08 Feb Hacking the Hunger Hormone
In our bodies, we have an internal clock that plays a role in our hunger cues. Some hunger clocks run autonomously – working as they should. Others struggle with an erratic clock that can lead to weight gain, low energy, and unhealthy food cravings.
The hormone that controls our ‘hunger clock’ is called ghrelin. Produced and secreted by primarily by the stomach, but also in the small intestine, pancreas, and brain, ghrelin has several jobs. It primarily works to awaken our appetite, trigger food consumption, and encourage fat storage. When we feel hungry, it’s because ghrelin has reach the brain in high enough levels to signal that we need to eat.
But ghrelin does much more than that!
Ghrelin also has an effect on our circadian rhythms, the way we taste food, how we seek reward, and how we metabolize hormones. However, ghrelin is often held responsible for weight gain in dieters. When the body isn’t used to restricting food, it produces more ghrelin to try to convince you to eat the way you were eating before as a survival mechanism. If the stomach is empty at a time when it isn’t used to be empty, the stomach produces ghrelin.
The good news is that there are things we can do to tame an overactive production of ghrelin.
- Eat meals around the same time everyday to better control the release of ghrelin
- Get good quality sleep – disrupted sleep also disrupts ghrelin production and can even increase it
- Don’t let your stomach get completely empty. Light snacking on healthy foods with low caloric density (such as fruits and vegetables) can help you stay full.
Remember, if you’re trying to lose weight, the more and faster you lose, the more your body tries to get it back by signaling your brain to eat with ghrelin. Slow and steady weight loss helps you keep weight off for longer periods since your body isn’t panicking and going into survival mode.
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