Hunger is one of those things that can be different all of the time. One day you might be able to eat a whole pizza for lunch with no problem, while the next you feel satisfied with a simple sandwich. This kind of variation can be traced back to your recent physical activity, mood, and even your period. But if this hunger change lasts more than a couple of days, it could be a
sign that your gut is out of whack. If you've been feeling much hungrier or much less hungry than your usual self, there are a number of gut issues that could be to blame, according to experts.
Hunger fluctuations can have a number of causes like stress, hormones, a mild illness like a cold, or something more serious, Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for
RSP Nutrition, tells Bustle. But if you find yourself feeling much hungrier than usual or have lost some of your interest in food, make an appointment with your doctor to figure out what's going on, she says.
But the first place to look might be your gut, which can impact your hunger levels in a variety of ways, Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and
DrAxe.com, tells Bustle. First of all, something could be going on with the sensors in your gut that respond to how full your stomach is at a given time. The hormones your gut secretes could also be off, he says.
Here are some of the ways that
gut imbalances can affect your hunger level.
If things haven't been moving as quickly digestively, that could explain why you haven't been as hungry as usual recently,
Erica Ingraham, MS, RDN, owner of Listen Nutrition, tells Bustle. " Constipation can occur through a number of factors, including a low fiber eating pattern, dehydration, and stress," she says. "The colon is responsible for absorbing water so stool can be formed, and if the stool moves too slowly through the digestive tract it can be difficult to pass." This reduces your appetite. Get your gut back to prime health by getting in plenty of fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and drinking lots of water, Ingraham says. Mladen Zivkovic/Shutterstock
Chronic stress is another issue that can throw your gut out of whack, in turn messing with your hunger cues. "It can actually affect our gut microbiome,"
Kelsey McCullough, a registered dietitian nutritionist, tells Bustle. "If the body is in a constant state of stress, so is the gut. Unfortunately some people will actually have a misdiagnosis of IBS due to chronic stress," she says. Start to feel more like yourself by incorporating stress-relief techniques into your daily routine and by seeking professional mental help if you need it. Be careful not to assume stress is to blame for gut problems though, McCullough says. Instead, work closely with your doctor to make sure that a medical condition isn't to blame.
You're Craving Carbs More Than Usual
If you've had a hard time feeling full no matter how much you try to fuel your body, you could be dealing with a Candida overgrowth,
Miriam Jacobson, MS, RD, CNS, tells Bustle. Having more of an appetite can be linked to dysbiosis or imbalances in the microbiome, she says. "Often we see an increase in carb and sugar cravings in those with a candida (yeast or fungal) overgrowth," she says. To get back to feeling like your usual self, she suggests swapping out some of the sugary foods, carbs, and fruits you're eating for other kinds of food to starve the yeast. Digestive enzymes could also be a useful tool in bringing your gut back to a healthy balance, but check with your doctor before introducing any supplements into your routine.
You Are Finding It Hard To Eat
Losing an interest in your all-time favorite bowl of loaded ramen or flaky scone could be relayted to a gut issue called delayed gastric emptying or gastroparesis, says Jacobson. "Helpful strategies are short and frequent meals throughout the day and supplementing with peppermint oil and teas," she says. "It is also helpful to assess and resolve underlying conditions that can be contributing to this including diabetes and IBS." Magnesium can be a helpful supplement to relax the pyloric sphincter, which helps food move from the stomach to the small intestine, Jacobson says.
Your Mood Is Affecting Your Hunger
Have you ever felt a fluttery feeling in your stomach right before a nerve-wracking event? It turns out that your gut and your emotions are more connected than you might think, and your emotions can actually have a major effect on your hunger levels. Gut imbalances like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) can affect the level of serotonin that is produced in your gut,
Lisa Richards, a certified nutritionist, tells Bustle. "It’s a little-known fact that 90 percent of serotonin is produced in the gut," she says. "If your gut flora are lowering your mood, that could change your appetite." For some folks, this effect isn't so pronounced, but for others, a gut imbalance can really affect your eating patterns and make you either more hungry or less hungry than usual, Richards says.
You Have Trouble Feeling Full
"Ghrelin is a hormone that’s produced and released primarily in the gut,"
Amy Sunderman, MS, RD, tells Bustle. "Its nickname is 'the hunger hormone' since it stimulates appetite," she says. If you are eating more than usual but can't seem to feel full, an imbalance of this gut hormone might be to blame. Keep your ghrelin level balanced by having protein with each meal and by switching out some of your desserts for more nourishing foods.
It's totally normal to have days when you're feeling extra snacky or days when you're craving meals that are on the smaller side. But be sure to seek help if your hunger changes last more than a few days.