7 Weird Reasons You Might Be Hungry, Other Than Actually Needing Food

Food is a wonderful part of life: It's fun to make, it creates an excuse to socialize, and most importantly, it tastes really good. Although there's never a reason not to enjoy a tasty snack, constant hunger is no fun, so it's important to know what unsuspecting things can be making you hungry. I'm all for eating good food throughout the day, but if you have to stop what you're doing constantly to keep yourself fed, it may be a sign something's a little off with your body.

Feeling hungry after skipping meals or after a long workout is obviously normal, but for those of us who spend the whole day with our tummy grumbling, it can be easy to wonder why. The feeling of hunger is a mixture of factors, including what you eat, your hormones, and your emotional needs. If the second one of these is off, it's possible your body is going to interpret that imbalance as a need for food. Snacking every few hours can help keep your hunger at bay, but if food isn't really what your body is looking for, it's important to pinpoint the real culprit to figure out what's causing this confusing sensation.

If you're constantly craving food and you're not sure why, it may be one of these seven weird things that can make you hungry.

1. Chewing Gum

"Gum gets your digestive juices flowing," says Shari Portnoy, MPH, RD, CFT, EMT to Bustle over email. The saliva produced tricks your body into thinking it is digesting food, which can stimulate hunger. In fact, a study published in the journal Eating Behaviors found that chewing gum leads people to eat more junk foods such as cookies and chips.

2. Drinking Alcohol

Studies show that alcohol suppresses leptin, the hormone responsible for letting you know when your full. Popping open that glass of wine will not increase your appetite, but will also prevent your body from letting you know when you've had enough to eat. "[Alcohol] opens up our senses," says Portnoy. "Foods smell better, and may even taste better."

3. Lack Of Sleep

Research from the German Universities Tubingen and Lubeck and Uppsala University in Sweden found that the less sleep you get, the more hunger you feel the following day. This is because lack of sleep is linked to the the hormone ghrelin, which is responsible for triggering feelings of hunger.

4. Your Period

During PMS, your body's levels of estrogen go up, which in turn increase cortisol levels, according to WebMD. This causes your metabolism to become charged, stimulating your appetite, oftentimes for foods high in sugars or refined carbohydrates. This is your body's way of looking for a quick serotonin fix, the body's "feel-good" hormone.

5. You're Thirsty

"Many people think they are hungry when they are really thirsty," says Portnoy. "Drink first, then eat. Our bodies are often dehydrated, especially in warm weather." Signals for hunger and thirst are both controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain, so your body can often misinterpret these signals coming from the same place.

6. You're Eating Too Much Sugar

Consuming sugar causes a drastic rise and drop in your blood sugar levels, which can leave you craving nutrients to supply your body with that needed energy. Certain types of sugar, such as fructose, can actually affect blood flow in the brain, messing with hunger cues, according to WebMD.

7. You're Stressed

Most of us have experience the insatiable need for pizza during rough times, but there's actually a scientific reason behind that. Long-term stress triggers hormones that can cause hunger, which eventually also becomes an emotional response that becomes automatic over time. I'm all for pizza as a cure, but it's good for your mental health to also examine what's stressing you out so much (and see if there's a way to reduce it) while you munch on that slice of pepperoni.

No one knows your body best but you, so it's important you trust your instincts when it comes to recognizing hunger as real, or as a sign of something else. And when in doubt, just eat.