Gretchen Lidicker is a writer, researcher, and the author of the books CBD Oil Everyday Secrets and Magnesium Everyday Secrets. She has a degree in biology and a masters in physiology with a concentration in complementary and integrative medicine. She's been featured in the New York Times, Marie Claire, Forbes, and Travel & Leisure.
You at lunch an hour ago…and you’re feeling hungry already; you made the effort to prepare a healthy dinner, but by 9 p.m. you’re snacking up a storm; you eat breakfast (the most important meal of the day, right?) but without fail, your stomach is growling by the time you sit down at work.
Can you relate to any of these scenarios? If your answer is yes, you’re definitely not alone. Many of us have struggled with cravings, hunger, and symptoms of low blood sugar at some point in our lives — if not all of our lives.
But before you go blaming your lack of self-control, know that hunger is about way more than how much you last ate and when. In fact, hunger cues are mediated by a system in your body involving multiple hormones and complex signaling.
Why You’re Hungry All the Time
The bad news is that while your body does have a system in place to control hunger based on your energy needs, according to an article published by Colorado State University, “there are different ways that this [hunger] system can be disrupted or overridden.”
So what causes these disruptions? According to Abigail King, a functional nutritionist based in Charleston, South Carolina, stress is a big culprit. If you’re chronically stressed, your adrenal gland secretes important hormones that control your stress response, such as cortisol, adrenaline, and DHEA. But when these are chronically elevated, “it can cause you to have low blood sugar, leading to cravings and hunger,” she says.
According to King, it also comes back to what, exactly, you’re eating. “Excessive hunger and cravings for salt, sugar, and fats are due to improper nutrition,” she explains. King says that processed and refined foods — think anything that typically comes in a box, bag or can — are often lacking in fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and protein that properly fuels our cells. When we eat these foods, “Our blood sugar spikes for a short period of time and then crashes, leaving us feeling fatigued, and craving the next sugary or salty food,” she says.
How To Combat Hunger and Feel More Satiated
Now we know why we’re hungry all the time. But the question still remains: What can we do about it? According to King, the first step is to make sure you’re hydrated. Studies have shown that up to 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated and it’s possible to mistake thirst for hunger. Sweetened beverages, juices, and smoothies have only added to this problem. As the authors of a 2009 study wrote, “beverages have become a significant source of dietary energy…the relationships between thirst, hunger, eating, and drinking have blurred, with uncertain health consequences.”
Secondly, King recommends taking a high-nutrient multivitamin and mineral supplement. “Be sure it includes the minerals chromium and vanadium. These are key minerals that help to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood and maintain blood sugar balance,” she explains.
In addition to a multivitamin, King also recommends focusing on foods that are well-known for their nutrient density and satiating powers. At the top of her list are avocados as well as lentils, quinoa, and apples. “These foods are a great source of fiber, omega-3s, and loaded with vitamins and minerals,” she says. Next time you’re struggling with hunger, make some homemade super charged guac or try one of these 5 ways to turn lentils into a hearty meal.