If you’ve ever felt that urge to open the refrigerator and want to eat at all hours, you already know what ghrelin is about.
Ghrelin is also known as the hunger hormone because it is the crucial element that your body has to tell your brain that it is time to eat.
When ghrelin levels in the blood increase, like someone who lights a light bulb, your brain activates neurons related to appetite and gives the order to start looking for food.
This mechanism is as old as our species, and ghrelin plays a vital survival control role in regulating the amount of food you eat.
Read on to find out all about this hormone and how to increase or decrease ghrelin to achieve nutritional values.
What is ghrelin and what is its function?
Ghrelin or leuprorelin is a hormone – multifunctional protein produced mainly in the stomach.
It is also secreted by the small intestine, pancreas, and brain in small amounts.
The name of the hormone is based on its function as a growth hormone-releasing peptide, referring to gʰre-, which in PIE means “to grow.”
Ghrelin fulfills not only the function of regulating appetite but also participates in intestinal motility, metabolism, and the release of other hormones, such as growth hormone or insulin.
Ghrelin was isolated and discovered in 1999 by Kojima, Kanagawa, and their colleagues as an endogenous receptor-ligand capable of stimulating the release of growth hormone.
A year later, Heiman and Tschöp discovered that ghrelin acts in the brain to regulate food intake, body weight, adiposity, and glucose metabolism.
Subsequently, numerous central and peripheral functions of ghrelin were described, including stimulation of intestinal motility and gastric acid secretion, sleep modulation, taste sensation, and reward-seeking behavior.
When does ghrelin increase?
Ghrelin levels generally rise during fasting hours or before a meal, when your stomach is empty. Soon after, when your stomach is complete, they decrease.
Also, ghrelin levels spike and make you hungry when you start a diet. This is a natural response of your body, trying to protect you from starvation.
These adaptations can make it much more difficult to lose weight and keep it off for obvious reasons.
Your hormones and metabolism adjust to regain all the weight you lost or reduce the weight you gained.
One would expect higher levels in people with obesity. However, ghrelin levels are usually lower in people with higher body weight than lean people.
This suggests that ghrelin is not a cause of obesity, although there is evidence that obese people are more sensitive to the hormone. (3)
How to lower ghrelin?
If you permanently maintain very high or shallow ghrelin values, your hunger sensation is likely to get out of control.
The higher your levels, the hungrier you will be. The lower your grades, the fuller you will feel, and the more difficult it will be to eat.
So if you want to stay healthy, you should try to achieve normal ghrelin levels.
How to do it? While it appears to be a hormone that cannot be directly controlled with medication or supplement levels; There are a few things you can do to help maintain healthy ghrelin levels:
- Improves Sleep Quality – Poor sleep increases ghrelin levels and increases hunger and weight gain.
- Increase muscle mass: higher amounts of muscle mass or lean muscle are associated with lower levels of ghrelin
- Eat more protein and fiber: A diet rich in protein and fiber increases satiety and reduces hunger. One of the mechanisms behind this is a reduction in ghrelin levels.
- Cut down on sugar and other refined carbohydrates. These foods lead to an abrupt imbalance in the hormones related to hunger: ghrelin and leptin.
- Avoid extremes of weight: both obesity and anorexia alter the levels of this hormone.
- Cycling calories: periods of higher calorie intake can reduce the number of hunger hormones and increase leptin.
Ghrelin is a hormone produced in the stomach and is critical in regulating hunger.
The primary function of ghrelin is to increase your appetite. It makes you eat more food, take in more calories, and store fat.
Other functions are to help increase gastric motility and gastric acid secretion.
Ghrelin levels are highest before meals when hungry and lower after meals.
If your ghrelin levels are chronically high, you can try to lower them, such as sleeping better, cycling calories, reducing sugar, and increasing muscle mass.