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Polyphagia In Diabetes: When You're Constantly Hungry

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Sep 20, 2022

Polyphagia In Diabetes: When You're Constantly Hungry

The three P’s of diabetes are polyuria (increased urination), polydipsia (increased thirst), and polyphagia (increased hunger or appetite). Since many people are probably already familiar with the first two, this article will focus on constant hunger. Here’s what you need to know about polyphagia in diabetes, 

1. It’s not an ordinary hunger pang

Chances are, you have experienced hunger pangs a few times before. In many cases, they are relieved by just a few bites of filling food with a glass of water. 

But, polyphagia in diabetes is not an ordinary kind of hunger. For one, it is intense. And while eating can satiate it temporarily, it will eventually persist. In other words, eating more or eating more regularly will not solve it. 

2. Polyphagia can also include cravings

While polyphagia in diabetes is usually described as “constant hunger,” please note that it can also involve cravings for a specific food. Both can lead to overeating. 

3. Starvation amidst plenty

Why does polyphagia in diabetes happen?

In diabetes, you either have a deficiency in insulin or insulin resistance. The result is that sugar, which we’re supposed to convert to energy, cannot enter the cells. The brain then believes that we still need food, causing polyphagia. 

This is also the reason why some people call diabetes “starvation amidst plenty.” You might have plenty of sugar, but you can’t make use of them. 

4. Polyphagia can aggravate diabetes

The problem with caving into constant hunger is that it can aggravate diabetes in a number of ways. 

First, eating too much can further worsen hyperglycemia. The more you eat, the more unused sugar there will be in the blood of diabetics. Unless you do something about your insulin deficiency or resistance, the problem will persist. 

Secondly, polyphagia may result in weight changes that may affect the way you manage your diabetes. Case in point, it might lead to weight gain that increases your risk for other conditions, like hypertension. 

How to Manage Polyphagia in Diabetes

At this point, the best way to manage polyphagia in diabetes is to manage blood sugar levels. 

This, of course, depends on the type of diabetes you have. If you have Type 1 Diabetes, then you might need careful blood sugar monitoring a few times a day. Insulin therapy is also crucial. 

If you have Type 2 Diabetes, you may or may not require medicines or insulin. 

Whether you have Type 1 or 2, your doctor will recommend the following:

  • A meal plan that’s appropriate for your condition
  • Appropriate exercise 
  • Stress management
  • Adequate and high-quality sleep 
  • Blood sugar monitoring 
  • Careful monitoring of complications of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia 

Depending on how well these work for you, the doctor might adjust them, so work closely with them. 

How to Manage the Hunger

As mentioned earlier, eating more or more frequently typically doesn’t satisfy polyphagia. Hence, you may need to take the following steps to manage the intense hunger you feel:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • For breakfast, focus on foods that are high in protein
  • Eat foods that are high in fiber, but low in carbohydrates 
  • Satiate yourself with flavorful foods; consider using herbs and spices instead of salt and sugar. 
  • Avoid eating foods when you’re distracted (ie. watching TV)
  • When you have cravings, direct your attention to another activity, like walking or appropriate exercise. 
  • It will also be helpful to have a small, regulated taste of the foods you crave. 
  • For snacks, make sure you choose healthy options. 
  • Manage your stress levels, so as to reduce the risk of emotional eating. 

If you have concerns over polyphagia in diabetes, don’t hesitate to discuss them with your doctor. 

Key Takeaways

Polyphagia in diabetes is the intense hunger not satisfied by eating. The best way to manage it is to manage blood sugar levels and hunger as a whole. 

Learn more about Diabetes here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Sep 20, 2022

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