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Hollow feeling in stomach is very common, especially in the population that is suffering from stress. Some people may also experience a feeling of emptiness or hunger after having a meal. These symptoms may be accompanied by tightness in the throat and a gnawing sensation in the esophagus and stomach. It is normal to have such feelings for a short period of time. However, in case of any disorder, these symptoms tend to persist for a long time. Below are some of the causes associated with these symptoms.

1. GERD (Gastro-esophageal reflux disease)

GERD is a condition related to the stomach and the esophagus. During digestion, the opening of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) allows food to enter into the stomach. It closes to prevent food and stomach acids from backing up into the esophagus, called "reflux". GERD occurs when the LES becomes weak or functions inadequately. Hence, the contents of the stomach, including acid, flow back into the esophagus. This causes heartburn along with some other symptoms like hollow feeling in stomach, or recurrent urge to eat. In severe cases, patient may also experience tightness in throat. Poor dietary habits, obesity, and pregnancy may trigger the development of GERD. Common symptoms include heartburn, nausea and regurgitation. The severity of these symptoms depends on the extent of LES dysfunction and the amount of acid reflux.

GERD can be treated simply by adopting a healthy diet, and avoiding habits such as consuming too much alcohol and smoking. Surgery may be required in the worst of cases.

2. Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

Gastrointestinal ailments may be caused by stress, anxiety or depression. The underlying causes are still unclear. However, it has been established that symptoms such as abdominal discomfort, tightness in the throat, difficulty in breathing, hollowness in the stomach and even insomnia may be brought on by psychological problems. One factor may be that some people tend to indulge in unhealthy snacking and over-eating when they are anxious or upset, which may upset gastrointestinal functioning.

Stress management exercises such as reading, listening to music, exercising, etc can be very effective in treating these symptoms. In extreme cases, behavioral therapy may be advised.

3. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD is a collection of symptoms associated with chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. It mainly includes two diseases:

  • Ulcerative colitis (affecting the colon)
  • Crohn's disease (involving the entire digestive system)

The exact cause of IBD is still unknown, but inheritance and the immune system seem to play a role. The symptoms may vary, such as abdominal discomfort, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, abdominal heaviness, and diarrhea.

4. Hiatal Hernia

Hernias are formed due to a weakness in the lining of an organ, causing it to protrude through the muscle or tissue that is holding it in place. In hiatal hernia, the upper stomach protrudes through the hiatus - opening of the diaphragm through which the esophagus passes. Causes of such a hernia include age, muscular strain, violent and chronic coughing, damage from injury, and abdominal surgery. Prevailing symptoms are abdominal pain and hollowness or gurgling in the upper abdomen.

Changes in eating habits can control the symptoms to quite an extent. However, according to their severity, medication or surgery may be advised.

5. H.pylori Infection

Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium involved in causing chronic inflammation of the inner lining of the stomach (gastritis). It most often results in the formation of ulcers in the stomach or duodenum. An H.pylori infection is contracted by consuming contaminated water or food. It can be spread from personal contact as well, if proper hygiene is not maintained. Common symptoms associated with such an infection are a gnawing pain in the stomach, nausea, weight loss and feeling hollow or bloated.

Treatment involves medication and sometimes surgery, depending on the severity. A course of different medicines generally provides complete relief.

Some other causes of such symptoms include:

  • Stomach acid deficiency
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Keep in mind that hollow feeling in stomach in most cases is caused by disturbed eating routine or long intervals between meals. Changing your eating habits may resolve the symptoms. Before paying a visit to your doctor, change your eating habits.

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