Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for controlling our hunger. Ideally, ghrelin is highest before meals and lowest after meals. Leptin and ghrelin work hand in hand to regulate hunger and satiety (satisfaction) and can be thrown off by many of the same factors. Remember from the last article that LEPTIN controls satiety (how satisfied we are after we eat, thus controlling when we stop). GHRELIN controls how hungry we are to begin with.
- Ghrelin has shown to be especially affected by chronic low calorie dieting. Chronic calorie restriction causes an over-production and disregulation of this hormone which leads to erratic hunger patterns. The body thrives on consistency and responds best to systematic changes. Effectively controlling ghrelin levels is just another reason to stay “off the diet wagon.” If you are eating too many calories, start to decrease them slowly, about 100-200 calories daily for a week. The next week, do the same until you are consistency losing.
- Another contributor to off balance ghrelin levels is lack of sleep. Studies show that even one night of sleep deprivation will cause a significant increase in ghrelin levels (leading to excess hunger).
- Eating a chronically high carbohydrate diet will also cause an imbalance in this hormone. Leptin, ghrelin, and insulin all work together. When one is off, they will likely all be imbalanced. Using food control as your first line of defense is always best.
- Lastly, imbalanced ghrelin levels have been linked to inflammation in the gut. Inflammation can be caused by a variety of things (many of which involve excess sugar consumption). One simple step you can take is to take a probiotic to help balance the good bacteria in the gut. Make sure that you only purchase ones that are refrigerated and that you store them in the refrigerator.
Instead of fighting an uphill battle of hunger control, try these simple steps to regulate your ghrelin levels.
- Avoid eating after dinner. Stop at least 3 hours before bed. Eating right before bed causes an imbalance in ghrelin the next day.
- Eat a high protein breakfast.
- Balancing blood sugar/insulin will balance leptin and make receptors sensitive.
- Avoid low calorie diets (cause imbalanced leptin & ghrelin). Decrease calories slowly if you need to.
- Eat small to moderately sized meals. Large, high calorie meals throw off the hunger hormones.
- Increase healthy fats like nuts, avocado, and fish.
- Take a probiotic (intestinal inflammation leads to imbalanced leptin levels).
- Sleep 8 hours (also helps with late night eating).
STEP(S) FOR THIS WEEK:
- Take at least TWO of the steps above to balance your ghrelin levels. Even if you do not struggle with excess hunger, it can be to your benefit to make sure you are taking care of your overall health with these simple steps.