• Pangs of Hunger

    Posted on May 14, 2021 by in Digestion

    Hunger Cravings can be caused by harmless or pathological causes. The question is what is it that we are craving?

    Some people can take long breaks without eating. Some people feel slightly hungry over time. Some people get angry when they get hungry. I think they call that getting Hangry!  With some people their stomach growls just two hours after breakfast. When they don’t get something between their teeth, they become nervous and obnoxious. You feel weak, the hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach torments you.

    This can be normal to a certain extent. Often, a piece of apple, a sip of mineral water or just a distraction is enough to calm assault-like cravings for food and hold them through until the next meal. The metabolism does not always work the same. Body structure and individual disposition play a role, but also personal nutritional and eating habits as well as stress and the current mood.

    What makes you hungry

    Hunger as a life-sustaining signal shows that our body needs a supply of nutrients. The focus is on the sugar content in the blood. If the blood sugar level drops, we get hungry. The stomach contracts, sometimes accompanied by audible growls. The senses of taste and smell are overly sensitive to reception, as a precautionary measure, more saliva is already forming in the mouth.

    The most important control centers for these complex processes are located in a specific part of the brain, in the hypothalamus. The satiety and hunger centers regulate whether we are full or hungry. This involves neurotransmitters and hormones, the vegetative nervous system with the vagus nerve, the activities of the liver and digestive tract.

    In addition to the blood sugar regulator insulin, hormones that are responsible for feelings, moods, stress reactions or sleep, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, cortisone or growth hormone, have an influence on appetite and feelings of hunger. The reward center in the brain is also switched on. Heredity and learned behavior also come into play. Physical and emotional influences play together when it comes to hunger and appetite. Both sensations often accompany or overlap, especially in people who live in circumstances in which they do not really have to starve.

    The greed for sugar

    The greed for sugar

    A sugary breakfast with jam and white flour croissants: you’ll soon get hungry again

    The faster the blood sugar level drops, the more violently we feel the need for more energy. Sugar, i.e. glucose, is needed. We then prefer to eat foods rich in carbohydrates. Because carbohydrates are the most important sources of energy. They consist of different sugar compounds that are broken down into one of their basic components, namely glucose, during digestion. The glucose reaches the individual cells of the body via the blood and uses it to generate energy.

    Some carbohydrates get into the blood quickly. They are quickly broken down, drive up the blood sugar level, bring short-term energy, but do not provide the body with any other important nutrients. The glucose in the blood is soon used up, so the blood sugar level quickly goes down again. These “empty” calorie suppliers include, for example, table sugar and white flour products. After breakfast with white flour rolls and sugary jam, hunger returns faster than after a bowl of whole-grain muesli. This is because the body takes longer to digest foods made from whole grains, enriched with nuts.

    Since food is also closely linked to our emotional world, it can easily become a substitute for lost joys in other areas. Often it has deep roots. All too often, children are rewarded with sweets. That continues later. Chocolate and fast food provide supposedly quick consolation. In times of mental crisis, this can sometimes lead to an increasingly violent, recurring greed for food.

    Hunger: the power of habit, moods, phases of life

    Some people are used to eating or snacking at certain times from an early age. For some people, the stomach complains punctually. Others naturally dissipate the energy they have absorbed more quickly and require more frequent replenishment in small quantities.

    Those who are in a good mood think less about food. And even those who work with high concentration can easily forget their stomach grumbles. However, if we deprive our body of the necessary energy for too long, it is normal for hunger to manifest itself with force. In pronounced form, this often happens according to strict diets. The body does not like to go hungry and then twice asks for the lost food.

    The body also tries to compensate for a lack of sleep by increasing the supply of external energy.

    During pregnancy, women sometimes experience food cravings for certain foods. After or during breastfeeding, mothers experience a distinct feeling of weakness that demands a supply of energy. Adolescents often have periods of excessive appetite during a growth spurt. The body then actually needs more calories temporarily. The hormones give unmistakable signals.

    Morbid cravings

    However, food cravings can also be so pronounced that they can hardly be controlled. Those affected have to satisfy the urge to eat immediately. They then often eat large quantities of food, often sweet and fatty foods. Those who suffer from an excessive need to eat often need double the portion to feel full and quickly become hungry again.

    Morbid cravings

    Food cravings: devour as much food as possible quickly and without pleasure

    Such a pronounced appetite is an expression of various mental and physical disorders. If intense hunger pangs occur frequently, it is important to investigate the causes. Metabolic disorders such as diabetes mellitus or hormonal imbalances such as an overactive thyroid are possible triggers. People with diabetes develop hypoglycemia more easily than healthy people, which can be noticeable through cravings, among other things. Hypoglycemia means that the blood sugar level drops unusually, sometimes threateningly. This is also possible with severe liver diseases, alcohol addiction or certain tumors.

    In addition, worm diseases can be responsible for an excessive appetite. Cravings, mostly for certain foods, are often the hallmarks of a migraine attack. Sometimes some drugs, such as those used for depression or psychosis, make you feel more hungry.

    Eating disorders and mental illnesses such as depression are often associated with cravings. With all triggering diseases, however, there are usually additional characteristic complaints

    Cravings: When you should investigate further

    • Intermittent cravings are more pronounced and urgent than usual
    • Every time you eat large amounts of sugary and fatty foods out of hunger, such as chocolate, pizza, pastries
    • You are very overweight
    • You vomit after binge eating
    • You often feel hungry, eat a lot, and still lose weight
    • You not only often feel hungry, but also nervous and stressed
    • You feel increasingly sad and depressed and fight against it with frequent snacks
    • Headaches and/or visual disturbances follow the increased appetite or these occur at the same time as the need to eat
    • You also have digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain

    Reasons for occasional cravings

    • You have too many frequent meals or snacks in between with foods that mainly provide “empty” calories, such as white flour products, sweets, cakes, chocolate
    • Pronounced hunger phases
    • too much dieting
    • Lack of sleep
    • Incorrect eating habits, such as eating fast, hastily, eating in front of the computer or television
    • Stress, excessive demands or the opposite: boredom
    • Frustration, emotional stress
    • Pregnancy, lactation
    • Growth phases in adolescents

    Overview of possible pathological causes of food cravings

    Mental problems and illnesses

    • Eating Disorder
      Very overweight people struggle with cravings more often. Common symptoms of obesity are excessive sweating, shortness of breath, fatigue, joint pain. In addition, the risk of secondary diseases such as diabetes and depression, which in turn can affect the natural feelings of hunger, is increased.
      In people who suffer from a binge eating disorder, uncontrollable food cravings often trigger eating attacks that last for hours. These occur several times a day or in the middle of the night. Those affected are often very overweight and prone to inner restlessness and depression.
      However, other eating disorders, such as anorexia, can also hide behind unchecked cravings. Here permanent food refusal and malnutrition lead to feelings of hunger again and again. Extreme self-induced underweight is the salient symptom of anorexia. The sick feel strong when they successfully suppress their eating needs.
      In the case of eating-vomiting addiction (bulimia), hunger attacks are followed by real eating attacks. In contrast to the binge eating disorder, those affected then try to get rid of the calories devoured by vomiting.
    • Constant stress, psychological stress, depression
      Persistent high tension, profound worries, grief and fears affect, among other things, the autonomic nervous system and thus also the need to eat. Eating should then often fill the emotional emptiness, distract from the inner tension, give quick comfort.
      People suffering from depression can also have an excessive appetite. In addition, some drugs for depression act on the metabolism and make you feel very hungry.
      Cravings for sweets often plague people who go through more or less pronounced depressive phases, especially during autumn and winter. The so-called winter depression is also characterized by tiredness, listlessness and a strong need for sleep.

    Hormonal and metabolic problems

    thyroid

    • Thyroid disease
      People who suffer from an overactive thyroid often feel excruciatingly hungry, as well as nervous and irritable. You can eat large portions, but do not gain weight. The thyroid hormones influence, among other things, carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism, numerous nerve functions and the psyche. In addition to nervousness and cravings with simultaneous weight loss, a rapid heartbeat, diarrhea, hair loss and often a goiter are characteristic of hyperfunction.
      Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease that also results in an overproduction of thyroid hormones with the corresponding symptoms. Protruding eyeballs are one of the most noticeable signs of the disease.
    • Diabetes and hypoglycaemia
      With the help of the hormone insulin, glucose is transported from the blood to the body cells, which convert it into energy. Insulin also keeps blood sugar levels in balance, for example by building up sugar stores in the liver. From a certain threshold onwards, the counter hormone glucagon steps in, which pulls sugar out of the stores again when needed.
      In the case of diabetes, insulin can no longer work sufficiently, or it is absent because the production in the pancreas fails. The sugar level in the blood rises and the cells no longer receive sufficient energy. This leads to further profound metabolic problems.
      A fine-tuned treatment with certain drugs and/or insulin – it replaces the body’s own hormone in diabetes – can lower the elevated blood sugar level to the desired extent. However, this can lead to adjustment problems and, in some cases, threatening hypoglycemia. Cravings are a warning sign of this, in addition to sweating, palpitations, tremors, dizziness. But cravings can also be the first sign of diabetes.

    Other diseases that can lead to hypoglycaemia

    • Alcohol addiction: Hypoglycemia also occurs in the context of alcohol abuse, especially when there is malnutrition.
    • Severe liver diseases, such as liver cell cancer, can also trigger hypoglycemia with cravings. In order to be able to keep the sugar level balanced, the insulin builds up glucose stores in the liver. If this is damaged, the sugar supply cannot be called up if necessary and the blood sugar level drops.
    • Tumors: In a few cases, unfamiliar hunger conceals tumor diseases. These are mainly tumors that produce hormones in an uncontrolled manner, such as insulinoma, a mostly benign tumor of the pancreas. It makes more insulin. Overweight can be the result, as well as dangerous hypoglycemia, which are accompanied by cravings, racing heart, sweating, nausea and anxiety.
    • Dumping syndrome: After gastric operations, for example in the case of gastric ulcers or stomach reduction, a number of complaints can occur, which doctors summarize under the term dumping syndrome. Food gets from the stomach to the small intestine faster and more poorly pre-digested. This triggers so-called early dumping symptoms such as circulatory problems with abdominal pain, sweating, and nausea. They are followed by late dumping symptoms with cravings and a feeling of weakness. The reason: Since the carbohydrates are then broken down more quickly, there is first an excess of blood sugar and then a noticeable hypoglycemia.

    Infections and headache disorders

    • Worm diseases: infections with roundworms or tapeworms cause nausea, abdominal pain, anus itching, weight loss and loss of appetite or the opposite, namely cravings.
    • Migraines: Food cravings are one of the often described signs of a migraine. In addition, there is often irritation, tiredness, feelings of tension in the neck and forehead. Some of the migraine sufferers then experience the so-called aura with visual disturbances and language problems as well as tingling and balance disorders. Then the typical migraine pain sets in.

    Medication

    • Some drugs, and especially psychotropic drugs, act on the satiety and hunger centers in the brain. Increased hunger is a common consequence of certain antidepressants and neuroleptics (remedies for psychoses). Various hormone therapies, such as contraception or taking cortisone preparations, can also increase appetite.

    Diagnosis of cravings: Clarifying discussions, physical examinations

    When it comes to tracking down cravings, the conversation between practitioner and patient plays an essential role.  It is important to share what has changed since your last visit, what life situation you are in, what eating habits you have, how you eat your meals, what you prefer to eat, how much alcohol you drink. He will ask or check whether you have gained or lost weight. Complaints that have arisen with cravings, such as increased sweating and abdominal pain or headaches, also provide the practitioner with information. It is also important for him to know what medication you are taking.

    This is followed by a thorough physical exam and blood tests, for example to check for thyroid disorders or diabetes. Laboratory tests of urine and/or stool are also possible.

    If you have diabetes, the doctor will investigate the reason for your frequent hypoglycaemia. To do this, he will coordinate medication or insulin therapy and the nutrition plan – that is, the amount and distribution of carbohydrates or bread units (BE) over the day. If necessary, he will arrange for further examinations by a diabetes specialist.

    If there are signs of an eating disorder or other psychological problem, a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist specializing in the respective disorder will take over the further diagnosis and the subsequent treatment.

    Therapy of excessive hunger and hunger pangs

    eat with joy

    Part of the therapy: Eat with joy and in a balanced way

    Treat existing illnesses

    Treatment for food cravings is based on diagnosis. With the therapy of an overactive thyroid, for example, digestion and utilization of the food components normalize. Most of the time, the associated cravings will subside.
    With diabetes, a well-adjusted blood sugar control is important in order to avoid hypoglycemia and, in the long term, prevent secondary diseases such as nerve and kidney damage.

    People with eating disorders can often benefit from a stay in a specialized therapy facility. Even with depressive illnesses, depending on the severity, a hospital stay is sometimes indicated. Psychotherapeutic procedures and, if necessary, medication are usually successful treatment options.

    If medication is the cause of excessive appetite, the doctor will consider options with the patient to change the preparation or to change the dose. However, never stop taking a medication that the doctor has prescribed for you, always talk to your doctor first. Because sudden discontinuation of some drugs can lead to unexpected, sometimes dangerous, body reactions. Nutritional advice and an appropriate exercise program during medication therapy can very often help to get the hunger pangs and possible obesity under control.

    Eat a balanced diet, reduce stress

    Professional nutritional advice also supports the treatment of causal diseases. If the cravings have no pathological background, one of the basic self-help measures is to eat a balanced diet. Here, too, appropriate courses and behavioral therapy programs can often provide security.

    If you also learn relaxation techniques and targeted stress management, hunger problems can often be solved successfully.

    Holistic Colon Hydrotherapy will look at your lifestyle as well as address possible worm infestations that can lead to cravings.

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