Ghrelin is a hormone secreted by your stomach that tells your brain you are hungry. When your body requires more nutrients, it secretes this hormone to make you aware of its needs by making you hungry, and stays there until the needs are fulfilled. Once you have eaten, it takes a while until the mechanisms to stop ghrelin release come into action. That is the reason why you always hear the recommendation to eat slowly. It is not only to break down the food better and give you a better digestion, but to give time to stop the feeling of hunger caused by this hormone. If you eat too fast, you don’t give it enough time so you keep eating and eating.
Ghrelin works to protect your body from famine. This is the objective of this hormone. Make you eat! And therefore, ghrelin is very insistent and persuasive. She is the one making you feel very hungry, like sickly hungry, when your stomach is empty. Not that feeling of, UMM, I would like to eat…. But, HEY, I am starving. That is the reason why it is recommended to never skip a meal, eat breakfast after the whole night fasting, and furthermore, eat a snack after 3-4 hours of your proper meal. We don’t want our Ghrelin levels to jump too high.
On the other hand, it has been discovered lately that perhaps Ghrelin also activates regions in your brain that make you desire food, like an obsession, something maybe even irrational. Those regions in your brain look similar to the ones linked to drug addiction. So it is being suggested that food can also work as a sort of addiction.
If we maintain a diet very low in calories, Ghrelin levels are always high, and sooner or later it will persuade us to eat wildly to cover our needs. It is possible that after depriving diets, Ghrelin levels increase, resulting in uncontrolled sense of hunger and therefore overeating after dieting. We need to maintain Ghrelin levels at a low level by eating enough in each meal and never having an empty stomach for too long by healthy snacking every three to four hours.
The only exception is at night, when Human Growth Hormone (GH) is released, because its activity is favored by high Ghrelin levels. This is the reason why we have to eat two to three hours before going to sleep, to have our stomach almost empty and let HGH rise and do its very beneficial duty.
So, in the last two posts of the series "more about hormones"we have seen how important it is to keep leptin and ghrelin in balance, between feelings of hunger and being sated. Some explanations of how it works and how to manage them under control have been covered. They share in common the need of a proper sleep to maintain their equilibrium and maintain right glucose levels during the day by eating adequate snacks every three to four hours.