier.
3. Your medications may be making you hungry
Some chronic conditions can require long term or even lifelong medication. While these medicines are vitally important because they help to keep a potentially dangerous or difficult condition in check they can have certain side effects and, amongst these, is weight gain. It seems that as many as one in four of the medications commonly prescribed for the management of chronic conditions may cause excess hunger and therefore weight gain by slowing the metabolism and changing the way your body responds to hormones.
While many different drugs can cause you to gain weight the worst offenders in terms of causing persistent hunger are antidepressants, migraine medications and steroids which affect the neurotransmitters that control your appetite making you feel incredibly hungry.
If you think your medication is causing you to crave food you should not, under any circumstances, stop taking them without reference to your doctor. Instead speak with your doctor about your concerns to see whether he will be able to prescribe a suitable alternative or give you advice on how to manage the cravings.
2. You are bored
Our bodies are complex systems and we are controlled by our reactions to a whole host of neurotransmitters, hormones and chemicals that help it to function properly. One of these chemicals, a neurotransmitter called dopamine is the risk/reward chemical. Dopamine is responsible for the feeling of satisfaction that we get for completing a difficult task or doing something dangerous that pays off. Any kind of reward feeling will increase the levels of dopamine in our system so it plays a large role in our desire for sex, food and action all of which stimulate dopamine production. Without dopamine we would be couch potatoes – never wanting to get up and do anything.
The trouble comes in exactly that scenario – when you are sat on the couch doing very little except staring at a TV showing nothing but repeat after repeat. When you are bored your dopamine system is craving some action and making us feel restless. Food is a simple way to satisfy that craving and calm down the dopamine once more sending us searching for something to put in our mouths.
It can be hard to tell if you are feeling hungry because you are bored or whether you are eating out of habit. If you find yourself going to the kitchen to search for something ’just because’ you may not really be hungry just craving your dopamine fix. Try doing something else rewarding instead.
1. You are developing diabetes or thyroid problems
If you have suddenly started feeling insatiably hungry and you cannot understand why you may be developing a chronic illness such as diabetes or thyroid problems.
Tiredness and fatigue are a common symptom of both Type I and Type II Diabetes. If you are a diagnosed sufferer then you will be aware of it and know what to watch out for and how to deal with it.
Due to unhealthy diets Type II diabetes is on the rise in the western world. This disease typically comes on in middle life and the early symptoms can be difficult to detect. While the most commonly known symptoms are a raging thirst and need to urinate tied in with extreme tiredness some undiagnosed diabetics find that they become ravenously hungry. This hunger occurs because the levels of glucose and insulin in an uncontrolled diabetic can rise and fall dramatically and when it falls quickly a person will crave food as a way of stabilizing the levels.
Extreme feelings of hunger may also be a symptom of thyroid problems. If your thyroid is overactive you may find that you lose weight even though you cannot stop eating. Other symptoms include a fast heartbeat, excess sweating, vision problems, hair loss, muscular weakness and shaking.
While both conditions are potentially serious if left undiagnosed they are both eminently treatable. A doctor can confirm or exclude the diagnosis and advise you on which medications you need to take along with the best way to manage your blood sugar or control your thyroid.
While food can be one of life’s great pleasures being ravenously hungry is never pleasant. Our society values health and a good body image so it can feel wrong to eat too much even when we want to, it makes us feel guilty and greedy.
It is perfectly normal to want to eat more than usual after heavy exercise or if you are recovering from an illness. If, however, you find that you cannot control your urges and want to eat even after a filling meal then there may be something wrong. In some cases the explanation is perfectly innocent – you may be pregnant or growing in which case you really don’t need to worry the hunger pangs will cease when your body’s need for excess calories levels out.
It can be hard to pin down exactly why you feel hungry and many of the causes on this list are inter-related. You might be both bored and thirsty for example or bored and diabetic and therefore less able to control your food related urges. If you are concerned that you are craving too much food then you should consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your concerns. Keep a diary in the week leading up to the appointment noting down throughout the day what and when you eat. Include in the diary details of everything you have done and note when you feel hungry and what you were doing/how you were feeling at that time. This will help your doctor to narrow down potential causes with you.
Once you know what is causing your desire to eat all the time you are half way there to resolving the problem. Good luck!