There is a lot more than willpower involved with hunger/satiety. There are many hormones involved with both and there is a lot we can do to impact them.
Hormones interact with the world and they communicate with one another about what is going on. With hormones there is always a stimulus, a receptor, and an effector. Our environment impacts each of these.
We want our hormones to turn on at the right time, to be received successfully, to do their work, and then to turn off. Here, with hunger/satiety hormones, we want to feel hungry at the appropriate time and then we want to feel full after we eat.
Raise your hand if you want to feel satisfied with food and well energized all day. I do!
What you eat, when you eat, how you process stress, how you move your body, and how well you sleep all impact our hunger/satiety hormones.
Meet some of your hunger hormones………
Leptin – Made primarily in fat tissue. This hormone acts on the brain (hypothalamus) to inhibit or reduce appetite and induce fat burning (tells you you are full). It was only discovered in 1994! This has a circadian rhythm to help you sleep. Leptin resistance (and insulin resistance) is a big factor in over eating. We want our cells to ‘hear’ our hormones so they can do their jobs. Optimizing blood sugar, reducing inflammation and excess sugar/starches, reducing stress, and removing nutrient-poor and highly palatable foods will help with this.
CCK or cholecystokinin– This is our main satiation hormone and it is produced in the small intestine. It slows the emptying of the stomach to promote fullness. It suppresses appetite and signals satiety. It is especially stimulated by eating proteins such as slow cooked meats (which have specific amino acids and umami to signal fullness), long chain fats such as omega 3s, and fermented foods.
PP or pancreatic polypeptide– Due to vagal nerve stimulation this is released from the pancreas and inhibits food intake. This is released in response to chewing. Chew Chew Chew (and note the importance of the vagus nerve).
Ghrelin– Made primarily in the stomach and only discovered in 1999. This hormone stimulates hunger by acting on the brain (hypothalamus) and tells you that you are hungry. It interacts with leptin and others. This hormone is impacted by stress and implicated in stress-induced eating and food/reward behavior. It is released when blood sugar drops, when you are stressed, with high fructose consumption, or when you did not get enough sleep, all making you feel hungry. A 2006 study by American Society for Clinical Nutrition suggested a breakfast high in protein was better at reducing ghrelin (making you feel full).
A calorie is not just a calorie. Our food and lifestyle is information for our body, for our cells, and for our brain. Our hormones are impacted by our environment.
What 4 things can you do to ensure your hunger/satiety hormones are working for you?
1. Focus on whole, nutrient dense foods that your body can recognize (and make sure you are digesting them).
2. Work on reducing stress, learning to process stress, and never eat when stressed out. Take at least 3 calming breaths before each meal.
3. Make sure you are gettting enough sleep each night, 7-9 hours
4. Eat a healthy fat, a clean protein, and fiber at every meal and snack.
- Healthy fats include avocados, coconut oil, olives, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, organic butter, olive oil, coconut
- Clean proteins include eggs, grass fed beef, bison, chicken, lamb, beans, lentils
- Fiber is in veggies, fruit, nuts/seeds, legumes
Even small changes can have a positive impact on hormones:)
Eat up, rest up, and enjoy
- Jones, David. (2010) Functional Medicine Textbook. The Institute for Functional Medicine
- Nakayama, Andrea. (2018) Full Body Systems. Functional Nutrition Lab. Endocrine System.
- Bauman, Ed. (2018) Therapeutic Nutrition- Weight Loss
Janel Ferrin Anderson NC FNLP PhD is a Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist, a Functional Medicine Nutritionist, has her doctorate in Natural Medicine, is a certified family herbalist and a certified yoga therapist. ‘I am dedicated to empowering women to feel their best and to take charge of their health. I help people understand their body and how to use food and lifestyle to improve health and resilience.’