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Stomach pains on empty stomach: 7 causes and how to alleviate them

7 causes and how to alleviate them

Hunger pangs, or hunger pains, are a natural reaction to an empty stomach. They cause a hollow or gnawing feeling or an empty sensation in the abdomen.

But hunger pangs can happen even if the body does not need food. Several other situations and conditions can lead to hunger pangs, including:

  • sleep deprivation
  • dehydration
  • eating the wrong foods

Read on to learn more about hunger pains and discover how to ease them.

People get hunger pangs or hunger pains for several different reasons. Seven reasons are explained here:

1. Hunger hormone

Share on PinterestThe release of ghrelin in the body, dehydration, and a person’s emotional state can cause hunger pains.

The brain triggers the release of a hormone called ghrelin in response to an empty stomach or in anticipation of the next meal.

Ghrelin signals the body to release stomach acids to digest food. If food is not consumed, the stomach acids begin to attack the lining of the stomach, causing hunger pains.

Studies have shown that ghrelin increases hunger by up to 30 percent when it is administered to adults.

2. Quality of food eaten

Hunger pangs can happen even when the body does not need calories.

This is because ghrelin interacts with insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. Falling levels of insulin cause ghrelin, and therefore hunger, levels to rise.

Junk food contains high amounts of sugar and simple carbohydrates. Eating it causes a spike in insulin levels, followed by a quick drop. Ghrelin then increases, even though the food was consumed only an hour or so beforehand.

In this way, eating even large amounts of poor quality food can increase hunger and cause the pang response in the body.

3. Dehydration

Many people cannot tell the difference between hunger and thirst because the symptoms are so similar.

Thirst can cause symptoms, such as:

  • stomach pains
  • shaking
  • irritability
  • lightheadedness


The environment

Some people experience pangs in response to smells and sights. Many people have a physical response to the smell of freshly baked goods or cooking. Images of food on T.V. or online can also cause the mouth to water.

Although this type of hunger may not be based on a need for food, it causes very real physical symptoms, including hunger pains.

5. Lack of sleep

Overeating and excess weight have long been associated with sleep deprivation. It appears that hunger pains may be linked to a lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep.

Lack of sleep increases the effects of a chemical that makes eating sweet, salty, and high-fat foods more appealing, a 2016 study suggests.

The sleep-deprived study participants ate a meal containing 90 percent of their daily calories but were unable to resist junk foods just 2 hours later.

6. Emotional state

People may mistake their brain signals for food as hunger pains in some cases. This situation can occur when someone is in a heightened emotional state.

Research suggests that stress and other negative emotions can make it seem like the body urgently needs food, even when it may not.

A rumbling or growling stomach can sometimes help distinguish between emotional and physical hunger. The noises can only be heard when the stomach is empty.

7. Medication and medical conditions

Hunger pangs may be caused by medical conditions in rare cases. This is true for people with diabetes, as hunger increases when blood sugar crashes.

It can indicate an infection or digestive illness that requires medical attention if pains occur alongside other symptoms. Look out for symptoms, such as:

  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • fever
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • weakness

Some medications, including certain antidepressants, may interfere with hunger signals and ghrelin release.

Share on PinterestSymptoms of hunger pains may include tiredness, irritability, and lightheadedness.

Hunger pains feel like a gnawing or rumbling in the stomach. They may also present as contractions or the feeling of emptiness.

Other symptoms may include:

  • cravings for certain foods
  • tiredness
  • lightheadedness
  • irritability
  • strong desire to eat

Once food is consumed, hunger pains and other hunger symptoms usually go away. The stomach adjusts to this new level of fullness (or emptiness), so they may even subside without eating anything.

Research on mice has found that there is an instinctive desire to reduce hunger pangs and other hunger signals. Certain neurons in the brain kick in to fuel appetite once a certain amount of bodyweight has been lost.

This may explain why it is challenging to stick to a diet when experiencing hunger pains.

There may be other ways to control hunger pangs while losing weight even though the researchers suggest that manipulating these neurons will help people maintain their diets.

To alleviate hunger pains, especially when dieting, people can try the following:

Eat at regular intervals

Ghrelin is released in response to what someone’s usual mealtimes are.

Sticking to a schedule will ensure food reaches the stomach in time to meet the stomach acid released in response to ghrelin spikes.

It can also be helpful to carry healthful, low-calorie snacks, such as fruit and nuts, when outside the home, in case it is not possible to eat a full meal at a designated meal time.

Choose nutrient-dense foods

Share on PinterestEating healthful foods including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, are recommended to alleviate hunger pains.

Avoid insulin dips by choosing healthful food options instead of processed ones.

Eat balanced meals that contain:

  • lean protein, such as beans, lentils, and skinless poultry
  • whole grains, including brown rice, oats, quinoa, and whole-wheat products
  • fruits and vegetables, including fresh, frozen, and canned (without added sugar)
  • healthful fats, found in avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds
  • low-fat dairy products or dairy alternatives

A person should try to limit the intake of foods that are high in sugar, salt, saturated fats, and trans fats. Refined carbohydrates, including white bread and white pasta, should be eaten in moderation or not at all.

Fill up on low-calorie foods

Some low-calorie foods are considered high-volume, meaning they take up space in the stomach yet do not contribute to weight gain.

A full stomach will cause levels of ghrelin to drop, which alleviates hunger pains. High-volume, low-calorie foods include:

  • salads
  • raw or lightly steamed green vegetables
  • homemade vegetable soups
  • green smoothies

Stay hydrated

Sip water throughout the day. Aim to drink 8 glasses daily. Limit diuretic drinks, such as caffeine and alcohol, which contribute to dehydration.

Get enough sleep

It is sensible to avoid food cravings caused by sleep deprivation by establishing a sleep routine. It helps to go to bed and get up at the same time every day and aim to sleep for 7 to 9 hours nightly.

Practice mindful eating

When eating, focus on the taste and texture of each bite. Chew food thoroughly. Do not watch television during mealtimes.

Use distractions

A person can try to ignore hunger pains if they are not based on a real need for food.

Effective distractions include:

  • reading
  • dancing
  • exercise
  • working
  • socializing

Consult a doctor if hunger pains regularly persist despite eating balanced meals. Stomach pains may suggest a gastrointestinal disorder or infection.

People who experience the following symptoms along with their hunger pangs should also see a doctor:

  • breathlessness
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • nausea
  • rapid changes in weight
  • sleep difficulties
  • vomiting
  • weakness

Stomach pains are a normal response to hunger. Although they may signal a need for food, it is possible to experience hunger pangs in response to other situations, including dehydration, sleep loss, and anxiety.

Hunger pains rarely need medical attention, as they usually go away once food is eaten.

People who are dieting may wish to take steps to alleviate their hunger pains to meet their weight loss goals.

Causes, Management, When to Seek Help, and More

You may experience pain when your stomach feels empty or if you are used to eating at a certain time. Hunger pangs after eating may occur with some health conditions.

You’ve probably experienced gnawing, painful feelings in your stomach at some point, in the upper left side of your abdomen. These are commonly known as hunger pangs. Hunger pangs, or hunger pains, are caused by strong contractions of the stomach when it’s empty. This uncomfortable sensation is often accompanied by hunger, or the desire to eat.

Despite being called “hunger” pangs, these pains don’t always indicate a true need to eat. They may be caused by an empty stomach and a need or hunger to eat, or they may be caused by your body being in a routine of eating certain amounts of food or eating at specific times of day.

Each person’s body is unique. Some people don’t feel the need to eat as often or like to feel as full. Others experience hunger pangs more quickly if they haven’t eaten recently. There isn’t a set amount of time after which hunger pangs may begin. Almost all people will experience hunger pangs if they go long enough without eating or drinking.

Hunger pangs may be your body’s way of telling you that it needs more nutrients. You may also experience hunger pangs because your stomach has become accustomed to a certain feeling of fullness.

The stomach is a muscular organ that is capable of stretching and collapsing. When it’s stretched by food and liquid, you tend to feel full. When it’s been a long time since you last ate or drank, your stomach is flatter and may contract, causing you to experience hunger pangs.

Numerous factors affect your feelings of hunger, including:

  • hormones
  • your environment
  • the quantity and quality of food you eat
  • lack of sleep
  • stress or anxiety
  • your brain’s desire for a pleasant eating experience

You may also experience hunger pangs because you need to eat a diet higher in essential nutrients.

Hunger pangs are rarely caused by a medical condition. If you’re experiencing ongoing or severe abdominal pain, you should contact your doctor for help. This is especially true if the hunger pangs are accompanied by other symptoms such as:

  • fever
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • headaches
  • feelings of weakness

Symptoms of hunger pangs typically include:

  • abdominal pain
  • a “gnawing” or “rumbling” sensation in your stomach
  • painful contractions in your stomach area
  • a feeling of “emptiness” in your stomach

Hunger pangs are often accompanied by symptoms of hunger, such as:

  • a desire to eat
  • a craving for specific foods
  • a tired or lightheaded feeling
  • irritability

Hunger pangs typically subside with eating, but they can subside even if you don’t eat. Your body is capable of adjusting to what it feels is necessary for stomach fullness. Over time, the contractions of your stomach will lessen. However, if you aren’t eating enough to get essential nutrients, it will be harder for your hunger pangs to go away.

Hunger pangs can be especially difficult to deal with when you’re trying to follow a diet. Here are some ways to alleviate your hunger pangs so you can stay on track with your health goals.

  • Try eating smaller, more frequent meals. Your total caloric intake, not your meal frequency, is what affects weight loss or gain. Eating smaller portions more frequently throughout the day can help reduce uncomfortable feelings of hunger.
  • Make sure you’re eating a nutrient-dense diet. Eating more lean protein, whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables will give your body the nutrition it requires, which can help prevent hunger pangs.
  • Eating higher volume foods (think green leafy vegetables or foods high in water content like soup) and foods high in fiber can help you feel full for a longer period of time.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Get enough sleep. A good night’s sleep helps keep in balance the hormones that influence your feelings of hunger and fullness.
  • Try focusing on and enjoying each meal as you eat it. Intentionally remembering the food you’ve eaten each day may help reduce feelings of hunger.
  • Distraction can help alleviate hunger pangs. Try reading, talking with a friend, working on a project that interests you, putting on loud music, brushing your teeth, taking a walk, or visualizing your health goals.

Hunger pangs are usually a normal response to an empty stomach. You may wish to consult your doctor if you experience hunger pangs after eating a balanced meal, if you feel like you can never eat enough, or if you experience other symptoms with your hunger pangs such as:

  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • shortness of breath
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • rapid weight gain or loss
  • sleep issues

Hunger pangs are a common bodily response to an empty stomach. They’re often a sign of hunger, but may also be related to eating habits.

If you’re trying to follow a diet, there are ways to prevent and alleviate hunger pangs so you can continue to reach your health goals.

Hunger signs are rarely a sign of a medical condition, but there are times when you might consider seeking medical attention.

Appear in the morning: 6 signs that it is time to treat the stomach: September 11, 2022, 10:00

Photo: elements.envato.com

September 11, 2022, 10:00


If in the morning you suffer from abdominal pain, epigastric pain or other unpleasant symptoms, such as nausea, this is a reason to visit a gastroenterologist. Valeria Shevko, a therapist, told Tengri Lifestyle about which of the morning complaints can indicate problems with the stomach and intestines.

It is not always clear what worries you

Digestive problems in the morning are also possible in relatively healthy people. For example, after a party with alcohol or eating dense, fatty foods, irritating dishes at night. In this case, the night’s sleep can be “heavy” due to a feeling of heaviness in the stomach, belching, flatulence, stomach seething with constipation or loosening of the stool (diarrhea) are possible.

If complaints appear with enviable regularity in the morning, even against the background of a completely familiar diet, you should worry. But often people can not really describe their feelings. They come to the doctor with general complaints, saying that in the morning they are “disgusted”, they do not feel like eating at all, one kind of food causes disgust in the morning. In this case, it is worth understanding, clarifying complaints and looking for the causes of problems. We have collected the most frequent and unpleasant complaints that indicate problems with the stomach and intestines.

Pain in the abdomen in the morning

One of the unpleasant and alarming signs of digestive problems, mainly in the stomach, is pain in the abdomen, in its upper part, mainly under the spoon or above the navel. Often such pain in the abdomen, which occurs in the morning on an empty stomach, and also some time after eating (breakfast), may be associated with peptic ulcer of the stomach or duodenum.

In addition to these unpleasant sensations, general weakness, malaise, heartburn, belching, a feeling of bitterness in the mouth are possible. Peptic ulcer disease is dangerous with possible complications, among which one of the most formidable is bleeding. It can occur with the progression of the disease, when the defect of the mucous membrane becomes deep enough and reaches the underlying vessels.

If you feel sick in the morning

Unless you are a pregnant woman, for whom morning sickness is a relatively acceptable condition, the appearance of such a complaint is a sign of stomach problems that require attention. In most cases, nausea in the morning on an empty stomach indicates possible pathologies of the gastrointestinal tract.

Such a symptom can be a signal of malnutrition, banal overeating, abuse of fatty or fried foods, alcohol, and so on. If this happens constantly, and almost every morning a person wakes up with a feeling of nausea, you should definitely contact a gastroenterologist to determine the cause of the problem.

If breakfast is not a joy

In the morning after breakfast, there may be discomfort in the stomach, which can also be a signal that you need to visit a doctor. So, a feeling of fullness in the abdomen after eating, increased gas formation, bubbling, bloating and a general unpleasant feeling in the epigastric region may indicate a violation of the motility of the gastrointestinal tract. Often this condition is called the “lazy stomach” syndrome, although it is possible that the problem lies in the lack of hydrochloric acid, a decrease in muscle tone.

If you suffer from heartburn

Heartburn, frequent belching, feeling of bitterness in the mouth may be signs of hydrochloric acid reflux from the stomach into the esophagus. This symptom cannot be ignored – if left untreated, reflux disease can eventually lead to cancer of the esophagus.

Other warning signs

Frequent stool disorders (diarrhea) usually indicate a malfunction of the gastrointestinal tract. However, this symptom is not considered specific for the pathology of the stomach or intestines. Diarrhea can occur with a variety of conditions, such as thyroid problems, certain infectious diseases (such as HIV infection), and cancer, and may be a side effect of certain medications.

Bad breath even after brushing your teeth can sometimes indicate diseases of the digestive tract, gastritis and gastroduodenitis.

Separately, we note that a very common cause of the so-called dyspeptic symptoms (pain in the upper abdomen after eating, a feeling of fullness after eating), I also erosive and ulcerative lesions of the gastrointestinal tract becomes infection Helicobacter pylori . That is why testing for the detection of H. Pylori is so often included in the examination plan.

If you have such complaints, you should contact a general practitioner or gastroenterologist, who will interview and examine you in detail, and draw up a plan for examination and treatment.

Worth an endoscopy

One of the most advanced tests to detect H. Pylori, gastric and duodenal ulcers, erosions and other problems with the gastrointestinal tract is video endoscopy.

Earlier, we talked about what signs on the skin indicate too thick blood.

Why does my stomach hurt in the morning? The gastroenterologist named 10 possible reasons

  • Health

If the morning is not at all good because of sharp, pulling, or aching pains in the stomach, this is always an alarming sign. Nausea, lack of appetite, weakness – all these signs should be the reason for a visit to the doctor.

April 5, 2023


Pain in the upper abdomen is most often associated with diseases of the stomach, but do not forget that discomfort in this area can also be associated with nearby organs. Moreover, pain can come from other areas along the nerve endings – this is the so-called irradiation of pain .

Therefore, self-diagnosis and self-treatment can be not only ineffective, but also dangerous. Ekaterina Pustovit, general practitioner, gastroenterologist at the ABIA clinic, told Doctor Peter about the causes of pain in more detail.

Not only pain, but also other complaints

Pain in this area can be acute, occurring suddenly against the background of complete health, and chronic, disturbing for a long time. It may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms. But what are the reasons?

Read also

1. Stomach

Pain in the stomach can be associated with organic and functional problems of the organ. The first thing most often suspected is gastritis. We all remember very well that gastritis is a morphological diagnosis and may not give any symptoms at all. Nevertheless, a far-reaching inflammatory process can be the first cause of pain.

Gastritis can occur in acute and chronic form . In the case of chronic inflammation, pain will occur only during periods of exacerbations when provoked by irregular and malnutrition, stress, taking certain groups of drugs and alcohol abuse.

2. Erosions and ulcers

Erosive and ulcerative processes on the gastric mucosa will give night and early morning (fasting) pain. The disease is serious and requires immediate contact with a specialized specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

3. Helicobacter pylori infection

Inflammatory processes in the stomach are often associated with Helicobacter pylori infection. It is a spiral gram-negative bacterium that colonizes the lining of the stomach and duodenum. It can be present in a person without giving any symptoms. When infected with highly pathogenic strains mucosal damage occurs up to erosive-ulcerative and other processes.

Considering that this infection is associated not only with gastritis, erosions and stomach ulcers, but also with increased risks of adenocarcinoma and other cancers, it is better to diagnose this infection at the first symptoms and treat it according to the recommended therapy regimens.

Read also

4. Dyspepsia

Often the cause of pain is a violation of the sensitivity of nerve endings in the gastric mucosa – this is the so-called functional dyspepsia (epigastric pain syndrome associated or not with the above infection). Functional diseases of the digestive system is a group of disorders characterized by violation of the interaction between the central (brain) and peripheral parts of the nervous system , which ensures the activity of the organs of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT).

The diagnosis of FZOP is a diagnosis of exclusion, therefore, to identify organic pathology, it is necessary to conduct a thorough examination – laboratory and instrumental. Epigastric pain syndrome is based on increased perception of the pain signal by the cerebral cortex . Pain is provoked and significantly increased under the influence of numerous factors associated with a violation of the emotional state.

5. Drug abuse

Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (for example, for frequent headaches or joint pain) can lead to irritation and inflammation of the gastric mucosa. As a result, pain occurs.

6. Biliary tract

Pathology of the biliary tract (dyskinesia) and incompetence of the pyloric sphincter will lead to bile entering the stomach, irritating it and provoking various dyspeptic symptoms – nausea, satiety in small portions and pain.

7. Pancreas

Pain in the stomach can be simulated by the pathology of the pancreas and gallbladder due to their close anatomical location and close functional connection.

Read also

8. Tumor of the stomach

Neoplasms of the stomach, benign and malignant, will also give pain. Benign ones are limited in size, do not grow into deep layers, do not affect vessels and do not metastasize . The danger of benign neoplasms is that they are can become malignant during their growth.

Neoplasms often cause constant pain and are accompanied by general symptoms: headache, weakness, weight loss, nausea, poor appetite, satiety in small portions. Benign tumors may not make themselves felt for a long time due to functionally insignificant size, but as they grow, symptoms will increase, up to pain.

9. Wrong way of life

Stomach pain can be triggered by lifestyle. So, sleepless nights, a heavy dinner, smoking on an empty stomach, alcohol and excessive coffee consumption can provoke pain in the stomach.

10. Passion for a healthy lifestyle

Representatives of a healthy lifestyle can also do themselves a disservice by dramatically changing their diet and increasing the amount of raw vegetables, fruits and herbs. This will stimulate GI motility and may cause pain. Multiple repetitions of abdominal exercises can also simulate epigastric pain.

Non-obvious causes

Separately, we highlight several non-obvious causes of pain in the upper abdomen.

  1. Spasm of the diaphragm , will increase in a certain position of the body.

  2. Colitis , especially inflammation in the region of the transverse colon.