If your child is always hungry and eats all the time for whatever reason, then probably something is wrong with his health. Yes, extreme appetite that stretches for days, weeks and months should be reason enough for you to get worried.
Your child needs to balance his eating for positive health and general wellbeing.
Correct eating habits will ensure the occurrence of timely development milestones, and prevent challenges such as binge eating, picky eating, and other eating disorders. Binge eating can lead to obesity, heart complications, high cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis, and low self-esteem.
On the other hand, picky eating can lead to nutritional deficits, stunted growth, and other health complications.
Here are the reasons your child is always hungry
Fortunately, most eating disorders can be sorted out with relative ease at home. This is because the challenges associated with hunger are usually related to feeding habits and parental indulgence.
And yes, they can also happen due to medical conditions such as ADHD, Prader-Willi syndrome, stress, bulimia, as well as financial limitations.
All extreme medical conditions should be sorted out immediately with the help of medical professionals.
1. Your child is overweight
I guess this is a no-brainer. Your child is more likely to crave more food when he is overweight. He will want to eat all the time to satiate the calorie demands of the body.
This is worsened by the sedentary lifestyle that overweight children usually adopt. As you should probably know, a sedentary lifestyle is a precursor to all kinds of ill health and medical complications, in addition to binge eating.
What is childhood obesity?
WHO explains obesity as follows:
abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. A crude population measure of obesity is the body mass index (BMI), a person’s weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of his or her height (in metres). A person with a BMI of 30 or more is generally considered obese. A person with a BMI equal to or more than 25 is considered overweight.
The mechanism of hunger-related hormones in obese children is still complex to understand. Still, it is all about how the leptin hormone works.
Fat cells in the body release Leptin to remind the brain of the need to eat when the fat levels go down, or not to eat when the levels go high.
Unfortunately, leptin response is usually mixed up in obese children. In what is known as leptin resistance, the hormone fails to send the right signals to the brain to restrain appetite. This will leave your child asking for more food.
But not all children with bigger body mass are obese. Some may appear larger than average when they are actually fine. Their bodies will adjust accordingly as they age.
If, however, the body mass is accompanied by overeating, in addition to lack of physical activity, probably then it is time to see your doctor.
If unchecked, obesity can lead to diabetes, heart diseases, asthma, sleep disorders, liver damage, a disposition to bone fractures, and of course, increased hunger spikes throughout the day.
Childhood obesity affects up to 13 million children and adolescents in the US alone.
It is a global problem and has become more of a challenge due to lifestyle changes and the design of the workplace in the 21st century.
Technology and urbanization are the leading reasons for these changes, and together, have forced children and adults to adopt a defective sedentary lifestyle.
What you can do
Always work closely with your family doctor or pediatrician when your toddler or grown-up child is overweight, and tops it up by eating a lot.
He or she will assess your child’s timeline of growth and development, and the weight history in the family, to determine the cause and right action.
2. Your child is depressed & anxious
As much as we love to associate depression with adults, children too fall victim to depressive moments.
Research has shown how the state of mind can interfere with eating patterns even in young children. This happens thanks to a ‘happy chemical’ hormone called serotonin.
Serotonin controls the state of appetite in the gut and is released when the mind is at peace.
Research has shown that eating releases serotonin, the “Feel Good” hormone. Some people may turn to food when they’re feeling a bit blue or when things aren’t working out as planned.Eating When You Are Sad
What you can do
Of course, it is a complex matter addressing depression and anxiety in a parenting context.
Eating even more food under depressive circumstances will make your child gain weight and will be prone to multiple other medical complications.
With the help of your family doctor, you can find the root cause of the depression, in order to mitigate its side effects.
3. Your child has worms in the gut!
Yes, the presence of worms in the intestines will likely leave your child feeling always hungry.
Typical examples of worms include pinworms, roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and hookworms. Much as they are usually harmless, they may point to multiple other illnesses and eating disorders.
For example, a parasitic worm known as the tapeworm will eat up critical nutrients in the intestines, and the body will continually gasp for nutrients that are constantly going to waste!
Here are signs your child may have worms:
- Loss of weight in spite of good feeding
- Itchy bottoms
- Constipation even when she is taking enough water and fiber-rich foods
- Fatigue and nausea
- Worms in stool
- Stomach pain
- Pale eyes and skin
- Unexplained diarrhea
- Of course, the body always feeling hungry
Of course, these symptoms could also point to infections other than worms.
What you can do
Ensure children wash their hands correctly and eat sufficiently-cooked food.
Here are common over the counter prescriptions to treat worms:
- Praziquantel (Biltricide)
- Albendazole (Albenza)
- Nitazoxanide (Alinia)
4. Your child has serious medical conditions
Your child with extreme hunger spells could be suffering from the following medical conditions:
- Type I and II diabetes
- Low blood sugar because of kidney disorder and hepatitis
- Enlarged thyroid gland or hyperthyroidism
- Hyperphagia, a genetic condition called Prader Willi syndrome
- Sensory processing disorder
- Bulimia nervosa eating disorder
- Challenges with ADHD
Other medical conditions mentioned below could be the reason your child is continuously hungry:
- a genetic predisposition
- inducement caused by dependence on treatment
- over the counter prescriptions
What you can do
If your child is always hungry due to any or all medical conditions mentioned above, work closely with your family doctor or a pediatrician to have the illness(es) treated.
Qualified medical personnel will walk you through the relevant steps you must follow to get your child treated.
5. Your child is experiencing organ growth spurts
If your child is doing everything right – is physically active, sleeps a lot deep into the morning hours, and yes, eats much – chances are, he or she is experiencing timely growth spurts.
Growth spurts describe your child’s growth in weight and height, and an important stage in childhood development. Growth spurts take place from the first month through to the teen years. These spurts come and go, and can last from 3 days to a week at a time.
Every time your child grows an inch and sleeps well – the body will seek additional dietary nutrients and energy to work efficiently. Your child will automatically develop an insatiable desire to eat more food:
With the increasing nutrition needs associated with growth, your child will likely experience a surge of hunger before and during growth spurts, which can last an average of 24 to 36 months. Make sure that these additional calories are coming from whole, nutritionally dense foods rather than snacks and sweets.Abbott
What you can do
Never worry as long as your child is,
- actually getting bigger in weight and height
- eating nutritious food
- is not overweight
- is not showing other health complications
6. Your child is hungry due to physical exertion
A physically active child will use high levels of energy, which will likely facilitate his urge to eat every now and then.
Every time your child is involved in physical activities, he will burn down the glucose in the body fast. Soon after, ghrelin will trigger hunger signals, demanding more glucose and stamina.
Of course, this is fine most of the time, unless the craving leads to obesity!
Usually, parents tend to shove snacks and sweetened beverages in their direction to counter these hunger spikes. As mentioned above, these food types only last a short while in the stomach, and will leave children feeling hungry every other hour or so!
It is also important to remember that physical activity sometimes suppresses appetite, according to some studies.
The appetite will definitely kick in moments or hours later when the body settles down. This is an ongoing research and should not derail your role in providing your child nutritious meals.
What you can do
Always serve your child nutritious meals to counter the energy lost during physical exercises.
If your child is disinterested in food after an exercise, always have meals reserved for him, when the appetite finally kicks in.
7. Your child is always hungry due to poor eating habits!
If your child
- eats too little
- eats too much
- eats out of routine
- eats bad diet
… he is definitely a victim of poor eating habits. This means he will need random ‘treats’ to fill up the empty tummy.
Irregular eating habits are reflected in,
- lack of eating routines at home
- failure to involve children in choosing the food to buy
- failure to involve children in cooking
- lack of a balanced diet
- meal-time distractions from electronic devices
Find out why it is bad to use electronic devices on the dinner table
When children fail to follow eating schedules that outline when to eat and not, they can develop an irregular appetite or lack of it.
Unplanned snacking, tech distractions, and insufficient nutrient-rich foods will definitely leave children always asking for food.
This is not uncommon with the modern day lifestyle, where parents are busy at work and defer culinary and dietary responsibility to others.
On their own, even in the hands of caregivers and close relations, children will gain the upper hand by choosing what to eat and not to.
What you can do
Become a role model by putting in place correct eating habits at home. You should also closely watch what meals grace the dinner table. Where possible, eat as a family – highly recommended.
Try these at home:
- Shop together
- Cook together
- Serve varieties of nutrient-rich foods
- Eat together
- Cut out extended discussions during mealtimes
- Do not use tech devices, TVs, computers, etc, during meal times
8. You serve junk food & bedtime snacks!
SNACKING too much junk is what kids crave, and surprisingly what parents condone for convenience. Junk food is tasty, easy to prepare, and ready to eat the minute it is served over the counter.
Also called lazy food, junk comes in various popular forms:
Crackers, chocolates, cakes, biscuits, crunchies, bread, fries, ice cream, sweetened drinks, etc.
The snacks listed above contain lots of sugar, salt, trans-fat. They are also ‘full’ of empty calories and act as quick fixes to fend off hunger.
The sugar levels in the body will always spike upon consuming junk. This will facilitate the release of insulin into the bloodstream, which will stimulate body cells, muscles, and fats to absorb glucose, for short-term energy demands.
Excess consumption of simple sugars will stimulate ghrelin to trigger hunger signals every other hour!
As expected, this will leave the child feeling hungry every other hour or so!
What you can do
Children need nutrient-rich meals rich in proteins, minerals, vitamins, fiber, and essential fatty acids. These are available in lean meat, nuts, fruits, seeds, vegetables, and low-fat milk.
Healthy protein-rich foods such as eggs, beans, fish, lean meats, yogurt, will lower glucose levels and minimize the likelihood of insulin kicking in.
Vegetables and fruits, which are rich in fiber will fill the stomach and defer hunger cravings.
Serve these meals for breakfast and lunch, and cut down on white bread served in many homes.
Note: manage and regulate excess computer use by children to minimize snacking.
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