The brain co-ordinates with various body parts to decide the exact requirement to allow it to perform various functions.
Hunger is a craving for food. But excessive hunger despite a full meal can be psychological or physiological.
Excessive hunger occurs in those who are undergoing drastic changes in their lives, where the coping mechanism is not available and their brain switches to food for satisfaction. It is often not self-identified as the person often does not know why he or she is craving for food. It is only the weight gain that keeps them worried but the issue lies deep within.
Most common reasons for excessive hunger is depression, stress, hormonal changes, cold weather, group eating and prescription drugs, explains Dr Tapas Mishra, senior consultant and advanced laparoscopic and bariatric surgeon at Apollo Hospitals.
Q What is the reason for excessive hunger?
The body requires food for sustaining. It requires various macro and micro nutrients to maintain itself. The brain co-ordinates with various body parts to decide the exact requirement to allow it to perform various functions. Hence, hunger is controlled by neuroendocrinal, biological, biochemical, social, psychological and genetic factors. When there is a disruption in this mechanism, it leads to excessive hunger called polyphagia.
Q Why do people suffer from it? There are many who consume sufficient food but are not satisfied.
In the brain, hypothalamus has a hunger centre which can get activated and make one feel hungry. In normal cases, when the person has consumed adequate food, it’s switched off, which causes the person to feel satiated and stop eating.
But in genetic conditions such as praderwilli syndrome, leptin deficiency syndrome etc., the function may get modified, and as a result, the system doesn’t work properly, making the person eat more, which may lead to obesity.
Q Which age-group of men and women are found to suffer from excessive hunger?
There is no age group as such, apart from children who are more vulnerable due to genetic conditions. Also, children are now taking high calorie junk food and their body doesn’t metabolise it adequately due to lesser physical activity and the sedentary life style, which seem to now be the most common cause in adults also. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome and hypothyroidism may have a hormonal imbalance and increased intake of food.
Q What are the signs and symptoms of excessive hunger and how should one deal with it?
Many times, when people binge on excess food or unhealthy food, they tell themselves this is the last time. But it hardly happens. It becomes a vicious cycle leading to increased weight. Sometimes these people initially ignore weight gain, which is probably the best time to act and control.
Those who maintain a strict diet and do regular physical activities keep themselves healthy even when they are undergoing these changes. They work harder to maintain their weight despite hunger pangs.
Q Are there any medicines to deal with this problem?
Depending upon your age, body weight, Body Mass Index (BMI), comorbidities like hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, etc., you may require simple life style modifications with or without diet control. If you are obese in grade two or three, you may require certain medications to reduce weight. However, long term medication has side effects and doesn’t help much after the initial six months.
Q Do people opt for balloon therapy or other surgeries to deal with the problem as they develop excessive fat and weight in the body?
People who are morbidly obese (BMI>40) or obese with comorbidities (BMI>35) need definitive treatment either balloon therapy or bariatric surgery. Balloon therapy can be used in selective patients with a target weight loss of 15-20 kg.
Bariatric surgery done by an expert has excellent outcome and usually the patient not only loses the excess weight, but also develops a positive outcome on many of the comorbidities like diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, PCOD, sleep apnea, etc.
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