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How Hunger Affects Health

Blog by guest writer Stanley Clark

Facing hunger is always a stressful experience. Most people associate hunger with an empty stomach and weak joints. However, hunger also has invisible but devastating effects on the mind. The reason for this is simple: the human body relies on food to function. When the body's energy is low, hunger manifests as both physical and mental symptoms. Read on to learn how hunger affects both physical and psychological health.

Stunted Growth in Children

Hunger can impact children's growth in many ways. It can be particularly damaging to children under the age of three. As a result, parents should ensure their kids are well-nourished, even if they have busy work schedules. Find out more about how to take care of your child here, as delayed

development due to insufficient breastfeeding can result in lifelong disorders and intellectual impairments.

Physical Effects on Adults

Hunger can be even more devastating to the physical health of those affected. Essentially, hunger weakens bones, muscles, and skin. In the long term, hunger can cause irreversible disabilities and deaths in both adults and children, making the situation even worse.

Desensitization to Hunger Hunger hormones control appetite by telling you when to eat and when you're full. However, overeating can disrupt these hormones, making it difficult for your body to recognize when you've had enough. On the other hand, when you go for a long time without food, your body's hunger signals become less effective. As a result, your body becomes used to an empty stomach, and you may not even realize you have missed several meals. This, however, poses a risk to your well-being.

Weakens the Immune System

It's important to note that hunger impairs the ability of the immune system to produce new cells or fight diseases. In healthy people, the immune system protects the body from harmful microbes. However, people experiencing hunger suffer even more than is visible. Prolonged hunger depresses the body's immune system and increases the risk of contracting other illnesses. Starved children experience illnesses for longer periods of time than healthy children. Additionally, malnourished children may have cognitive impairments and develop unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Hunger Controls One’s Perception

Hunger affects how those affected view situations, as they often have difficulty concentrating on what is important. Dealing with hungry people can also be a challenge. A good meal can improve your mood and influence your decision-making process. Hunger makes people more susceptible to influence and willing to take risks to secure food.

Increases the Risk of Chronic Diseases

Skipping lunch once a week isn't a major issue, but many people miss meals, which can negatively impact their overall health. There is a strong link between hunger and chronic diseases such as diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Insufficient food access increases the risk of micronutrient deficiencies, particularly in older people, making them more vulnerable to chronic diseases.

Hunger Causes Mood Disorders

Not knowing where your next meal will come from is extremely stressful, especially if you haven't eaten in a while. Hunger can trigger mood changes and lead to anxiety, and over time, depression. People experiencing hunger may also have difficulty sleeping.

Causes Body Weakness

The body needs food to function normally. When food reserves are depleted, muscles weaken and significant weight loss can occur, making it difficult to perform daily tasks. Consider a scenario in which a well-nourished and hungry person is asked to perform the same manual task within a set timeframe. The hungry person will likely finish last and produce different results than expected.

Hunger Effects on Expectant Mothers

Expectant mothers require more food to meet their own energy needs and those of their unborn child. Hence, access to nutritious food is essential for them, and a lack of it can result in numerous problems. Severe hunger can often cause anemia, hypertension, premature births, miscarriages, and low birth weight, and in extreme cases, it may lead to maternal death. Furthermore, children born to mothers who are malnourished are likely to experience developmental and growth issues both in early and later life.

Poor Concentration

When you’re hungry, you can only concentrate on food. Additionally, trying to concentrate on anything on an empty stomach is difficult as one experiences an urgent need to eat for more energy to function. Hunger leads to a lack of glucose in the brain, making it challenging to maintain the required level of concentration for any activity. Furthermore, hungry schoolchildren become aggressive and inactive, affecting their academic performance.

Hunger not only leads to physical problems but also causes mental distress. People of all ages can experience severe hunger and malnutrition, which can have a more damaging impact than physical symptoms. In children, it can result in malnutrition, slow growth and development, and loss of concentration. For expectant mothers, it can lead to stillbirths, hypertension, anemia, and even death, among others. Lastly, for adults, hunger can cause desensitization, weaken muscles and bones, and affect perception


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