Hollow Stomach Feeling – Reasons and Causes

Like any part of the body, various sensations may emanate from the stomach. We have all experienced a stomach ache, pains or even a burning sensation in the stomach. These are common sensations and may or may not be caused by some diseases. However, in some cases there are unusual sensation like a hollow pit feeling in the stomach.

What is a hollow pit feeling?

A hollow pit feeling is a subjective way of describing a type of emptiness sensation in the stomach. This is similar to the hunger pangs that we feel when we have not consumed food for a long period or the “butterflies in the stomach” sensation associated with nervousness and anxiety. It is not an ache or pain in the stomach.

In most cases a hollow pit feeling in the stomach is not a serious condition. It may cause discomfort and affect appetite or even sleep. As with any symptom, the stomach should be investigated for the possible cause of the sensation. However, it is rarely associated with serious conditions like a bleeding ulcer, tear in the stomach wall or stomach cancer.

Causes of a Hollow Pit Stomach Feeling

There are many different conditions than can affect the stomach and possibly give rise to a hollow pit feeling. It is a non-specific symptom meaning that it does not clearly indicate what the underlying cause may be. Therefore a hollow pit in the stomach feeling should be considered alongside other symptoms like nausea, vomiting and changes in appetite.

Collectively these symptoms may indicate a possible cause. However, diagnostic investigations like an upper GI endoscopy may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis. If the hollow stomach feeling persists or recurs frequently, is affecting appetite or sleep then it should be investigated by a medical professional as soon as possible.

Hunger Pangs

Most of the time we know when we are hungry. The hunger pangs are a specific sensation that we feel in the stomach coupled with the hunger sensation in the brain due to a low blood glucose level. However, there are instances where hunger may not always cause a typical hunger pangs and instead there is a hollow feeling in the stomach area.

People with eating disorders, who are undergoing extreme fasting or starvation for any reason including dieting may not experience typical hunger pangs after a period of time. Instead there may be the hollow stomach feeling and eventually even this hunger sensation may subside. Therefore hunger should first be excluded as a possible cause of a hollow stomach feeling.


Indigestion is a common occurrence for most people. It often arises with overeating, alcohol consumption or physical activity after eating. Sometimes it may also be due to movement as is seen with motion sickness. Indigestion is a collection of symptoms like nausea, bloating, excessive belching and stomach discomfort.

Although these symptoms are seen with many stomach diseases, indigestion is not a disease. It is also not serious and resolves within a short period of time even without any treatment. However, recurrent episodes of indigestion must be investigated. The symptoms could be caused by other stomach disorders and diseases, such as gastritis or peptic ulcers.


Inflammation of the stomach wall is known as gastritis. It is a common stomach condition and can vary in severity. Pain in the stomach region is one of the common symptoms and ranges from a dull gnawing ache to a burning stomach pain. A hollow feeling in the stomach is not an uncommon sensation and may accompany the pain or occur on its own.

Other symptoms that may also be present includes nausea, vomiting and changes in appetite. There are several possible causes of gastritis. Infection of the stomach with the Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) bacterium and the excessive use of certain drugs like NSAIDs are the two most common causes of gastritis.

Peptic Ulcers

Ulcers are open sores and peptic ulcers are open sores that form in the wall of the stomach or duodenum. These ulcers can also occur in the esophagus. Duodenal ulcers tend to be more common than stomach ulcers. The symptoms of both stomach and duodenal ulcers are similar. Collectively it is referred to as peptic ulcers.

Nausea, upper abdominal pain and changes in appetite are the main symptoms that are seen with peptic ulcers. Vomiting may sometimes occur and in severe cases with bleeding ulcers there may also be vomiting up of blood. Rarely an ulcer may extend all the way through the gut wall and cause a hole in the stomach or duodenum.

Peptic ulcers occur for the same reasons as gastritis. H.pylori infection is one of the leading causes along with the excessive use of NSAIDs. Foods do not cause peptic ulcers but certain meal like spicy foods can aggravate the ulcer symptoms. Psychological stress, tobacco smoking and alcohol abuse are other risk factors.

Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia is where the upper portion of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm and into the chest. It causes many of the same symptoms as other stomach diseases and disorders, including gastritis, peptic ulcers and indigestion. A hiatal hernia is often missed as a possible diagnosis since it is not as common as these other conditions.

The pain and other symptoms tends to occur in episodes when the stomach slips into the chest cavity and releases once the stomach returns to a normal position. This includes discomfort, pain, nausea and sometimes vomiting. A hiatal hernia occurs when the esophageal opening in the diaphragm becomes too wide thereby allowing the stomach to protrude through.

Psychological Stress

A common cause of a hollow stomach feeling is anxiety. This is where most of us experience the “butterflies in the stomach” feeling, like before an exam or job interview. Other emotions like fear and worry can also cause a hollow feeling in the stomach sensation. It may also occur with grief and depression.

The sensation is usually temporary and it resolves once the psychological stress eases or when a person copes with the stress more effectively.. However, psychological stress can also aggravate pre-existing stomach conditions like gastritis and peptic ulcers which may in turn cause the hollow stomach feeling.

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