Overcoming the Hunger Hormone


April 20, 2020

Did you know there is a hunger hormone? There sure is! Ghrelin is the hunger hormone that is produced in your gut. It plays a huge role in signaling to your brain when to eat. This hormone travels through your bloodstream to your brain where it tells your brain to seek out food. The part of the brain that it affects is called the hypothalamus, which controls your appetite. Interestingly enough, when you are on a diet, the hormone is produced more. This is because it is produced when your stomach is empty. This can make it extremely difficult to lose weight since it is signaling so much to your brain that you need to eat. This hormone is very interesting because it also affects your sleep/wake cycle, reward-seeking behavior, taste sensation, and carbohydrate metabolism.

Women lunching

Ghrelin is produced in your stomach and secreted when your stomach is empty. The higher levels of the hormone, the hungrier you will get. You might think that obese people have higher levels of this hormone, but it may be that they are just more sensitive to the effects. When you are on a weight loss journey, your ghrelin levels will go up because you are not eating as much. However, there are things you can do to maintain a healthy level of the hormone. The best thing to do is avoid weight extremes as both obesity and anorexia affect ghrelin levels. It is also important to prioritize sleep, increase muscle mass, and eat more protein. With these things, ghrelin can be better controlled. 

The interesting thing about the ghrelin hormone is that for weight loss surgery patients, it changes. It has been shown that ghrelin levels decrease significantly after weight loss surgery. There is still much research that needs to be done, but studies have shown that bariatric patients are affected by this hormone, which contributes to the success of the procedure. It is more common that there are effects to gastric sleeve patients. Since part of the stomach is removed, you aren’t producing as much of the hormone as you previously were.

You might hear some people say that the ghrelin hormone is removed during the procedure. This is not true. Ghrelin is necessary, even in small amounts and it is impossible to achieve complete ghrelin removal. However, it is interesting to note that the levels go down after bariatric surgery. This helps in the long-term weight loss of patients. So, next time you are hungry, just remember that it is your ghrelin hormone talking to your brain!

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