Hunger Hormones

Leptin

  • Named for the Greek word leptos, meaning “thin”
  • Produced by fat cells
  • Released into the bloodstream when you eat
  • If your body functions properly it will tell you when to stop eating
  • What happens if you’re overweight
    • Your body can produce excess leptin as you have excess fat
    • You may develop resistance to chronically elevated levels
    • Your brains ignore the satiety signals leaving you hungry even after meals
  • Regular exercise, moderate- to high-intensity interval training in particular, can help keep leptin levels functioning properly
  • Getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night can also help keep leptin levels normal

Ghrelin

  • Ghrelin is known as the appetite hormone
  • When leptin is low because you haven’t had anything to eat in awhile, ghrelin is high
  • After a meal, ghrelin levels drop & usually stay low for several hours while you digest
  • The same habits that control leptin will keep ghrelin in check so get enough sleep & excercise
  • One study showed diets high in protein suppressed ghrelin more than high-fat diets

Cortisol

  • This stress hormone is produced as part of the body’s fight-or-flight response during times of physical or emotional trauma
  • It can provide a temporary boost of energy & alertness but it can also trigger high-carb, high-fat cravings
  • When levels are continually elevated, it also causes calories to be stored around the middle of your body contributing to dangerous and hard-to-lose belly fat
  • Research shows that relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, and listening to soothing music reduce stress hormones
  • Another study showed that stressed-out people who regularly drank black tea had cortisol levels 20% lower than those who sipped a placebo drink
  • Another study showed those that chewed gum had 12% lower levels than those who didn’t

Estrogen

  • Falling estrogen causes serotonin levels to drop & cortisol to rise, so you may feel crankier & hungrier than usual which can lead to binge eating, especially on fatty, salty, or sugary foods
  • Indulging in cravings won’t improve symptoms
  • Balance out your hormone levels & satisfy your appetite with complex carbs like whole-wheat past, beans, and brown rice

Reference

“Curb Those Cravings!” Shape. March 2014. 105.

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