Causes of Hunger Symptoms

There are certain times of day or night when the body signals that it is hungry. Most people think about what they want to eat and let their taste buds lead them to their desired food; others have dietary restrictions.

The feeling of being hungry comes from movements in your stomach signaling to the body that it is hungry. When this happens, it is generally the body letting you know that it wants and needs nutrients.

When the body signals symptoms of hunger, the feeling is in the stomach area. There are additional feelings that can vary from person to person.

hungry man

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Frequent Hunger Symptom Causes 

There are many reasons—other than actually being hungry—that can cause hunger symptoms. These include:

Stress

Stress can cause a lot of health issues. When individuals are stressed, the adrenal glands release cortisol, a hormone known to increase the appetite.

Many times, when people are stressed, they lean toward foods that have carbohydrates and sugar, and toward comfort foods. Stress combined with overeating foods that are not healthy can lead to both short- and long-term health issues. 

It is important to reduce stress through:

  • Rest
  • Meditation
  • Exercise

It is also important to understand what is causing the stress so it can be managed.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is the result of an overactive thyroid.

The thyroid gland controls the metabolism in the body, and when the thyroid is overactive, it can cause a number of issues such as excessive hunger. This is due to the body using so much energy because the thyroid is so overactive.

Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia occurs when the blood sugar levels in your body drop so low that it doesn’t have the ability to give your body the energy it needs.

Hypoglycemia can happen if an individual is too hungry or has exercised without eating properly. Low blood sugar is also very common with individuals who have diabetes. 

If an induvial doesn’t have diabetes, other causes of hypoglycemia include:

  • Alcohol use
  • Certain medications
  • Metabolic problems
  • Diseases of the kidney, liver, or pancreas

Type 2 Diabetes

When a patient has diabetes, they may feel excessive hunger symptoms. This is because the body is low on energy due to the fact that the body doesn’t have enough glucose for the energy it needs to properly function.

Rare Hunger Symptom Causes

Prader-Willi syndrome is a condition that is genetic. It is caused by non-working or missing chromosome 15 genes. This condition affects several parts of the body.

Infants who have the condition have difficulties with:

  • Feeding
  • Slow growth
  • Low muscle tone

As the infant grows into early childhood, the child is known to have a large appetite, and this can lead to obesity.

Other symptoms include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive tendencies
  • Developmental delays
  • Cognitive impairment

Excessive food cravings and weight gain typically start around 24 months. Along with excessive eating and obsessive-compulsive tendencies, this can lead to consuming large portions of food at one time and hoarding food.

This condition can cause:

  • Endocrine issues
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Underdeveloped organs and muscles

Complications

If an individual has excessive hunger, this can lead to other complications, especially if they have other health conditions. These conditions and complications include:

  • Being overweight
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Mortality
  • Stroke
  • Stress
  • Physical pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Osteoarthritis

When to See a Healthcare Provider

It is important to contact a healthcare professional to help you get to the bottom of the reason why you have unexplained hunger symptoms. If hunger symptoms are persistent due to medication or diabetes, it is especially important to see your healthcare provider.

A dietitian can also help with proper food choices and portion sizes. But again, if your hunger symptoms feel abnormal and you don’t have a diagnosed medical condition, it wouldn’t hurt to schedule an appointment with your healthcare professional to find out what is causing the hunger symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

Hunger is a normal feeling in most people. If you feel that your hunger sensations are overwhelming, have a conversation with a healthcare professional. They can help you find the root cause of the excessive hunger, and can also create a plan that will help the condition and guide you in the right direction for treatment.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Appetite increased. Updated October 18, 2019.

  2. Harvard Health Publishing. Why stress causes people to overeat. Updated February 15, 2021.

  3. Harvard Health Publishing. Do you have an overactive thyroid? Updated June 19, 2015.

  4. University of Michigan Health. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in people without diabetes. Updated March 31, 2020.

  5. Oyer DS. The science of hypoglycemia in patients with diabetes. Curr Diabetes Rev. 2013 May;9(3):195-208. doi:10.2174/15733998113099990059

  6. National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Prader-Willi syndrome. Updated July 16, 2016.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The health effects of overweight and obesity. Updated September 17, 2020.