Have you ever found yourself rustling through the refrigerator or the cupboards looking for something to eat but nothing that appeals to you? You eventually settle on something but a few minutes later you find that you aren’t at all satisfied, so you go in search of something else to eat. You feel hungry yet no food is fulfilling your need. This may be because you aren’t hungry. Your drive to find something to eat may actually be thirst. This is because the hypothalamus, which controls hunger and thirst, helps the nervous system and endocrine system communicate with one another. When we’re hungry a hormone is released to signal hunger. The hypothalamus then tells the nervous system it’s time to eat. The same thing happens when we’re thirsty.
Sometimes when we’re dehydrated or thirsty the brain signals hunger. But it’s more like a low-grade hunger that doesn’t pass with eating. That’s tricky. How can you know the difference between a need for water and a need for nutrients before gulping down unnecessary calories? When you’re truly hungry your stomach may grumble or feel empty. You may also feel sluggish from low-blood sugar. The key to knowing the difference is knowing your body. If you ate recently and feel full, chances are you’re thirsty. Pay close attention to your body and over time you will realize what is thirst and what is hunger.
The first thing to do when you feel this way is drink a glass of water, especially if you haven’t had water all day. Wait about 10-15 minutes. If the feeling of hunger passes, chances are you were thirsty. Keep drinking, you may be dehydrated. If the hunger doesn’t subside opt for a healthy snack such as fruit or a handful of almonds. The fiber in these two choices will fill you up and keep your glucose from spiking.
Staying hydrated during the day is the best way to avoid getting a false hungry signal. Drink the recommended amount of water for your body size, lifestyle and environment. Not sure how much that is? Take your weight and multiply it by 2/3. Up this amount if you are active or exposed to extreme heat or cold. Consider eating foods with a high water content such as cucumbers and strawberries, this counts toward your daily intake. Also, diabetics tend to be thirsty because the body is trying to rid itself of the extra glucose. If you find that you are excessively thirsty, consider visiting a healthcare professional to have your glucose levels checked.
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