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What are Hunger Pains?

Malcolm Tatum
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Also known as hunger pangs, hunger pains are feelings of discomfort deep in the stomach. A hunger pain is often a low-grade discomfort that is just strong enough to notice. However, some people do experience hunger pains that are somewhat sharp and intermittent. There are several reasons why an individual may experience stomach hunger pain from time to time.

The most common origin of hunger pains is the fact that the individual has not consumed food or drink for an extended period of time. Muscle contractions begin to occur when the stomach has been empty for several hours. As the contractions take place, the sensation may be somewhat unpleasant and interpreted as painful. When this is the reason behind the hunger pains, a quick snack is usually sufficient to eliminate the discomfort.

People who tend to suffer with low blood sugar may experience hunger pains when glucose levels begin to drop. The lack of a proper amount of glucose in the blood causes the stomach contractions to commence. Usually, the contractions are mild at first, but become increasingly stronger until the individual consumes something that provides the right type of carbohydrates to restore a safe glucose level.

Another possibility is that the stomach hunger pains have nothing to do with being hungry or experiencing a drop in blood glucose levels. The pain may be caused by some gastrointestinal disorder that is in the early stages. While the sensation is similar to that of plain old hunger pains, consuming food and drink does not make the discomfort go away. When this is the case, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Often, gastrointestinal disorders can be isolated and treated quickly if caught early.

Women who are currently pregnant may also experience hunger pains related to their condition. Pregnancy hunger pains may occur due to the shifting of the baby, causing pressure on the stomach muscles. There is also a chance that the mother is not ingesting the proper amount of nutrients to adequately nourish both the child and her body. In most cases, consuming foods that are high in nutritional content will easy the pains quickly. However, if eating does not cause the pains to subside, medical help should be sought as soon as possible.

While in most cases, hunger pangs are simply the body’s way of indicating it is time to eat and drink, the presence of constant hunger pains could be a sign of something more severe. Regardless of age or gender, a qualified physician should investigate frequent abdominal pain hunger that does not seem to be satisfied with a normal diet.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including The Health Board, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon962978 — On Jul 27, 2014

Hunger pangs last a couple days at most. But there are still some signals that don't go away that are of lesser intensity that tell you the body still needs food. You can literally go weeks on water and vitamins, but you may pass out if the fat burning portion of your body can't keep up with energy demands. You're a little better off eating a small meal at such times prior to such activity if you're looking to restrict calories severely. Also make sure you have ample fat stores. Anorexics die because they run out of fat stores and continue not eating.

By anon323919 — On Mar 07, 2013

Is there any statistic to do with how quickly hunger pains should go away after eating?

By anon307387 — On Dec 04, 2012

I have intense pains that feel like the stomach is being twisted that in turn makes me sick, this happens regularly and on and off each day, and does feel 60 percent better after I eat.

I have had a MRI (the scan that takes slice images of your insides) and they found a build up of scar tissue in my small bowel and I later had a pill camera to confirm that I may have Crohn's Disease, which two specialists have agreed upon.

The only medicine I found that worked was methotrexate, but as it suppresses the immune system I am now trying a diet with my naturopath to see if I can maintain it naturally. I thought I'd mention this as I had spent many years of searching to come to this conclusion, and all along it felt like bad hunger pains.

By LasPampas — On Jul 17, 2010

@empanadas- When it comes to fasting, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. After the first few days, the body starts eating away the stored fat and will satisfy its own hunger. The body knows how much fat to consume so that it will still get about 3000 calories a day. But once hunger pains hit someone who is fasting, that body is no longer getting the calories it needs. When that happens, that person needs to start slowly introducing food back into the stomach. But be careful about starting and stopping a fast. Consult a doctor first.

By empanadas — On Jul 17, 2010

@empanadas - Thanks! I couldn't imagine going days without food, but I know it's regular for people who fast. Sometimes they might fast for a day or they might end up fasting for weeks. Sometimes I wonder if that's how anorexia gets started, but I think there is something deeper seated there. Hunger pains for me are minimal because I eat all the time!

By empanadas — On Jul 17, 2010

@lmorales - I looked it up and there's an old adage about "three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food." I am almost 100% positive that hunger pains will come and go depending on the person. I would imagine that people who eat a lot and tend to be overweight will have these pains more often and they will be more severe over any given amount of time.

Aside from that, people who are anorexic or used to having hunger pains might be able to tune them out of their system so to speak.

By lmorales — On Jul 17, 2010

@empanadas - Do you have any idea how long a person can go without food? I've had hunger pains or pangs before (whatever you'd like to call them), but I can't imagine what happens if you go days without eating, any idea?

By empanadas — On Jul 17, 2010

Hunger pains can be very strong and intense sometimes. However, as this article mentions, if they don't subside with ample intake, then it's time to see a doctor for sure. Many people believe that it's healthy to not only deny themselves food, but it's also a religious right of passage in some cases to fast.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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