Hunger pains are caused by contractions in the stomach as a reaction to feeling hungry or having an empty stomach. However, many people do not know that hunger pains can also happen even when the body does not need food. Sleep deprivation, dehydration, hormones, and medication side effects can all be causes of hunger pains.

Hunger pains feel like a gnawing in your stomach. Along with the sensation in your stomach, you may feel tired, lightheaded, and have cravings for specific foods. Sometimes these types of hunger pains can even be the reason why many people have a hard time sticking to a diet.

In response to an empty stomach, a hormone called ghrelin is released. Ghrelin signals the body to release stomach acids to digest food in your stomach, but if your stomach is empty, the stomach acids can attack the linings of the stomach which can cause hunger pains. Ghrelin levels also rise when you eat junk foods containing high amounts of sugar or carbs which can also cause hunger pains. Even smells or pictures of foods can trigger physical symptoms. People who have diabetes tend to also have hunger pains when blood sugar is too high or too low. Sometimes antidepressants can intervene with hunger signals and pains as a response.

It is actually really easy to relieve hunger pains. Start eating at regular times so ghrelin is released after you actually eat to digest food. Eat a balanced meal that contains fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Make sure to fill up on low calorie foods so you feel fuller without having to eat too many calories. Additionally, get enough sleep at night and always stay hydrated! If these do not alleviate your hunger pains, consult a doctor.

Sometimes stomach pains can actually indicate a developing infection or a gastrointestinal disorder and it is always better to be safe than sorry by going to your doctor to get checked and ensure that the pains aren’t actually early stages of something more serious.