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Considerable increase in appetite is normal in young children and adolescents due to early childhood development and/or following periods of extended physical activity. If, however, your child is always hungry or eats too little, with or without the above reasons, then probably something is wrong and you may want to resolve the matter right away.

We all want children to eat correctly to meet the required development milestones and to avoid binge eating and picky eating disorders. Binge eating can lead to obesity, heart complications, high cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis, and low self-esteem. On the other hand, picky eating disorder can lead to nutritional deficits, stunted growth, and a host of health complications.


Below are Reasons Your Child is Always Hungry

Interestingly, the solutions to hunger problems are always around the corner, if only we pay attention – unless of course, they happen due to extreme medical conditions such as Prader-Willi syndrome, stress, bulimia, and of course, financial constraints.

Your child is always hungry because of common hunger-inducing agents described below:


1.  That Junk Diet!

too much junk makes your child hungry soon after
Unmetered consumption of cakes and other junk can contribute to hunger spikes and will leave your child always hungry

SNACKING too much junk is what kids crave and surprisingly what majority of parents condone for convenience. Junk food is served TASTY and ready to eat the minute it is ordered over the counter.

Also called lazy food, junk comes in various forms such as:

Crackers, chocolates, cakes, biscuits, crunchies, bread, fries, ice-cream, sweetened drinks, etc.

The snacks listed above contain lots of sugar, salt, trans-fat, and starch, but no tangible nutrients. They are all ‘full’ of empty calories and act as quick fixes to fend off hunger. Upon eating junk, the sugar levels in the body will spike, causing the insulin hormone to be released into the blood-stream. The hormone will stimulate body cells, muscles, and fats to absorb the glucose, and converted into short-lasting energy for the body to use.

Excess consumption of simple sugars, which is short-lived, will stimulate insulin to trigger hunger signals every other hour! This will leave the child feeling hungry soon after. It takes anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours to feel hungry again!

Besides just poor nutrition, excess use of computing devices can also make children resort to repeated rounds of sugary snacks, as they watch movies and play games. The indulgence in games also makes children chew the food too fast which also leads to weight gain.

According to NDTV Food, excess consumption of junk can lead to memory and learning lapses, increased risks of dementia, child inability to control appetite, uncontrolled cravings, and ultimately, depression.


What You Can Do

Kids need nutrient-rich meals containing proteins, minerals, vitamins, fiber, and essential fatty acids. These are mainly found in lean meats, nuts, fruits, seeds, vegetables, low-fat milk, and water.

Healthy protein-rich foods such as eggs, beans, fish, lean meats, yogurt, will lower ghrelin levels and minimize the likelihood of insulin kicking in.

Food types rich in fiber such as vegetables and fruits easily will also fill up the stomach and take longer to digest and burn out.

Make a point to serve the highlighted healthy meals for breakfast, instead of the white bread served in many homes. These will keep the tummy full for extended hours, and because they contain minimal sugar content, will not trigger high sugar-level alerts.

Control computer use by children to minimize snacking, junk craving, and fast chewing.


2. Your Child is Always Hungry Due to Growth Spurts

If your child is doing everything right – sleeps well, is physically active and eats much, sometimes, chances are, he or she is experiencing timely development milestones. This should not surprise you and therefore not a problem.

The most notable milestone is the growth spurt which happens from the first month through to teen years. These spurts come and go and can last a period of 3 days or a week at any given time. Every time your child eats well (much) and sleeps well – in fact, sleeps longer, growth spurts will happen more frequently and this demand will seek additional energy from the body. A child will thus develop an insatiable appetite most of the time. This may probably worry parents that something is wrong. It shouldn’t.

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

You should be worried only when some milestones are missed, the child is obese, or the appetite is a daily thing and beyond anything normal.

What You Can Do

Never worry as long as your child is,

  • Experiencing growth spurts
  • Eating nutritious food
  • Not obese
  • Showing no health problems

3. Hunger Due to Physical Wellness

climbing trees used to be a passion for young kids
Children will want more to eat when physically active

I guess this one is no brainer. A child who is physically active with extreme levels of energy exertion will most likely have the urge to eat every now and then. Every time children are involved in extensive physical activities, they burn down the glucose levels in the body fast. Soon, hunger signals (ghrelin) will kick in, demanding for more glucose. Of course, this is fine most of the time, if not all the time, unless it is accompanied by obesity!

Usually, parents tend to shove snacks and sweetened beverages in the direction of children to counter these hunger spikes. As mentioned above, these types of food only last a short while, and will leave children feeling hungry every other 30 minutes or so!

It is also important to remember physical activity can actually suppress appetite. sometimes. Studies have shown exercise to kill appetite soon after indulging in lengthy physical activity. The appetite will definitely kick in moments or hours later. This is ongoing research but it should not derail your parental input, in ensuring physical activity is countered with nutritious food.

What You Can Do

Ensure your disinterested child eats something after exhausting activity to help aid in muscle and other body part recovery.


4. Poor Eating Habits & Routines!

technology and food
Technology is an unwanted guest on the dinner table. Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

A child who eats insufficient, unplanned and bad diet will experience repeated hunger spells during the day and will need frequent ‘treats’ to fill up the empty tummy.

Irregular eating habits are reflected in,

  • lack of eating routines
  • not involving children in choosing food types and cooking
  • lack of a balanced diet
  • meal-time distractions from electronic devices

When children fail to follow eating schedules, which outline when to eat and not, they easily develop irregular eating habits and patterns. These include regular snacking, tech distractions and of course insufficient nutrient-rich foods. These will most definitely leave your child always hungry.

This is not uncommon with the modern child and lifestyle where busy parents defer responsibility and are unwilling to take stock of the eating habits of children. On their own, even in the hands of caregivers and close relations, children will gain the upper-hand by choosing what to and not to eat. Poor eating habits will leave your child always hungry.

What You Can Do

Parents should be role models by putting in place correct routines when serving meals. They should also watch what meals grace the dinner table, and assess the eating environment. Meals should be consumed on a timely basis, and everyone should abide by the schedule.

While this may not be possible all the time, they should be tried out during breakfast and dinner. Many parents are at home for breakfast and dinner.

Try these:

  • Eat together
  • Shop together for varieties of nutrient-rich foods
  • Avoid unrelated discussions during mealtimes
  • Do not use tech devices, TVs, computers, etc, during meal times

5. Depression, Anxiety and Stress

Research has also shown that the state of mind can interfere greatly with eating patterns. This is related to the serotonin hormone which is only released when the state of mind is good, and not sad. For many people, the feeling of sadness will make them turn to food as a short-term solution.

Much as depression mostly affects the elderly, children too can be victims if exposed to extreme depressing conditions evident in poor parenting, war, and poverty.

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

6. Worms in the Intestines!

Yes, the presence of worms in intestines will most likely leave your child feeling always hungry. Common types of worms include pinworms, roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and hookworms, which are usually harmless but may point to illness or an eating disorder.

A persistent and parasitic worm such as the tapeworm will eat up the nutrients absorbed in the intestines, which are critical for growth, repair, and development. The body will, therefore, find itself gasping 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
  • Flatulence
  • Worms in stool
  • Stomach pain
  • Pale eyes and skin
  • Unexplained diarrhea
  • Of course, the body always feeling hungry

What You Can Do

Ensure children wash hands, eat sufficiently-cooked food, and are not showing common symptoms mentioned above. Of course, these symptoms could also point to other infections.

Here are common over the counter prescriptions to treat worms:

Praziquantel (Biltricide)

Albendazole (Albenza)

Nitazoxanide (Alinia)

Tapeworm infection

7.  Obesity and Hunger

obesity and hunger in children
Obese children are driven by the desire to eat more and nore food. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Childhood and adolescent obesity is a big problem worldwide and calls for prompt resolution whenever it happens. In the US alone, obesity affects up to 13 million children and adolescents. Obesity has become commonplace because of the sedentary lifestyle many children now lead. Either they are busy on the computer or restricted from going outdoors because of one reason or another. Even worse many children are now served a combination of foods high in calories such as fast foods and other junk such as sugary drinks and candy! Of course, obesity can be inherited, if the family lineage has overweight people. In this case, the necessary steps should be taken to counter extreme medical conditions from happening.

What is childhood obesity?

According to WHO, obesity is explained as

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.

But not all children who have higher body mass are actually obese. Some have larger than average body frames and may also appear taller than average, which is okay. If however, you notice that the body mass in your child is accompanied by excessive eating, and many times less physical activity, then it is time to see your doctor.

If unchecked, obesity can lead to Type II diabetes, heart diseases. asthma, sleep disorders, liver damage, a disposition to bone fractures, and of course, increased hunger spikes throughout the day.

The mechanism of hunger-related hormones in obese children is still a complex one to understand. It all rotates around how the leptin hormone works. The hormone which is released by fat cells tells the brain the need to eat when the fat level goes down, and the need not to when the fat level is high.

While the hormone is designed to signal hunger bells only when the fat levels are low in lean persons, leptin gets totally confused when it comes to obese children.

In what is called leptin resistance, the hormone goes silent instead of sending the signals to restrain appetite. This leaves the brain with no option but to induce appetite signals in obese individuals, inducing them to eat even more food!

What You Can Do

Work closely with the family doctor or a pediatrician to sort out this problem. He or she will assess the history of growth and development in your child and the family weight factors, to determine cause and treatment if necessary.


8. Extended Medical Conditions

Besides medical disorders associated with obesity, other medical conditions could be the reason your child is always hungry. Some of these are either genetic predisposition or induced because of dependence on treatment, or over the counter prescriptions.

If your child is experiencing extreme hunger spells, he/she could be suffering from one of the following:

What You Can Do

Work closely with the family doctor or a pediatrician if your child is always hungry because of the medical conditions listed above. Avoid treating your child at home, in the event of unclear health complications.