Response Updates

Effects of Hunger: More Than Just an Empty Stomach

Reported by Convoy of Hope

Feeling hungry — the entry level definition of “hunger” — is more than just wanting to eat.

It’s a complex issue that affects millions of people worldwide. It influences their health, well-being, and ability to lead productive lives. 

While it’s easy to think of hunger as a distant problem, the effects of hunger can be closer and more personal than many of us realize. 

In this article, we’ll explore:

Join us as we delve into the importance of addressing hunger — for the sake of those directly affected as well as for the betterment of society.

Hunger’s Impact on Physical Health

Hunger can have significant immediate and long-term effects on physical health. When the body is deprived of essential nutrients, it starts to signal distress through various symptoms. 

Does Hunger Affect Blood Pressure?

Yes! Hunger can impact blood pressure in ways that might not be immediately obvious.

Research indicates that hunger can lead to both low and high blood pressure, depending on an individual’s overall health, nutrition, and preexisting medical conditions. 

The physiological response to hunger involves various bodily functions that can alter blood flow and, consequently, blood pressure readings.

Can Hunger Cause High Blood Pressure?

Yes! When the body is deprived of essential nutrients, it may respond by increasing blood pressure.

Your body does this as a way to ensure vital organs receive enough blood flow.

This compensation can explain how hunger might lead to elevated blood pressure readings in some individuals.

It highlights the complex relationship between nutritional intake and cardiovascular health.

Can Hunger Cause Low Blood Pressure?

Blood Pressure Test

Yes! This is particularly evident when energy intake is insufficient, leading to a reduction in blood volume and, subsequently, lower blood pressure.

The drop in blood volume means there’s less blood circulating through the body, which can cause low blood pressure.

Symptoms of low blood sugar, fluctuations in blood pressure readings, and the physical discomfort associated with hunger should not be ignored.

Seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Does Hunger Affect Heart Health?

Yes! Hunger can significantly impact heart health.

Hunger can contribute to conditions like:

  • • Chest pain.
  • • Heart palpitations.
  • • Potentially increasing the risk of heart disease. 

For those experiencing severe symptoms such as significant chest discomfort or symptoms indicative of heart disease, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately.

In cases of acute distress, calling 911 can be a lifesaving decision.

Can Hunger Cause Heart Palpitations?

Yes! When the body lacks adequate nutrition, it may experience stress responses, including increased heart rate and palpitations.

This occurs are your heart struggles to maintain normal operations without sufficient fuel. These palpitations can feel like your heart is racing or fluttering, leading to chest discomfort and anxiety.

Can Hunger Cause Chest Pain?

Yes! Prolonged hunger or malnutrition can contribute to chest pain and the development of heart disease over time.

The stress on the cardiovascular system from irregular eating patterns can make existing conditions worse or increase the risk of developing new heart-related issues. 

Specifically, hunger-induced stress can lead to elevated levels of cortisol and adrenaline.

If persistent, this can strain the heart, contributing to hypertension and atherosclerosis, precursors to more serious heart conditions.

Studies have shown that individuals experiencing food insecurity, which often leads to periods of hunger, have a higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease compared to those with reliable access to nutritious food. 

Additional Physical Symptoms of Hunger

Additional physical effects of hunger highlight the importance of eating regularly to maintain optimal health and prevent adverse effects on the body.

Weight Loss
often seen as a positive outcome in some contexts, can also be a concerning side effect of not eating enough.

It’s important to achieve and maintain a healthy weight through balanced nutrition rather than skipping meals, which can lead to health conditions stemming from malnutrition.

Effects of Hunger - Nausea

Can Hunger Cause Nausea?

Yes, hunger can indeed cause nausea. When the body lacks food for an extended period, stomach acids build up.

This can irritate the stomach lining and lead to feelings of nausea or stomach cramps. This is the body’s way of signaling the need for nutrients.

Can Hunger Cause Headaches?

Yes, hunger can cause headaches. When you skip meals, your blood sugar levels drop.

This leads to a decrease in brain energy supply. This drop in glucose can trigger a headache as the brain signals the need for fuel. 

Can Hunger Cause Dizziness?

Yes, hunger can cause dizziness. Skipping meals or prolonged periods without food leads to a drop in blood sugar levels.

This can reduce the brain’s energy supply and impair its function. This decrease in glucose availability can result in feelings of light-headedness or dizziness as the body signals its need for nutrients.

Can Hunger Cause Digestive Problems?

Yes, hunger can cause digestive problems such as abdominal pain, heartburn, and stomach aches.

When the body goes without food for extended periods, stomach acid can build up and irritate the lining of the stomach and esophagus, leading to discomfort.

These symptoms highlight the digestive system’s sensitivity to hunger.

Can Hunger Cause Respiratory Issues?

Yes, hunger can cause respiratory issues.

Prolonged lack of nutrients can lead to weakness and fatigue, affecting breathing and potentially causing shortness of breath.

Can Hunger Cause Sleeping Issues?

Yes, hunger can cause sleep issues. An empty stomach can lead to discomfort and increased metabolism activity, disrupting sleep patterns and causing insomnia.

Eating regular, balanced meals helps ensure a better night’s sleep.

Hunger’s Impact on Mental Health

Hunger doesn’t just wreak havoc on the body; it also casts a shadow over mental health.

Hunger contributes to anxiety and depression. When the body lacks food, it can lead to a decrease in blood sugar levels, which affects brain function and mood stability.

Let’s look at these two issues in greater detail.

Does Hunger Cause Anxiety?

Yes, being hungry can cause anxiety.

When the body is deprived of food, it triggers a stress response, leading to increased cortisol levels.

This physiological reaction can heighten feelings of anxiety as the body signals a critical need for nutrients.

This can escalate to panic attacks in severe cases, further exacerbating the situation.

Does Hunger Cause Depression?

Yes, hunger can contribute to depression.

Lack of adequate nutrition can affect brain chemistry, leading to a decrease in serotonin levels, which influences mood.

The stress and anxiety associated with food insecurity can exacerbate feelings of hopelessness and depression.

Healthy Food Choices

A comprehensive overview that not only explores the importance of good nutrition but also provides practical advice on how to implement it in your children’s lives.

Topics Include:

— Effects of Good and Bad Nutrition
— Age-Appropriate Nutrition
— Creating a Meal Plan (With Examples!)
— Childhood Hunger and Insecurity
— Next Steps and Additional Resources

Download Our Healthy Food Choices Guide!

Gain a deeper understanding of good nutrition for children of all ages with our comprehensive e-book.

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Special Concerns for Vulnerable Groups

Hungry Children

Children are especially susceptible to the detrimental effects of hunger. They rely on adults for their nutritional needs.


When those needs aren’t met, it can lead to serious developmental and health issues.


This vulnerability underscores the importance of ensuring that children have consistent access to nutritious food.

Convoy of Hope is a faith-based nonprofit organization committed to reducing hunger and poverty around the world.

Convoy’s Children’s Feeding initiative currently provides nutritious food every school day for more than 571,000 children around the world.

As well, Convoy sends food and water, with other resources, to communities impacted by natural disasters, prolonged drought, or conflict.

People With Preexisting Conditions

People with diabetes face unique challenges when it comes to hunger and blood sugar management.

A drop in blood sugar levels is a common consequence of not eating, which can be dangerous for individuals managing diabetes.

Next Steps: Combating Hunger

Hunger is a complex issue with far-reaching implications for individual and public health.

By understanding how it affects:

  • • Physical health
  • • Mental health
  • • Overall well-being

we can take proactive steps to mitigate its impact. 

And, by understanding the reality of food insecurity for children and other vulnerable groups, we can do our part to make sure one or more people facing food insecurity can find their way back to full nutrition. 

For example, at Convoy of Hope, just a $10 donation can feed a child for a month.

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