Why Do I Get Nauseous When I'm Hungry?

February 14, 2024

When you're hungry, your brain sends a signal to your stomach to produce ghrelin, the hunger hormone, to prepare for a meal. This process triggers contractions and the production of hydrochloric acid to break down food, which can sometimes irritate the lining of your stomach and make you feel queasy.

But if you're constantly feeling hungry despite eating plenty of meals throughout the day, there could be a deeper issue at play. A gastroenterologist explains why this phenomenon occurs, and what you can do to get rid of the nausea once and for all.

It may seem counterintuitive that your stomach would become nauseous on an empty stomach, but according to Christine Lee, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic, it's quite common. When you go long periods of time without eating, your body produces ghrelin and your stomach contracts to create a sense of satiety. But when you do finally eat, that stomach acid and contractions can trigger nausea and diarrhea.

If you're experiencing mild nausea in conjunction with hunger, you can likely resolve the problem by adjusting your diet and eating pattern, says Lee. She suggests starting with a diet of small, frequent meals (including protein, healthy fats and fiber) to help your stomach settle. You can also try eliminating foods known to trigger nausea, like fatty or spicy dishes, alcohol and caffeine. If these measures don't work, talk to a doctor. They'll be able to determine if there's an underlying medical condition that needs treatment.

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