Hunger Pangs—What They are and How to Alleviate Them*

Hunger Pangs (also called hunger pains) are the result of an irritation of the lining of the stomach. When the stomach empties after the digestion of a meal, its walls come into contact and rub against each other, causing discomfort. An empty stomach whose lining is not irritated will feel comfortable, but for an empty, irritated stomach, the rubbing of its walls will cause a painful, gnawing sensation. Because the gnawing sensation is relieved by eating food, which separates the walls of the stomach, the gnawing sensation is associated with hunger and is called hunger pangs. Hunger pangs are not true hunger, which is a physiological need for nutrients, accompanied not by pain but by pleasant sensations of desire. Hunger pangs are one of about ten forms of false hunger (read about other forms of false hunger) and are a cause of overweight because they prompt eating when there is no need for food. In fact, eating to relieve an irritation of a stomach deprives that organ of necessary rest and results in further irritation (a vicious cycle).

There can be many causes of an irritated stomach lining, some of which are:

(1) Eating so much food and liquid at one time that the stomach becomes stretched beyond its natural limit. Then, when the digestive juices pour in and movement occurs, the stomach becomes further stretched. Habitually stretching the stomach in such a manner causes a chronic irritation of its lining.

(2) Eating hot spices irritates not only the stomach but the entire digestive tract. Also, drinking beverages that are very hot (temperature-wise) can irritate the stomach.

(3) Eating in such a manner that the food takes an excessive amount of time to be digested. One factor is not chewing food sufficiently. The more the chunks of food are broken down, the larger the surface area available to absorb the digestive juices. Large chunks therefore, take longer to digest. Another factor is drinking liquids with meals such as milk, water, juice, or soda, which dilute the digestive juices and are absorbed by the food instead of the digestive juices. A third factor is eating so much of a particular nutrient (such as protein) that insufficient digestive juices can be produced for its digestion. A fourth factor is the haphazard combining of foods. Because each food type (sugar, starch, protein, and fat) requires a different mode of digestion, eating haphazard combinations holds up digestion, causing, among other things, an irritation of the lining of the stomach (read article on food combining).

Reversing hunger pangs requires adherence, over time, to the factors just mentioned: Do not overeat. Stop eating before you are full so that room is left for (a) the digestive juices that will pour in and (b) the movement of the stomach. Do not drink liquids with meals or immediately afterward. Learn about and practice proper food combining. Chew your food thoroughly (until it is almost liquid). Allow your stomach to be empty and rest for periods of time—even if it is uncomfortable—instead of eating as soon as the stomach empties, which irritates it further. That way the stomach will be given a chance to heal.

See also:

Factors Affecting Digestion

Flatulence and Halitosis

Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and Antacids

The Difference Between True and False Hunger

Combining Foods for Optimal Digestion

Therapeutic Fasting

*Adapted from Robert Chuckrow, The Intelligent Dieter’s Guide, Rising Mist Publications, Briarcliff Manor, NY, 1997.

©Copyright 1997 by Robert Chuckrow

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