Hunger. We all experience this gnawing feeling several times a day. But did you know, there are a number of different factors that cause hunger, and you may even find yourself hungry for a completely different reason to the person sitting next to you? Below we will explain the different reasons for hunger and how you can differentiate them from one another:
Reason #1: Your body needs more fuel
Hunger has a very simple, yet very important purpose: to acquire the nutrients your body needs in order to supply it with energy and keep the engine running.
The feeling of hunger is triggered and regulated by really complex mechanisms, where hormones and nerves, for example, are involved. Simply spoken, you can think of your brain acting as a control center, that processes different kinds of signals from your body: Hormones like ghrelin for example, which is also known as “hunger hormone”, are released when your gut is empty. It travels through your blood to tell your brain that you should eat something. Also, receptors in your gut can communicate to your brain, that the gut is empty and that it would be a good idea to eat something soon. Put simply: These innate mechanisms makes sure you don’t starve.
Reason #2: You want to distract yourself from specific feelings
Many people think they are hungry when actually, they are simply victims of specific emotions, which can trigger cravings. Often people tend to eat when they are experiencing stressful situations, like being in trouble with their boss or partner. Other people distract themselves with food when they are sad or bored.
Reason #3: You’re feeling of hunger is dysfunctional
There’s another really interesting factor which can cause people to overeat, that they may not be aware of: Your hormones. There are dozens of hormones which regulate your feeling of satiety and hunger. The two most famous ones are leptin and ghrelin. Leptin, a hormone that is synthesized in your fat tissue, tells your brain that you’re full and don’t need to eat more food. The problem is that sometimes this communication does not work and this has to do with our fat tissue. People who are obese have too much fat tissue, which leads to the production of large amounts of leptin. You might now think this is a good thing, because the more leptin you have, the more you would feel satiated, right? Unfortunately it’s rather the opposite here. In these large amounts it does not have the same effect anymore and you end up feeling hungry and eating more and more food. The good news is, as soon as these people begin to lose weight, their hormones gradually change to normal levels.
The counterpart of leptin is ghrelin, which is also known under the term “hunger hormone”. It is released if you have an empty stomach in order to tell your brain that you should eat something. Interestingly, it is also released in large amounts if you are not sleeping enough.
Reason #4: You are dehydrated
Sometimes, your hunger is dehydration in disguise. We often tend to misdiagnose the sensation of thirst which tricks the body into thinking it needs food when what it’s really asking for is liquid.
Hunger can have different triggers. Normally, you are hungry because you need to fuel your metabolism. Nevertheless many people only think they are hungry when actually, it’s just a way to distract themselves from certain emotions or it can be the result of a disturbed interaction of the hormones regulating satiety and hunger and your brain. We recommend to follow a healthy, balanced nutrition and sleep and drink enough in order to curb you hunger.
And next time you feel the urge to raid the fridge, ask yourself “do I really need this?”. Detect your individual hunger triggers and stop unnecessary snacking.