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Always Hungry? You Might Have One Of These 12 Conditions

Medically reviewed by Carmen Pope, BPharm. Last updated on May 11, 2023.

Official answer


1. Overactive Thyroid, Overactive Appetite

Your thyroid gland is located in the front of your neck, just above where your collarbones meet.

This important gland makes hormones that control your rate of metabolism (the speed at which your cells use energy). Changes in the way your thyroid functions affects your mood, weight, and energy levels.

The most common reason for an overactive thyroid is Graves disease. Graves disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the thyroid gland to over-produce thyroid hormone. Symptoms include hunger as well as a rapid heartbeat, sweating, an enlarged neck, and tiredness. See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms for further tests.

2. Constantly Fueling Your Fight Or Flight

We all have a built-in emergency alert system. Nicknamed "fight-or-flight", it automatically kicks in if we are confronted with a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to our survival.

Activation results in a massive release of cortisol and other hormones from our adrenal glands that allow us to fight or flee the situation.
There is a problem though. Constant stress or anxiety can make this fight-or-flight response overactive. High levels of cortisol all day, every day, make us hungry and promote weight gain; not to mention, undermine our immune system.

Re-evaluate your life if you always seem to feel stressed and make relaxation a priority.

Cushing Syndrome is another condition that affects the adrenal glands. Hunger and weight gain are common symptoms in addition to the development of fatty tissue deposits around the torso, face (moon face), and between the shoulders (buffalo hump). Overuse of corticosteroids is one of the main causes of Cushing Syndrome.

3. Sugar In The Blood - Not In The Cell - Causes Hunger

Diabetes is a condition in which there is too much sugar (glucose) in your blood. There are three main types:

  • Type 1: Most commonly diagnosed in children aged seven to 12, although it can occur at any age.
  • Type 2: Usually affects middle-aged or older people with excess weight.
  • Gestational diabetes: Occurs during pregnancy and is usually detected with a screening test. In most women, it resolves with the birth of the baby.

Symptoms include increased hunger, excessive thirst, and frequent urination. Weight gain is more likely to occur with type 2 or gestational diabetes, but weight loss is more likely to happen with type 1 diabetes, despite increased hunger. See your doctor if you suspect you have diabetes.

4. Low Blood Sugar Can Also Cause Hunger Pangs

The last slide talked about how high blood sugar levels make you hungry. Oddly enough, low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) can cause hunger, too.

In adults and children older than 10 years, hypoglycemia is uncommon, except as a side effect of diabetes treatment. In people with diabetes, hypoglycemia can happen suddenly but is usually mild and can be easily treated by eating or drinking a small amount of sugar-rich food.

If left untreated, blood sugar levels drop even further and can cause confusion, clumsiness, and fainting. Severe hypoglycemia can lead to seizures, coma, and even death.

5. Feeling Hungry When You Are Sad

Research has shown that eating releases serotonin, the "Feel Good" hormone. Some people may turn to food when they're feeling a bit blue or when things aren't working out as planned.
But food generally only provides a short-term boost. If you have been feeling sad or irritable most days, for a few weeks now, you may have depression. Talk to your doctor about how you are feeling. Try to get back on track with your diet as gaining weight is not the right pathway to a better mood, and can adversely affect your health in other ways, too.

6. Unwanted Extras In Your Intestines: Worms

In the U.S. pinworm (also called threadworm) is the most common worm infection. Although it mainly affects school-age children, it is very easy to catch and adults in family groups may also become infected.

Most people have no symptoms, but some people may feel tired, have a hunger-like feeling in their stomach, or have an itchy bottom. Treatment is simple and pyrantel (eg, Pin-Away, Pin-X) is readily available at your pharmacy.

The most likely worm to cause hunger pangs are tapeworms; however, these are rare in the United States.

7. Could You be Pregnant?

Most women develop a ravenous appetite during the second trimester of pregnancy (around week 17), as the baby develops and demands more nourishment.

But keep in mind portion sizes. Although technically you are eating for two, your baby is a lot smaller than you are and too much weight gain during pregnancy can be detrimental.

The U.S. Institute of Medicine recommends a weight gain of no more than one pound per week during the second and third trimester of pregnancy or just half a pound if you are overweight or obese before pregnancy. Join the Pregnancy Support Group to chat with other women if you find your appetite is out of control.

8. Food Cravings Before That Time Of The Month

Almost three out of four women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) during their childbearing years. Food cravings and an increased appetite can be a sign of PMS in addition to feeling bloated or having gas pains, and experiencing breast tenderness, irritability, and tiredness.

If you are a woman and find you get hungry only during certain times of the month, you may be experiencing PMS. Exercise and a healthy diet can help relieve symptoms. See a doctor if your PMS affects your quality of life or does not go away with self-help measures.

9. Could Your Medications Be Making You Hungry?

In a cruel twist of fate, many drugs that are used to treat conditions such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure can also cause weight gain. Examples include insulin and beta-blockers.

Weight gain may also be associated with birth control pills, corticosteroids like prednisone, and certain mood medicines like Abilify, Clozaril, Depakote, Paxil, Prozac, Seroquel, or Zyprexa.

DO NOT STOP taking your medicines because of this side effect. Talk with your doctor about monitoring your weight from the moment you start taking any of these medicines. And remember: eat a healthy diet and exercise, too.

10. How Commonly Does Cancer Cause Hunger?

In general, cancer tends to suppress your appetite and make you feel less hungry. Often this is accompanied by rapid weight loss.

But certain tumors, such as glucagonomas (a type of tumor in the pancreas) can raise blood sugar levels and cause hunger.

If you are hungry all the time but still losing weight despite eating large quantities of food, see your doctor for further tests.

11. When Hunger is Due to Exercise

The formula for weight loss sounds easy: Exercise + Diet = Pounds Off.

Sounds easy... but is never that easy. The trouble is, exercise tends to make us hungry, as our bodies start to crave the energy we have used up.

Experts believe that more frequent exercising eventually resets your hunger signals. In the meantime, avoid snacking after exercise "... because you deserve it!" Bear in mind that even an intense workout lasting 45 minutes burns less than 100 extra calories, so don't undo all that hard work with one candy bar.

12. What You Eat And How You Eat: It Does Make A Difference

Ok... so this isn't strictly a condition, but it could be the reason you are still hungry after a meal.

High-sugar foods are easily absorbed by the body and taken up by our cells with the help of insulin. However, this energy is quickly burned leaving us still hungry. Protein-rich foods (like fish or beans) or whole grains naturally make us feel fuller. Hot foods and soups are also more stomach-satisfying than cold foods.

Water also helps fill you up so always drink a glass or two with your meal. Chew and eat slowly to give your stomach time to tell your brain that it is full.