Your Hunger Hormones… Say “Hello” to Ghrelin & Leptin
Did you even know you have hunger hormones? As far as weight control is concerned, they can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Whether they are friend or foe depends on a number of things. Let’s talk a bit about what these hunger hormones are and how they are supposed to function.
Ghrelin is a hormone that increases your appetite. It’s released in the stomach, and its job is to tell your brain when you’re hungry… that is, when your body needs more fuel, so you are cued to eat. When you experience a growling stomach prior to meal time, that’s the hormone ghrelin, the “hunger hormone” telling you it’s time to eat.
Once released, ghrelin levels remain elevated until food stretches your stomach wall and creates a feeling of fullness. You can actually control the affect your food intake has on your weight by choosing foods that are high in water content and are low calorie. These reduce your ghrelin levels before you’ve overeaten by making you feel fuller with food that has higher water content and fewer calories. Some foods that are high in water content and are low calorie are soups (not creamed soups), salads, non-starchy vegetables and watermelon. Choose high protein snacks like almonds or cashews to help to keep your growlin’ ghrelin gremlin under control, because protein rich foods also provide a feeling of fullness.
Leptin, on the other hand, is the hunger hormone that suppresses, or is supposed to suppress your appetite. The word “leptin” comes from the Greek work “Leptos” which means “thin”. Its job is to tell your brain when to recognize that your body has enough immediate energy stored, and it’s supposed to tell your brain when you’ve eaten enough. Leptin communicates its message to your brain that you’ve eaten enough and is directly connected with your weight and the regulation of your desired food consumption.
Leptin is complicated as it’s connected to insulin production. Once we’ve eaten enough, our leptin levels become higher. These higher levels are supposed to signal our brain that we are full; we have eaten enough. These higher levels also send a message to the pancreas that we are full which stops the pancreas from producing insulin. Insulin has been busy transporting sugar throughout your body to whatever cells need the sugar produced from the food you’ve eaten.
If our food consumption is in line with our level of physical activity, our insulin and leptin levels function appropriately. However, when we are consuming foods that create too high a blood sugar level, and there is no way to immediately use the sugar, the excess sugar is stored as fat cells and weight gain results! When insulin is competing with too much blood sugar, insulin stimulates triglyceride production. These triglycerides interfere with leptin doing it’s job, which is reaching the brain and telling it you are full… stop eating! The fascinating and deadly part of this process is that a cycle of overeating is created because your brain is no longer getting the message that you’ve eaten enough, and it’s time to stop.
So, now you understand the basics of the two hunger hormones you may not even have known existed. Ghrelin and leptin can work for you or against you as you strive to achieve and maintain your perfect weight.
Helping You Achieve Major Wellness!
Cheryl A Major, CNWC
Certified Nutrition & Wellness Consultant