Ghrelin is a hormone that plays an important role in regulating appetite and hunger.
It is produced by the gastrointestinal tract and belongs to a family of hormones called peptide hormones that essentially act on intermediary metabolism.
In addition to the gastrointestinal tract, ghrelin is also produced in small quantities by the brain.
Although it was originally discovered as an orexigenic hormone (causing hunger), recent research has revealed that ghrelin plays a role in various other aspects of physiology.
Ghrelin sends out hunger signals that persist even after food has been digested. With a normal level of ghrelin, one feels hungry only when the stomach is empty and senses the need for food intake to maintain energy balance.
In other words, ghrelin overperforms its role if the body does not get adequate nutrition resulting in loss of appetite to conserve energy.
The level of ghrelin in the blood ranges from approximately 15-100 pg/ml when you are at rest and rises rapidly after eating immediately before ingestion or during digestion of food, depending on how fast your metabolism is working. This rise peaks about 30 minutes after eating and then falls back to the original level.
If you eat a meal containing protein or carbohydrates, ghrelin levels rise quickly due to the presence of amino acids or glucose in the blood. If there is no food in your stomach, however, these effects are not observed.
In this article, we will cover the control of ghrelin levels by different factors like diet, stress, and even gender.
What Is Ghrelin And What Does It Do
Ghrelin is a “weight loss hormone” that primarily regulates appetite and hunger. Ghrelin, produced in the gastrointestinal tract, is a member of the peptide hormone family that affects how your body breaks down nutrients and fats.
Ghrelin also helps regulate other bodily functions, such as reducing fat cell size and increasing the use of fatty acids so that you burn more calories.
Ghrelin is also responsible for initiating hunger and appetite. Your hunger level could range from a simple desire for eating something to even food cravings based on psychological factors like boredom or loneliness.
When Does Ghrelin Spike?
Ghrelin stimulates the appetite by causing a rise in levels of another hormone called Neuropeptide Y.
As you might have guessed, Neuropeptide Y is responsible for the feeling of fullness and reduction in appetite resulting in reduced food intake.
Neuropeptide Y also promotes increased metabolic activity – a clear signal that your body is ready to get started on digesting whatever you’ve consumed.
The absence or scarcity of nutrients in the body brings about a sense of hunger. So, for example, if you go for a long period without eating, this triggers ghrelin production to let you know that it is time to eat.
Your hunger levels are at their highest in between meals and just before going to bed. Hence, this is the time when ghrelin levels are at their highest and you have an intense desire for food.
Fasting leads to a rapid fall in blood sugar levels (due to lack of carbohydrates), which results in increased production of ghrelin as the body thinks that it is entering starvation mode.
When blood sugar levels are high, there is less ghrelin production to avoid further insulin release and reduce obesity-related risks due to elevated blood glucose.
Ghrelin spikes after a meal in response to food intake, but it can go up even further if you have eaten too much. This causes an increase in insulin secretion by the pancreas and converts the excess glucose into fat. The extra calories get stored as body fat for future use.
The ghrelin level is at its lowest point during intermittent fasting, before meals, pregnancy (for expectant mothers), and lactation (for nursing mothers).
How To Control Ghrelin Levels
Food intake is the single biggest factor that affects ghrelin levels. The amount you eat and drink and the type of food matter a lot in terms of its impact on your hunger level. This directly relates to controlling ghrelin levels by either raising or lowering them.
For example, drinking water before meals suppresses ghrelin levels. In addition, water is a natural appetite suppressant, and since it contains no calories, water consumption before meals reduces your hunger level due to its zero-calorie content.
Eating small and frequent meals also helps in controlling ghrelin levels. When you eat large meals, the stomach takes at least 4-6 hours to empty enough for another meal due to its capacity. Your body goes into a semi-fasted state in this time frame because there is no food available for your body to process.
When you eat small meals with adequate frequency, the stomach empties more frequently, and your body doesn’t go into fasting mode.
Eating high-fiber foods helps in controlling ghrelin levels. Fiber fills you up quickly and increases satiety without adding lots of calories. Fiber also prevents blood sugar levels from spiking after a meal due to it being complex carbohydrates.
So pay attention to what you eat and drink as there is a lot you can do to control ghrelin levels in your body.
Dieting Tips For Controlling Ghrelin Levels
When you reduce your food intake, it may seem like the right way to lose weight but keep in mind that the secret behind effective and long-term weight loss is not just about reducing calories.
It’s also important to make sure that you eat foods that can control ghrelin levels, so you feel fuller, leading to a lower daily caloric intake.
Apart from maintaining a healthy diet, there are other factors that affect the level of ghrelin in your body.
Here are some tips on how you can keep your ghrelin levels under control:
- Drink water before meals to suppress ghrelin levels. Water contains no calories and drinking it before eating reduces your hunger and prevents overeating.
- Follow a high-fiber diet to control ghrelin levels and maintain body weight. Fiber comes in the form of dietary fibers that fill up your stomach quickly, suppressing your appetite and preventing overeating. In addition, the soluble fiber found in oats, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and nuts has prebiotic effects on gut microbiota and helps improve gut health.
- Avoid eating large portions of food at one time and eat smaller meals regularly to keep ghrelin levels under control. Eating small portions of food more frequently throughout the day keeps your metabolism running without allowing your body to go into starvation mode that would cause you to feel hungry all the time and overeat.
- Don’t skip meals as it may cause you to overcompensate when you eat and end up eating more than necessary. In addition, this would increase your body fat significantly if you’re going over your daily maintenance calories.
- Exercise regularly to help release enzymes that metabolize ghrelin and promote weight loss in the long run, like catecholamines, glucagon-like peptide, and peptide YY. They promote satiety for a longer period of time and prevent you from overeating after meals.
Tips For Women Who Want To Control Their Appetite Hormones
For women, maintaining hormonal balance and keeping the appetite under control is essential.
Here are some tips for women who want to keep their appetite hormones in check:
- Don’t skip breakfast as it suppresses ghrelin levels for longer due to higher energy demands from exercising, burning more calories during exercise. This means that you will end up eating less during the day and not necessarily reduce your total calorie intake.
- When you sleep, ghrelin levels drop, which causes you to wake up hungry in the morning. So eat a healthy snack before going to bed so you can wake up with more energy and feel energized throughout the day.
- Exercise regularly as it helps in weight loss and helps you maintain lean body mass. Weight loss is most effective when the body fat percentage is low, but your lean body mass doesn’t change significantly.
- Take care of yourself by eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and sleeping well at night to keep your appetite hormones balanced.
Tips For Men Who Want To Control Their Appetite Hormones
For men, it is also important to keep ghrelin levels under control.
Here are some tips to control appetite hormones for men:
- Have a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables to keep you energized throughout the day without feeling hungry.
- Drink plenty of water to control ghrelin levels and prevent overeating. Drinking water before meals helps you eat slowly and feel full faster, preventing overeating. You should at least drink 8 glasses of water per day for optimal health.
- Take a brisk walk for about 30 minutes every day to keep ghrelin levels under control and prevent overeating. It helps burn calories, lose weight, and feel energized throughout the day without consuming excess calories in your diet.
- Train your brain to eat smaller portions and help you feel full in the long run. Eating small portions at one time helps keep ghrelin levels under control so that you end up eating fewer calories and don’t gain weight.
In summary, there are many strategies that could help you control your appetite hormones to keep ghrelin levels under control.
For men, it is important to have a healthy diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables. It’s also important for them to drink plenty of water and take a brisk walk for 30 minutes every day.
For women, it’s essential to exercise regularly, eat small portions, and sleep well at night.
Eating healthy foods rich in fiber and protein is essential to keep ghrelin levels under control. These strategies will help you achieve your goals of losing extra fat and maintaining lean body mass while burning more calories through exercise.
This will help you reduce weight significantly in the long run without feeling hungry all the time.
As you can see, the key to successful weight loss is not focusing on fad diets or taking expensive supplements but understanding how your appetite hormones work and keeping them under control.