Dr Roger Henderson June 19, 2017

We all know the feeling - it's only been an hour since your last meal and you're hungry again. Dr Roger Henderson looks at why this might be.

Influenced by both biological and psychological factors, hunger is a complicated feeling. Here are five of the most common reasons why you could still be feeling peckish after dinner, and what you can do to feel full for longer.

1. You’re eating the wrong type of diet:

Foods with a high glycaemic index, such as sugary foods and drinks, white pasta, white bread and rice are rapidly digested, which increases blood sugar levels quickly. Your body produces insulin to control your blood sugar, but once it drops too much, it triggers hunger. Protein and healthy fats help you feel full for longer, and regulate blood sugar, reducing hunger throughout the day. Choose fish, poultry, eggs, beans, legumes, nuts and low-fat dairy.

2. You’re not getting enough sleep:

Many of us don’t realise that a lack of sleep may have a direct effect on how hungry we feel, and how much we eat as a result. Research has shown that sleep deprivation can increase levels of the 'hunger hormone', ghrelin, and reduce levels of the ‘feeling full hormone’, leptin, so making sure you get enough sleep each night will help control your appetite.

3. You’re dehydrated:

Rather than being hungry, you may simply be thirsty. It has been estimated that people inappropriately respond to thirst by eating instead of drinking more than 60 per cent of the time. The reason? The part of the brain known as the hypothalamus regulates both hunger and thirst, and sometimes mixes up its signals. So, sipping on water can be an easy solution to calming hunger pangs. Drinking water between meals also generally helps us feel fuller.

4. Low blood sugar levels:

Feeling hungry when you have eaten can be a symptom of hypoglycaemia - an abnormally low level of sugar (glucose) in the blood. In most cases, hypoglycaemia occurs in people with diabetes, usually if they have taken too much insulin, missed a meal or over-exercised. It can occur, although very rarely, in people who don't have diabetes. Feelings of nausea and generalised weakness that last around 2-10 minutes before resolving may be symptoms of hypoglycaemia.

5. Emotional eating:

You’re not actually hungry at all, but feel that you want to eat because it helps reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety (comfort eating), or because you’re bored or lonely. If you're craving food and you know you're not truly hungry, wait 20 minutes. You' may be surprised how a simple distraction can stop you reaching for a snack, along with all the calories and guilt that can go with it.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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