Have you ever walked into the grocery store and suddenly felt hungry? It’s your hunger hormones kicking in – specifically ghrelin, which can be activated by visual stimuli. Our bodies produce various hunger hormones which work together to keep us fueled with energy, motivating us to eat food, and also tell us when we’ve had enough.
It’s when these appetite and satiety inducing hormones become imbalanced – from over or under production in the body that we start to over eat or experience cravings. In addition to hunger – these hormones impact metabolism – how the body is converting food into energy, energy burn, and storing energy as fat.
Without balanced hormones on your side, weight loss can be an increased struggle. If you’ve experienced hitting a weight loss plateau – even when you’re eating a healthy diet and getting adequate exercise, consider your hormones.
Here we dive into hunger and metabolism hormones, and what you can do to regulate them.
HUNGER + METABOLISM HORMONES
Rather than controlling daily hunger and satiety, this metabolic hormone is produced by fat cells and regulates body weight over the long term. High levels of leptin signal your brain that enough fat is stored in the body, while low levels signal that fat stores or low, and that more energy needs to be consumed. When you diet or significantly reduce your caloric intake, leptin sends a signal to the hypothalamus to trigger feelings of extreme hunger in an effort to increase your food consumption.
When leptin is dysregulated, you can experience leptin resistance, which can trigger overeating because your brain is not receiving the signal that enough fat is already stored.
Leptin imbalance can also slow metabolic rate – slowing down the body’s ability to burn fat, resulting in weight gain.
Known as the “hunger hormone,” ghrelin is produced in the stomach and signals to the body when it’s time to eat by activating feelings of hunger - appetite stimulation. Ghrelin impacts metabolism by signaling for increased lipid storage in both adipose (fat) tissue and in the liver.
Ghrelin kicks in when you restrict calories through dieting or high energy expenditure through exercise or activity, which increases appetite.
Produced in the brain and nervous system, NYP, is a hormone that stimulates appetite in response to stress, fasting, and energy expenditure.
Produced in the gut, CCK is a satiety hormone that increases the release of leptin. It’s also involved with digestion and energy production.
Produced in the gut, PYY decreases appetite. When fiber from food sources moves the ilium (part of the intestines), this stimulates the production of PYY which results in the feeling of satiety.
Leptin and Ghrelin are the key hunger hormone players, but many other hormones impact leptin and ghrelin, in turn impacting hunger and weight management.
The phenomenon known as ‘stress eating’ is a result of cortisol’s impact on ghrelin. When you’re stressed the body releases cortisol in ‘fight or flight’ response, which physiologically is meant to help you escape from a dangerous situation. Since fleeing from danger requires energy, cortisol triggers production of ghrelin, signaling the body to intake more fuel. With constant stress, elevated levels of cortisol and ghrelin can lead to weight gain.
Produced in the pancreas, insulin is the hormone famous for its role in maintaining the delicate balance of blood sugar levels. It works by helping your body turn glucose into stored energy and then signaling for the release of that energy when your sugar levels run low. Insufficient production or the malfunctioning of insulin can lead to diabetes. Insulin lowers levels of ghrelin after eating a meal.
GLP-1 is produced in the gut and plays a major role in keeping our blood sugar levels stable and making us feel full. GLP-1 also tells our body to release more insulin to balance blood glucose at mealtimes. When you eat a healthy diet, your GLP 1 levels increase, leading to improved appetite control. GLP-1 interacts with leptin and ghrelin to manage metabolic activity.
REGULATING HUNGER HORMONES TO OPTIMIZE METABOLISM
/ Protein consumption is essential satiety, increasing GLP-1, CCK, and PYY
/ Omega 3 fatty acids and healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and avocado have been shown to improve insulin resistance
/ Low glycemic carbohydrates in foods such as barley, lentils, and chickpeas have a lesser effect on spikes in blood sugar levels from insulin than their high glycemic counterparts (white bread, white rice, cassava) which helps to modulate appetite hormones. Avoiding refined carbohydrates and sugar has also been shown to reduce cortisol levels
Movement + Exercise
/ Moderate, regular, exercise such as pilates, yoga, or strength training decreases stress and results in lower levels of cortisol
/ High and low intensity exercise has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and decrease decrease insulin resistance
/ Though more research is needed, regular exercise has also been shown to decrease leptin and NPY, and increase CCK.
We’ve all heard this before but it’s foundational to health. Getting enough quality sleep allows your body to rest, recover, and perform functions that are not possible when you are awake. Lack of or disrupted sleep patterns can lead to increased cortisol and ghrelin.
/ Multivitamins ensure your body is getting the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals necessary to function and maintain hormone balance. When there is a nutrient gap, you may experience cravings, fatigue, and increased stress hunger triggering effects.
/ Metabolism Ignite, Veracity’s supplement for healthy weight loss and cardiovascular health works by activating the AMPK pathway. This is a metabolic enzyme that acts as a switch to enhance energy consumption and increase metabolism. It also decreases appetite through impacts on leptin, ghrelin, and GLP-1.