It’s a hormone with a somewhat scary sounding name, but it is all too fitting. Ghrelin, known as the “hunger hormone,” can act as a real gremlin to your weight loss efforts. But there are ways to beat it at its own game with basic lifestyle changes.
The role of ghrelin is simple. It travels from the stomach to the brain to stimulate feeling of hunger. On its surface this makes sense. Everyone needs food to live. Food gives us energy and vitality to do the things we need and want to accomplish.
However, the darker side of ghrelin is that it slows down metabolism, strains the body’s ability to burn fat and promotes the storage of fat in the abdominal are (the dreaded and dangerous belly fat). To top it all off, the more we weigh, the more susceptible we are to ghrelin’s influence by craving high-fat, unhealthy foods. And it is even the cause of that scary stomach growling when we are hungry!
This hormone is just plain frustrating.
However, it’s not unbeatable. Here are some ways to reduce the production and release of ghrelin to control your appetite:
- Eat Protein and (Healthy) Carbs
Ghrelin is suppressed when food is in the stomach. Protein and healthy carbs rich in fiber and nutrients take longer to digest, naturally suppressing ghrelin better than any other type of food. This means you won’t get hungry as quickly and you’ll probably eat less.
- Increase Activity
Exercise can be a useful tool in appetite control. A study published in the American Journal of Physiology found that 60 minutes of aerobic exercise suppressed appetite and lowered ghrelin levels.
- Get Your Sleep!
If you are sleep deprived, chances are you may feel hungrier than if you had a full night’s sleep. A sleep study published in PLOS Medicine found that participants getting five hours of sleep or less produced 15 percent less leptin (the “stop eating food” hormone), and over 15 percent more ghrelin.
If you are really having a difficult time with controlling hunger, you may want to speak to your medical provider about a prescription for an appetite suppressant. But it should be noted that appetite suppressants are most impactful only in the initial stages of weight loss. They lose their potency over time and are not meant for long-term use. And of course, they should always be administered and monitored by a trained medical professional.
So take that ghrelin. You’re not so frightening after all!