All of us who are trying to lose weight, how we wish we had a “turn off” switch for hunger in the brain that we could manipulate whenever we wanted to shed some extra pounds! Well, it’s not a wishful thinking anymore and there’s no need to rely on medicines or magic pills to turn off this precious hunger switch. We can effectively manipulate the appetite-controlling area of the brain with enzymes, hormones, and proteins, which collectively form the complex hunger switch. A lot of hunger-regulating hormones which are secreted by the brain have receptors in the gut and likewise, a majority of appetite-suppressant hormones that are secreted from the small intestines have receptors in the brain and they communicate through neurons. These hormones carry appetite-suppressing messages from the nerve endings in the gut to the brain and vice versa. In the brain, particularly, in the hypothalamus region, these messages activate a circuit kind of setting that generates sensations of fullness and stop food cravings. Our brain, gut, and body coordinate through sensors in the way of neurons, hormones, and proteins to turn off and turn on the message and alarm system associated with appetite and food. In this post, we look at 14 Ways to Turn Off your Hunger Switch in the Brain.
What are the Appetite-Controlling Hormones Associated with Brain?
It is interesting to note that there are many different parts of the brain within the hypothalamus region of the brain and different hormones and proteins that control or regulate appetite. Let’s take a look at them:
1. There are a class of glial brain cells in the hypothalamus region of the brain, which helps to control appetite, and they are activated by certain nutrients which tell us to stop eating.
2. Some studies have also come across a hormone called asprosin that switches on some appetite-stimulating neurons and signals to turn off appetite-suppressing neurons.
3. Agouti-related protein-expressing neurons (AgRP) are neurons within the hypothalamus area of the brain that get activated when we are hungry. AgRP neurons form an alarm system that tell the brain when there is a lack of energy in the body and stimulate the appetite.
4. Tanycytes are glial cells are also located within the hypothalamus region of hte brain and they help to control body weight and energy levels. However, these cells signal satiety and fullness by detecting certain nutrients in food.
5. Cholecystokinin (CCK) is a hormone that is released from the gut and it sends signals to suppress appetite. This hormone has receptors both in the brain and the gut. Cholecystokinin helps to facilitate digestion within the small intestine. When we eat, our tummy tends to distend, releasing hormones such as cholecystokinin and peptide YY (PYY).
6. Peptide YY: This is a hormone found released in the gut with receptors both in the brain and the gut. PYY in fact can help reduce appetite.
7. Amylin: Amylin is a peptide hormone that is secreted from the pancreas along with insulin. While we hear a lot about insulin in blood sugar control, amylin is equally important to regulate appetite and balancing the blood sugar levels. It delays gastric emptying and helps one to feel full. Amylin helps to balance appetite, blood sugars, and insulin. Amylin is secreted alongside insulin by beta cells in the pancreas. This hormone decreases blood sugar, slows down digestion and increases fullness after a meal. Amylin’s main function is to prevent blood sugar levels from spiking too high after a meal.
8. Leptin is the satiety or fullness hormone that sends signal to the brain that you are “full” and have had enough food. Leptin and ghrelin (hunger hormone) usually work in unity, maintaining an optimum balance, ghrelin rising only when there is a need to replenish energy and leptin signalling when there’s enough calories and energy in the body. However, when leptin function gets impaired, leptin fails to send signal to the brain, and the body tends to pile on calories, uncertain of when to stop eating. Leptin resistance can also slow down your metabolism and increase ghrelin levels. All these factors not only prevents weight loss, they can make you gain weight with each meal. Leptin also pushes your body to burn stored fat to produce heat. This hormone also plays an important role in the regulation of thyroid gland, growth hormone, and adrenal glands. Deducing from the above data, we can easily say that leptin impairment can lead to weight gain and storing of extra calories as fat in the body. When a person is leptin resistant, it becomes very difficult to lose weight because the body is always in a state of hunger and does not realize that it has enough energy in the system. Yo-yo dieting, cortisol, free radicals all can affect leptin resistance.
9. Tyrosine is a protein that is a precursor hormones such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine and also norepinephrine and epinephrine. It’s a protein that boosts weight loss efforts.
10. Ghrelin: Ghrelin is released when the stomach is empty and stops when the stomach is stretched. fiber-rich foods do, because fiber-rich foods add weight to your stomach and actually cause that stretch and protein food also stretches. When the hunger proteins are activated they divert the food we eat to fat tissue rather than muscle. Not only are they hungry, but when they do eat, the food is converted to fat tissue rather than lean body mass. ghrelin sends signals to the hypothalamus in the brain telling our bodies it’s time to eat. The more ghrelin in the bloodstream, the bigger the appetite and likely, the more food you eat. Here are “20 Ways to Control Hunger Hormone Ghrelin to Lose Weight.”
11. Leptin: It’s the satiety hormone which basically sends signal to the brain when the tummy is full. On the other hand, “ghrelin,” which is called the hunger hormone sends signal to the brain that you are hungry, it basically stimulates the appetite.
12. Oleoylethanolamide reduces appetite, lowers cholesterol, and boosts weight loss. It is a hormone that is secreted by the cells in the small intestine. It carries appetite-suppressing messages from the nerve endings in the gut to the brain. In the brain, the message activates a circuit that generates sensations of fullness.
Additionally, brain hormones like dopamine and serotonin are the main regulators of food cravings.
How Ghrelin and Leptin work to Control Hunger?
Ghrelin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. Ghrelin is also called the hunger hormone because it triggers appetite and when someone says, they have a “huge appetite,” they usually have high levels of ghrelin. This hormone is secreted by the stomach, brain, and pancreas. When you have high ghrelin levels, you tend to feel hungry all the time and when leptin hormone becomes resistant, you continue to remain hungry. Leptin is the satiety or fullness hormone that sends signal to the brain that you are “full” and have had enough food. Leptin and ghrelin usually work in unity, maintaining balance, ghrelin rising only when there is a need to replenish energy and leptin signalling when there’s enough food in the body. However, sometimes, the function of leptin gets affected and even when you have had enough food, leptin fails to send signal to the brain, and you are piling up on calories, uncertain of when to stop eating. Leptin resistance can also slow down your metabolism and increase ghrelin (hunger hormone) levels. All these factors not only prevents weight loss, it can make you gain weight with each meal.
All these hormones and proteins form an sensor system in the body which decide when to turn on when there is a scarcity of food and energy and when to shut down when there’s adequate replenishment done. Tapping into these hormones and supplying them with adequate nutrients so that they perform their duties will help us have a control on our appetite and we can effectively switch off the hunger switch in the brain without overeating.
Ways to Turn Off your Hunger Switch in the Brain:
1. One of the most effective way to switch on satiety hormones like leptin and cholecystokinin is by consuming a small high-protein snack of about 100 calories, about 15 to 20 minutes before each meal so that the fullness proteins and enzymes get activated when you start your meal and you would feel full with just the right amount of food, and would not be piling on extra calories through more food.
2. Buffer up on zinc: Though we associate zinc with immunity, a deficiency of zinc can lead to impairment of hunger hormones and lead to weight gain. If you are not seeing any changes in your weight even with diet and exercise, it’s time to correct zinc deficiency naturally with legumes, dal, chickpeas (chole), pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, green peas, spinach, all of which have good amount of zinc in them.
3. No replacement for good-quality sleep: Lack of sleep, less than 7 hours, can significantly affect the function of hormones that control appetite and body weight. People who sleep for less number of hours have high levels of hunger proteins and hormones and they keep the hunger switch in the brain activated throughout the day, keeping you hungry and increasing your food cravings up through the day.
4. Eat most of your carbs in the early part of the day: Try to eat most of your carbs for breakfast and lunch, and skip having any carb for dinner. More carbs towards the evening can cause sharp blood sugar spikes, and most of those extra glucose and calories that are left unused, get stored as body fat.
5. Start your day with a high-protein breakfast: All our essential hormones that regulate appetite and weight loss love protein! When you start with a high-protein diet, it increases the level of appetite-reducing hormones such as leptin, cholecystokinin, andpeptide YY and reduces the amount of hunger hormone “ghrelin.” So, it’s a win-win situation for your weight loss goal when there’s a protein-rich breakfast in the morning because it will prevent food cravings away.
6. Foods Rich in Oleic Acid Promote Release of Appetite-Suppressing Hormone oleoylethanolamide from the Gut: Studies have revealed that oleic acid which is found in olive oil, avocado, and nuts helps to delay gastric emptying, increases CCK and PYY secretion.
7. Healthy fats in our diet stimulate oleoylethanolamide, which is a hormone which lowers appetite, boosts weight loss, and reduces cholesterol as well. Do not forget to include a handful of nuts, almonds, pistachios, cashew, walnuts in your diet to boost the secretion of this hormone.
8. Eat a diet rich in Fiber: A high-fiber meal helps in controlling appetite by slowing the movement of food through the gut. Since fiber has low glycemic index, it also does not spike up insulin and thus reduces the chance of extra calories getting stored up as fat in the body.
9. Avoid artificial sweeteners: Rather than being beneficial for weight loss, some artificial sweeteners are thought to behind unnecessary weight gain. They trick hormones that control appetite and hunger and cause a disarray in leptin-ghrelin ratio. Artificial sweeteners from diet cola and other sugar-free foods can elevate the levels of phenylalanine and aspartic acid in the brain. These can inhibit the synthesis and release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin which are all essential to regulate appetite and prevent overeating.
10. Avoid refined sugar/refined products: All refined products including white sugar cause sharp rise in blood sugar levels, which also leads to inflammation and impairment in the functioning of insulin, amylin, and other major hormones. Totally cut off sugar from your diet to balance out all appetite-regulating hormones.
11. Reduce Stress to Control the Hunger Switch: When there’s a high level of stress in the body, stress hormone “cortisol” gets secreted from the brain. When there’s too much of cortisol in the blood and for a relatively longer time, it switches on the activity of neurons in the hypothalamus region of the brain which controls appetite and as a result, you have that “I am hungry” feeling always.
12. Exercise Regularly to Keep Appetite-Regulating Hormones Happy: Our body likes activity, to be in a state of motion, and when we exercise, particularly cardio kind of workout like running, cycling, etc., the levels of hunger hormone decreases.
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14. Avoid sugar, soda, cola, packaged juices, and basically all liquid calories: They do not stretch the stomach lining and do not send satiety signals to the brain at the correct time even though there is an excess of calories in the system.
22 Foods that are Best to Turn off the Hunger Switch:
3. Red apples
4. All nuts including almonds, walnuts.
5. All varieties of beans, including kidney beans.
11. Dark chocolate.
12. Chia seeds
14. Milk, cheese.
15. Sweet potatoes
19. Pumpkin seeds.
20. Tahini/sesame seeds paste.
21. Macadamia nuts
22. Coconut milk.