Do you know what hunger really feels like?


How do you know when you are hungry? Do you often feel hungry first thing in the morning? Is your hunger more ravenous after a night of eating poorly or drinking alcohol? Most people associate hunger with a feeling of discomfort in the stomach and gut area.  You may be surprised to learn that this is not hunger at all.  In fact, true hunger is very rare in the Western world.  It’s not uncommon for people to go years, decades, or their entire lives without experiencing true hunger.

True hunger is a pleasant feeling that we tend to experience in the throat. True hunger is never uncomfortable or unpleasant. It is experienced as a pleasant knowing that our body desires food.

The fact that most people mistake irritation and vital symptoms of recovery for hunger does not mean hunger exists. An emptiness in the stomach means that the food has been passed from it. That is not hunger. Hunger is felt in the mouth and throat just as thirst is. It is not unpleasant and it urges us to eat just as thirst urges us to drink.

What we commonly mistake for hunger that drives us to eat are pathological symptoms not unlike the “withdrawal” symptoms of tobacco, coffee, alcohol, condiments and other drug addictions that drive us to go back for another fix. When the body is without its fix for a while, it begins clean-up operations. These usually involve unpleasant symptoms that drive us to get another fix. Another fix engages the body in activities that depress vital functions, especially eliminative functions. Thus we are satisfied for a while, in fact, quite a while in the case of foods that are not of our adaptation.” – T.C. Fry

So what is the pain we experience most mornings before we break our nightly fast?

The pain we feel in our stomach is a result of the body trying to clean and repair.  When we eat cooked foods, salt, spices, spicy peppers, drink coffee, tea, alcohol, or otherwise consume irritants, the body repairs the stomach lining each day.  This pain or discomfort we feel in our stomach is a result of the expulsion of the less ideal foods and the waste materials from the damaged cells that occur from eating those foods.  The rumbling stomach and the growling stomach are not true hunger but actions being taken by the body to repair damage incurred from the previous meal of less-than-ideal foods. 

Although genuine hunger is a mouth and throat sensation and depends upon an actual physiological need for food, muscular contractions of the stomach accompany hunger and are thought by physiologists, to give rise to the hunger sensation.

Carlson, of the Chicago University, found that in a man who had been fasting two weeks, these gastric “hunger” contractions had not decreased, although there was no desire for food. The same has been observed in animals. Indeed these contractions are seen to increase and yet they do not produce the sensation of hunger. I do not consider these so-called “hunger-contractions” as the
cause of hunger. Real hunger is a mouth and throat sensation.

But there is a difference between hunger and what is called appetite. Appetite is a counterfeit hunger, a creature of habit and cultivation, and may be due to any one of a number of things; such as the arrival of the habitual meal time, the sight, taste, or smell of food, condiments and seasonings, or even the thought of food. In some diseased states there is an almost constant and insatiable appetite. None of these things can arouse true hunger; for, this comes only when there is an actual need for food.

One may have an appetite for tobacco, coffee, tea, opium, alcohol, etc., but he can never be hungry for these, since they serve no real physiological need. Appetite is often accompanied by a gnawing or “all gone” sensation in the stomach, or a general sense of weakness; there may even be mental depression. Such symptoms usually belong to the diseased stomach of a glutton and will pass away if their owner will refrain from eating for a few days. They are temporarily relieved by eating and this leads to the idea that it was food that was needed. But such sensations and feelings do not accompany true hunger. In true hunger one is not aware that he has a stomach for this, like thirst, is a mouth and throat sensation. Real hunger arises spontaneously, that is without the agency of some external factor, and is accompanied by a “watering of the mouth” and usually by a conscious desire for some particular food.” – Herbert Shelton

True Hunger is pleasant

True hunger is described by most who experience it as a pleasant feeling in the back of the throat or simply a thought which floats into their mind that it is time to eat. We are accustomed to overfeeding ourselves with constipating and dehydrating foods which destroys this delicate feeling. Instead of a pleasant feeling our overeating and eating of substances that are not our natural foods leads the body to respond to each subsequent meal with pain.

“It was said that nature plainly says: “Eat of my compounds what you like best, and I will signify when you have eaten enough . . . The instant hunger is satisfied is the time to cease eating. If you persist in eating beyond this time, then I will send you another real friend–pain–who will compel you to cease eating before you do yourself irreparable harm. I shall make you suffer so much that you will lack all excuse for eating too much at a later time.” How common is the practice of smothering the disciplining voice of pain and discomfort with a drug after meals!” – Herbert Shelton, Man’s Pristine Way of Life

Weakness is not hunger

Feeling weak or drained is also not hunger but is a result of the body’s need to take energy away from our muscles to utilize in the repair of the stomach. These are warning signs from our body to stop inputting food so it can make repairs, unfortunately, when these processes feel unpleasant we have been conditioned to stop them temporarily by eating another meal. The addition of more food to the stomach temporarily halts the cleaning and repair processes. Sadly, this reinforces our wrong choices leading to ever more burden upon the body rather than a lifting of burden.

We can avoid “hunger” pains entirely.

“By avoiding pungent condiments we also obviate the principal cause of gluttony. It is well known that the admirers of lager-beer do not drink it for the sake of its nutritive properties, but as a medium of stimulation, and I hold that nine out of ten gluttons swallow their peppered ragouts for the same purpose. Only natural appetites have natural limits. Two quarts of water will satisfy the normal thirst of a giant, two pounds of dates, his hunger after a two day’s fast. But the beer-drinker swills till he runs over, and the glutton stuffs himself till the oppression of his chest threatens him with suffocation. Their unnatural appetite has no limits but those of their abdominal capacity. Poison-hunger would be a better word than appetite. What they really want is alcohol and hot spices, and, being unable to swallow them ‘straight,” the one takes a bucketful of swill, the other a potful of grease into the bargain.” – Herbert Shelton

If you take a moment to think about it, you may start to recognize that when your hunger pains were at their worst this coincided with a more harmful food choice the night before.  Often when people have a hangover they become ravenously hungry and seek out fatty, slow-digesting, difficult-to-digest foods that shut down the cleaning process and calm the stomach.   After eating a spicy meal the night before you might wake up extra hungry the next morning.    When we eat salt we feel hungry more often.  All of these are examples of when we have consumed something that irritates the stomach and the hunger pain is the consequence of the injury to the body that the prior meal or meals caused.

Next time you feel pain in the stomach try delaying your meal as long as you can and try to think about what you ate last that may be causing this pain.  Perhaps sip some water. When we eat our natural diet these painful symptoms no longer exist. As you eliminate those irritants you will find it becomes easier and easier to delay your meals to the ideal window and eat less often because you will not be injuring the digestive tract and will not have the pain as a result.

Have more questions? Want to get answers about your specific health issues or concerns? I offer consultations, learn more about them here:

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Eat fruit and be well my friends.