Unless We Fix Our Hormones, Hunger Will Keep Harassing Us
Obesity is widespread globally. Pervasive fake hunger seems to be one of the culprits of obesity.
As documented in Wikipedia with artifacts: "Obesity in the United States is a major health issue resulting in numerous diseases, specifically increased risk of certain types of cancer, coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, as well as significant increases in early mortality and economic costs."
CHS (Centers for Health Statistics) report depicted 42.4% of U.S. adults as obese in 2018. Stats are higher for men (43%) and a little lower for women (41.9%). Almost half of our population is obese.
We feel too hungry and eat too much.
Even though hunger is a natural feeling and essential for our health, excessive and emotional hunger causes substantial health risks.
Hunger is a potent emotion. We need this useful emotion for our survival. Natural hunger serves the purpose of nourishment. However, false hunger causes issues like obesity, diabetes, stroke, heart problems and many more.
Several hormones affect hunger and satiety feelings. Two major hormones are critical in controlling the hunger-satiety process in our body. These hormones are leptin and ghrelin. Unless we understand the roles and functions of these two critical hormones, hunger will stay a mystery.
However, as healthy individuals. when we understand their role and take necessary measures to balance and optimize them, we can address the root causes of fake hunger as long as we don't have other underlying health conditions.
Hormones are very complicated. Unless we have a postdoctoral degree in endocrinology, we will not understand their complex mechanism in our body and not able to diagnose the causes.
In this article, I touch on the very basic view of these hormones in the simplest conceivable manner. From the body of knowledge, we know that ghrelin and leptin are two chemical messengers running the hunger-satiety show in our body. These two hormones are opposite of each other. While ghrelin increase hunger, leptin lowers it.
There are, of course, many other hormones and neurotransmitters in the process. I also touch on the other two hormones: insulin and cortisol shortly.
Ghrelin is relatively straight forward from the functionality aspect. This hormone makes us feel hungry. It is an alert system that reminds us to get vital energy and building blocks for our body.
Leptin is more complicated than ghrelin. This hormone is a regulator for energy balance. It regulates fat stores. Leptin acts on cell receptors. Leptin is mainly made up of the adipose cells. However, leptin's purpose is to diminish those fatty tissues.
Using the analogy of a thermostat, when leptin senses the fat stores are full, it sends satiety signals to the brain.
The problematic bit with leptin is a condition known as "leptin resistance". This condition causes excessive and sometimes unnecessary hunger. The role of the leptin is to send signals and instruct the brain to stop eating. However, when we have leptin resistance condition, our brain cannot receive the hunger signals. Thus, we feel hungry at all times.
From my personal experience, suffering from excessive hunger for many years, learning this critical information about leptin and ghrelin provided useful insights.
In my opinion, understanding this critical information is useful before we dive into solutions like appetite suppressors, eating too frequently, and other diet regimes.
Hunger is affected by other conditions too. After excessive sugar in our bloodstream, our body triggers insulin. This hormone quickly channels the glucose to different parts of the body which require glucose. If there are not enough organs to take the glucose, it turns the glucose into body fat.
But the issue is we feel extreme hunger when glucose drops quickly. Therefore, excessive carbohydrate consumption, especially carbs-intolerant people like me, can be one of the reasons for fake hunger.
From my experience, another culprit for fake hunger was chronic stress. When I was under pressure at work and demanding social situations, my cortisol levels got too high. The more stressed I felt, the hungrier I got. I tested this case in the days with sleep deprivation. As soon as I woke up with inadequate sleep, I felt terrible hunger.
Apart from stress, uncomfortable emotions also caused substantial hunger for me. I wanted to fill the void with food. This situation is called emotional eating.
One more obvious reason to feel false hunger was dehydration. When I was too thirsty, I was also feeling hungry. They are different feelings, but sometimes they might mingle.
Since I suffer from excessive hunger for long, I obtained professional advice and committed to resolving my hunger issues. Three significant lifestyle changes reduced my emotional hunger and increased the feeling of satiety sustainably.
- Changing my diet,
- Fixing my sleep issues,
- Getting fat-adapted, and,
- Learning to fast.
Being on high carbohydrate diets for long, I used to eat six times a day, three meals and three snacks. I was still feeling hunger pangs. I tried appetite suppressants, but they did not help either because they did not address the root causes of my hunger. They even caused more complications.
My blood sugar got very high after the main meals. I used to eat fruits as a snack and drink fruit juices. These high carb snacks were increasing my blood sugar. As soon as elevated blood sugar settled by an insulin rush, I was feeling terribly hungry again.
Changing my diet was a sustainable solution to address hunger issues. Replacing carbohydrates with healthy fats as an energy source reduced my hunger. To make it systematic, I selected a ketogenic diet regime. A keto diet requires a high fat, moderate protein, and very low carbs. Due to other health conditions, I went a bit extreme and cut all carbs from my diet, which gave me extra benefits later.
Eating sufficient healthy fats created satiety because leptin sensed sufficient fat in my body and sent the right message to the brain.
Following a strict ketogenic diet created substantial ketones, an alternative energy source for the brain and many other organs. Ketosis helped me move from full glucose dependence by providing alternative energy, especially to my active brain.
When my bloodstream had high ketones, my hunger reduced, my energy increased, my depressive, pessimistic, and moody feelings disappeared. I experienced positive emotions like joy, satiety, and serenity.
Being fat-adapted was a significant milestone for me because my body learned to use body fat as energy. In a fat-adapted state, I felt full and satisfied.
I had my next successful milestone when I learned to fast. Feeding in a smaller window and fasting for the rest of the day, I did not feel any hunger. No glucose, no insulin spike. I had a steady glucose level through gluconeogenesis.
Gluconeogenesis means that my body created glucose mainly from proteins. Since I had an abundance of ketones in my bloodstream, low glucose did not cause any energy deficiency. Far from it, I felt more energetic, more alert, and more satisfied.
Ketogenic diet and fasting helped me to optimize my leptin, ghrelin, insulin, and cortisol hormones. Nowadays, I only feel real hunger when my body needs nutrition. I don't experience emotional hunger anymore. I eat one main nutritious meal to sustain my health and happiness. I made this a lifestyle.
Apart from being fat-adapted, I had many more benefits of fasting. Fasting detoxified my digestive system. I supplemented with gelatin from the bone broth that fixed my leaky gut. A healthy gut contributed to feeling better.
In terms of hormones, I also learned to beat elevated cortisol. The best solution to reduce my elevated cortisol was getting enough quality sleep. I fixed my sleep issues. Having a quality sleep contributed to improving my hunger problem. When I did not have a quality sleep, my hunger was reaching to an extreme state.
In my opinion and from personal experience, hunger for healthy individuals is a hormonal issue even though there may be other causes and underlying health issues.
As a case study on myself, making these natural lifestyle changes, I got rid of my emotional hunger. I don't feel fake hunger anymore. As I am fat-adapted, meaning my body uses fat as the primary energy source, my brain does not go to a starvation mode.
Since I am in ketosis and eat a moderate amount of proteins for my body requirements, I keep my lean muscles. Best of all, when I am hungry, nowadays, I know that it is real hunger, not a fake one.
My article is by no means to suggest medical advice. I simply shared my experience and opinion on this piece. Hunger and related hormones are very complicated. There may be many underlying health issues causing hunger for different individuals. Therefore, it is always necessary to obtain informed advice from qualified health care professionals.
Thank you for reading my perspectives. I wish you a healthy and happy life.