Feeling hungry and nauseous at the same time – Why?

Have you ever noticed that when you go a long time without eating you begin to feel nauseous? Have you ever wondered why this happens when you go long hours without eating? Even when you are hungry you feel nauseous at the same. 

This is usually caused by a build-up of acid in the stomach. Your stomach produces hydrochloric acid as a part of the long process of breaking down food, using what it can for energy and materials, and disposing of the rest.

Learn more about why you feel hungry and nauseous at the same time in this article

Why do I feel nauseous when I am hungry?

In order to break down food, your body (stomach) produces hydrochloric acid (HCl). When you go long hours without eating anything, that acid can build up in your stomach and can potentially lead to acid reflux (when the contents from your stomach move back up into your esophagus) and nausea. 

An empty stomach can also cause hunger pangs (painful feelings in your stomach or in the upper left side of the abdomen, usually caused by strong stomach contractions). Hunger pangs are very rarely caused by a health condition. They are mostly attributed to your stomach being empty. 

Hunger pangs can also be affected by the following

  • A need for a diet higher in essential nutrients
  • Hormones
  • Lack of sleep
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Your environment

What can I do about nausea caused by hunger?

Eating is the first thing you can do to get rid of nausea since it is caused by you not eating for a long time in the first place.

According to the British Nutrition Foundation, if you haven’t eaten for a long period of time, gentle ways to address your body’s nutritional needs include:

  • Beverages, such as low-sugar smoothies
  • Brothy soups with protein (lentils, beans) or carbohydrates (rice, pasta)
  • Protein-rich foods, such as fish and lean meat
  • Dried foods, such as dates, apricots, and raisins

Discuss with your doctor or any qualified health personnel if you have intense pain or nausea when you are extremely hungry. It can be a sign that you need to be screened for metabolic syndrome (a group of five risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes, and stroke) and its symptoms such as high blood sugar, increased blood pressure, and abnormal lipid levels.

How to prevent feeling nauseous when you are hungry

Eating at shorter intervals can help you get rid of nausea if you tend to feel nauseous when your stomach has been empty for a long period of time

  • It’s not completely proven if a diet with six small meals a day is healthier than one with three larger meals. But eating smaller amounts of food with less time in between those meals may help prevent nausea.
  • However, Tufts University warns that if you eat a higher number of meals throughout the day, you should be eating less at each sitting compared to what you would eat if you ate fewer meals per day.
  • Tufts University also noted that eating less than three times per day may make it harder to manage your appetite.
  • You can try experimenting with the frequency of meals and the amount consumed at those meals.
  • You can also find a food plan that suits your lifestyle. Make sure that this plan keeps you satisfied, energized, and keeps you at a healthy weight level while avoiding nausea from hunger.
  • A dietician can also help you create a diet and complimentary meal plan based on your needs.

Other reasons apart from hunger that can cause nausea 

Having nausea could be a symptom of something other than a lack of food. Below are some reasons other than hunger that can cause nausea.

Dehydration

This is a condition in which your body loses more fluid than you take in. It can be caused by sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea. Symptoms can include fatigue, increased thirst, dry mouth, dry skin, dizziness, and nausea. Mild dehydration can upset your stomach which can make you feel sick and nauseated.

Stress 

The feeling of being overwhelmed or being unable to cope with mental and or emotional pressure. This can cause physical problems insomnia, headaches, chronic pain, digestive issues, nausea, etc

Indigestion 

Indigestion is the name given to a collection of digestive symptoms, including a feeling of fullness or discomfort in your upper abdomen, heartburn, and nausea. The medical term for indigestion is dyspepsia.

Indigestion can be caused by dietary and lifestyle habits to the side effects of medications and serious underlying conditions. Common symptoms of nausea include nausea, vomiting, heartburn, abdominal pain, etc.

Food poisoning

A condition caused as a result of eating contaminated, spoiled or toxic food. The most common symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Early pregnancy

Early pregnancy is based on the date of your last menstrual period. Your last menstrual period is considered week 1 of pregnancy, even if you were not pregnant yet.

If you are pregnant, you may notice signs such as mild cramping, missed period, fatigue, aching breast, frequent urination, bloating, motion sickness, mood swings, temperature changes, high blood pressure, changes in breast and nipples, noticeable weight gain, and also nausea.

Motion sickness 

Motion sickness is a sensation of dizziness. It usually occurs when you are traveling by car, boat, plane, or train. Your body’s sensory organs send mixed messages to your brain, causing dizziness, lightheadedness, or nausea.

Nausea and vomiting

Most of the time when you are feeling nauseous, you may also have the urge to vomit. If you are feeling nauseous and you are vomiting, you are likely experiencing more than just hunger. 

Seek medical attention if nausea and vomiting are followed by 

  • severe pain 
  • cramping 
  • fever 
  • stiff neck 
  • chest pain 
  • confusion 
  • blurred vision 
  • rectal bleeding 
  • fecal material or fecal odor in your vomit 

The takeaway from this article

Having an empty stomach for a longer period can make you feel nauseous when you suddenly become hungry. This is due to a build-up of acid in your body. Nausea can also be caused by factors other than hunger some of which include early pregnancy, indigestion, dehydration, and so on.

WRITTEN AND EDITED RESPECTIVELY BY:

Michael Sarfo
Content Creator at Wapomu

Michael Sarfo is a graduate of the University of Ghana, Legon. He is a content creator for enochkabange.com and a writer for Wapomu

Dr. Ehoneah Obed is a registered pharmacist and a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana. He has a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and has experience working in a Tertiary hospital as well as various community pharmacies. He is also a software engineer interested in healthcare technologies.

His love for helping others motivates him to create content on an array of topics mostly relating to the health of people and also software engineering content.

He is knowledgeable in digital marketing, content marketing, and a host of other skills that make him versatile enough to uplift any team he joins.

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