How To Stop Feeling Hungry All The Time

How To Stop Feeling Hungry All The Time

When it comes to optimal body composition, getting your appetite under control is a deal breaker. Yet very few people are familiar with the factors that impact appetite and eating.

This article will review the research on how the body manages hunger and provide suggestions to help you stop feeling hungry all the time.

What is Hunger?

Feelings of hunger arise when your gastrointestinal tract “tells” your brain that it needs nourishment. When empty, your stomach experiences contractions, which remind you to eat. Then, the hormone ghrelin is released from the GI tract.

Ghrelin stimulates appetite and causes the release of brain transmitters that amplify the hunger effect. Ghrelin also acts on the limbic system, which is the reward center of the brain. This is important because in addition to physical hunger, you also experience an emotional hunger. Ghrelin contributes to the formation of “food memories,” which are good feelings you associate with eating pleasurable foods.

What is Satiety?

Satiety is the opposite of hunger. It suppresses hunger and gives you the feeling of fullness and satisfaction from eating.

The GI tract plays a primary role in helping you manage hunger. Cells in the stomach and intestines send out signals to the brain that regulate food intake and satiety. These signals are key in helping you manage food intake so that you don’t overeat calories.

There are two primary ways that the body regulates hunger:

1. Filling the stomach with food or liquid triggers satiety and suppresses appetite.

2. Nutrients reaching the intestines cause the gut to release chemicals that blunt hunger and lower food intake.

Satiety in the Stomach is Volume Dependent

As your stomach fills with food, it distends, which dulls appetite and sends a signal of fullness to the brain. Studies show that the minimum amount to have a hunger-reducing effect is around 400 ml (13 ounces or 1.5 cups). For example, simply inflating a 400 ml balloon in the stomach will reduce food intake and hunger. Of course, this is not practical, but it’s recommended that each meal aim to provide this volume of food and liquid. This is easily done with whole foods, but gets a lot harder if you are eating processed foods like potato chips and other sweets that are low density but highly caloric.

Intestinal Satiety is Nutrient Dependent

After food leaves the stomach, it enters the gut, which “senses” the incoming nutrients and sends out satiety signals to the brain. Exposing the small intestine to nutrients leads to release of the following hormones that reduce food intake:

1. CCK is released from the GI tract in response to protein foods. CCK also slows how quickly food moves through the stomach, targeting the brain and reducing hunger and food intake.

2. Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is released by the small intestine in response to fat, protein, and carbs. It has a satiety effect and leads to a reduction in food intake. One study found that GLP-1 could be increased by a 400-mL (225 kcal) protein drink, but not by 400 mL water administered 20 minutes prior to a test meal.

3. Peptide YY is released by the small intestine after eating in proportion to the amount of incoming calories. Fat is the most potent macronutrient to stimulate peptide YY, followed by carbs and protein.

4. Serotonin is a “feel good” neurotransmitter that promotes fullness and satisfaction. It is made from the amino acid tryptophan and decreases rate and duration of eating so that you consume fewer calories. Foods high in tryptophan include most proteins, including eggs, turkey, salmon, and nuts.

Activating the GI’s Ileal Brake Reduces Hunger By 80 Percent

When food reaches one particular part of the gut, called the ileal brake, it leads to a substantial reduction in hunger and food intake. Studies show that chronic ileal brake activation, through surgery, can lead to massive weight loss. Certain foods, particularly carbohydrates and fat, activate the ileal brake.

Activating the ileal brake is so effective at lowering appetite because it slows digestion, reducing gastric acid secretion and slowing how quickly food leaves the stomach and the small intestines. This leads to the release of the hunger-reducing hormones mentioned above that signal satiation in the brain. Surgical studies that activate the ileal brake have shown a decrease of 80 percent in calorie intake at 1 month and 45 percent decrease at 1 year.

Activating the Vagus Nerve With Mindful Eating Increases Satiety

At first glance, mindful eating may seem like a pipe dream. But new research shows that when the vagus nerve is stimulated during eating, it enhances satiety and lowers food intake. The vagus nerve is involved in the “rest and digest” parasympathetic system in the body. When it is activated it, you experience a calming effect and your body engages in digestion, repair, and recuperation from stress, which dominates the opposing “fight or flight” state.

Meditative activities including deep breathing and slow, mindful eating stimulate vagus nerve firing. At the same time, when the food you’ve eaten reaches the intestines, it leads to the release of a neurotransmitter known as 5HT that blunts food intake and further activates the vagus nerve.

Take Aways:

Prioritize high-quality proteins that will lead to the release of hunger-reducing gut hormones, including CCK, GLP-1, and serotonin.

Because satiety is strongly related to the weight of the food consumed, choose lower density, higher “volume” foods to achieve the 400 ml weight threshold per meal. Whole foods, including vegetables, fruit, whole proteins, healthy fats, and nuts, are your first priority. Drinking a glass of water before eating may also help.

Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly to give nutrients the time to reach the intestines and send the “fullness” message to the brain.

Although refined foods and processed carbs should be avoided, including complex carbs promotes the release of peptide YY to signal fullness in the brain.

Use Hara Hachi Bu, a Japanese approach to eating, that tells you to eat until you are 80 percent full. Because it takes time for nutrients to reach the ileal brake, Hara Hachi Bu gives your brain the chance to catch up to how much you’ve eaten.

Prioritizing high fiber foods slows digestion and contributes to volume. Vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats like avocado are foods that are naturally high in fiber.

Practice mindful eating: Take deep breaths while eating, staying aware of your rating of hunger. Savor the meal and focus on taste, smell, texture, and color of your food.

 

References

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