Ghrelin is also known as the “Hunger Hormone.” It is also known as lenomorelin sometimes.
Ghrelin is central to appetite and the release of growth hormone. It is produced in the stomach and small intestine. A little bit of the hormone is released in the pancreas and brain as well. It has been called the “hunger hormone” because of its role in controlling appetite, however, that is just one of its functions.
What does ghrelin do?
Ghrelin has the ability to stimulate appetite which causes an individual to digest more food and store more fat. In fact, when given artificially to humans, the amount of food intake increases by 30%. Its levels increase during a diet and intensify hunger, making it hard to lose weight. This hormone plays a role in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls appetite. Ghrelin, the “hunger hormone,” plays a key role because it signals your brain to eat. It may also act on regions of the brain that control reward processing.
Ghrelin also plays a role in the pituitary gland’s function, where ghrelin receptors trigger the stimulation of the hormone. It helps control insulin release and plays a protective role in cardiovascular health. Hence, this well-rounded hormone has a job in many different bodily systems.
What Causes Ghrelin to Rise?
Ghrelin levels typically rise before a meal, when your stomach is empty. Then, they decrease shortly after when your stomach is full. It might be easy to assume that obese people have higher levels, however, they may just be more sensitive to its effects. In fact, some research shows their levels are actually lower in comparison to lean people.
How to Lower Ghrelin and Reduce Hunger
Ghrelin is a hormone that can’t be directly controlled with drugs, diets or supplements. However, there are a few things you can do to help maintain healthy levels:
- Avoid weight extremes: Obesity and anorexia alter ghrelin levels.
- Eat every 4 hours: Ghrelin is produced and secreted on a four-hour schedule. In order to keep ghrelin low, you need to eat on a schedule. Eat at least three meals, and one to two snacks every 3-4 hours daily.
- Prioritize 7-8 hours of sleep: Poor sleep increases your ghrelin levels. This has been linked to increased hunger and weight gain. Less than 7 hours of sleep has been associated with higher ghrelin levels, hunger and higher body weight. Thus, it is important to get a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep daily.
- Increase muscle mass: Higher amounts of fat-free mass or muscle are associated with lower levels.
- Reduce stress: Stress is associated with higher body weight, increased levels of cortisol and ghrelin production. Indulge in activities that help you feel at peace such as reading books, playing sports and spending quality time with loved ones.
- Eat more protein: A high-protein diet increases fullness and reduces hunger. One of the mechanisms behind this is a reduction in ghrelin levels.
- Stay Hydrated: Drink at least 2.5 litres(roughly 75 ounces) water daily. Thirst and hunger are easily confused because they share the same side effects – fatigue, muscle cramping/soreness, dizziness, poor concentration etc.
- Maintain a stable weight: Drastic weight changes and yo-yo dieting disrupt key hormones, including ghrelin.
- Cycle your calories: Periods of higher calorie intake can reduce hunger hormones and increase leptin. One study found 2 weeks on 29–45% more calories decreased ghrelin levels by 18%.
The bottom line is that ghrelin is a very crucial hormone that performs a wide array of bodily functions. Most importantly, it plays a humongous role in appetite control and weight management. Thus, it is important to maintain a balanced diet and a stable weight along with proper sleep and hydration.
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