Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What would cause a child to be constantly hungry?"
My wife and I have a healthy son who just turned six, and he never stops eating! Should we be worried? Is he just a 'growing boy', or is constant hunger a sign of a problem?
Any concern with growth in a child is a concern. As you know, growth (both physically and mentally) is an extremely complicated process in a child and any derangement must be take seriously. I strongly encourage you to discuss your concerns with your pediatrician. In general, growth is a high energy process. Anabolism is the term that refers to the building on muscles, organs and organ systems. Having the body undergo anabolism requires significant energy as well as building blocks to build from. Therefore a healthy and plentiful diet of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals is essential. Quantifying how much a child should eat to normally grow is difficult, so its hard to say if he is just a "growing boy." I would talk to your pediatrician as looking at his growth charts can be an important diagnostic tool. There are a few medical conditions that can cause someone to eat in excess. One is if he is "wasting" the food. A common condition is diabetes--where the body cannot use the sugar properly. Eating a lot, drinking a lot, peeing a lot and losing weight are common signs. Another form of wasting is "malabsorption," examples include celiac disease (gluten allergy) or bowel disease--diarrhea or abdominal pain could be a sign. Another broad category is excess use of energy. These include increased thyroid hormone. Other rare causes of overuse may be cancer or inherited disorders of metabolism. Talk to your pediatrician. This is likely normal, but requires attention if you are concerned.
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