Eating is a natural part of life, but overeating can lead to weight gain and all the health problems that come with it. To maintain a healthy body weight, sufficient energy levels, growth, and other healthy body functions, food intake plays an important role.
One common question is how to control your appetite. Appetite plays a major role in the regulation of blood sugar levels, which can affect your energy levels, weight management, focus, and risk for prediabetes, diabetes, and other degenerative health diseases.
This article will explore 10 ways to modulate your appetite and how our hormones play a role in appetite control.
The Role of Hormones in Appetite Regulation
Our appetite is regulated by interactions between the brain and peripheral signals from hormones and nutrients. Insulin and glucagon are two hormones that work together to control how much we eat.
Insulin is a hormone that reduces blood glucose levels. When your blood glucose levels rise, your body releases insulin. This hormone tells your cells to take up glucose from the bloodstream so that it can be utilized or stored as energy.
Glucagon has the opposite effect. It increases blood sugar levels by stimulating the breakdown of glycogen (the form in which glucose is stored in the liver). Both hormones — insulin and glucagon — help to regulate blood glucose levels.
Blood glucose levels play a major role in regulating appetite. When blood glucose levels rise, insulin is secreted into the blood. Insulin has been shown to temporarily increase hunger, the desire for sweet-tasting food, and food intake. A spike in insulin levels after a high-carbohydrate meal may raise your appetite, especially for sugary foods.
Glucagon, on the other hand, suppresses appetite and induces satiety, possibly by reducing the levels of ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite and makes you feel hungry before meals. It works in concert with leptin, a satiety hormone that signals your brain to reduce your appetite when you’ve had enough to eat. Since glucagon lowers ghrelin levels, it reduces your appetite.
Blood glucose levels also influence the amount of leptin. High blood glucose levels have been shown to interfere with leptin production.
Research also shows that long-term elevated blood glucose levels can cause leptin resistance. Leptin resistance is a state where your brain’s responsiveness to this satiety hormone reduces. The brain becomes numb to leptin signals and fails to reduce your appetite, making you eat more. Leptin resistance is one of the ways excessive sugar intake can cause obesity.
Another hormone that plays an important role in appetite regulation is cortisol. Cortisol levels usually peak early in the morning, when the body’s metabolism is highest. Studies show that high cortisol levels directly increase food cravings and food consumption.
Now let’s understand the different measures you can take to better control your hormones and, therefore, your appetite.
How to Control Your Appetite in 10 Ways
It's no secret that weight gain, obesity, and food cravings are related to appetite control. To keep your health in check, you need to know how to control your appetite. Here are 10 science-backed approaches you can use.
1. Eat More Protein
A high-protein diet reduces appetite by promoting the feeling of satiety. If you feel fuller, fewer hunger hormones are produced and your appetite is kept in check. Also, since proteins are broken down slower than fats and carbs, you are likely to remain fuller for longer.
2. Drink More Water
Research shows that drinking plenty of water before meals reduces food intake. Water increases the feeling of satiety and reduces the feeling of hunger.
Water does this by stretching the walls of the stomach so that signals of fullness are sent to the brain. This stimulates the release of satiety hormones that suppress your appetite. Drinking water may also reduce your intake of sugar-containing beverages that cause food cravings.
3. Eat More Fiber
Adopting a high-fiber diet is another way to suppress your appetite.
First, fiber interacts with hormones that modulate your appetite. Studies show that soluble fiber can reduce the levels of hunger hormones, such as ghrelin. At the same time, fiber may increase satiety hormones, such as cholecystokinin.
Second, fiber slows down the transition of food through the gut. As a result, you end up feeling fuller for longer. If you’re seeking to manage your appetite, high-fiber foods, such as whole grains, are an awesome addition to your diet.
4. Exercise Frequently
Exercise is an effective appetite suppressant. Exercise decreases the levels of ghrelin, the appetite-boosting hormone, and also increases leptin levels.
Once the effects of exercise start to wear off, the urge to replenish lost energy kicks in. To manage your cravings after exercise, ensure you consume protein or fiber-rich foods that increase feelings of fullness.
5. Manage Stress Levels
Chronic stress raises your appetite by increasing food cravings. This can happen in two ways. One, stress stimulates the release of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol acts directly on the brain to increase appetite and makes you crave sugary, high-calorie foods, which results in a steep rise in glucose levels, further compounding your cravings.
Two, stress also causes an urgent need to stimulate the brain’s reward centers through neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. Increased sugar and calorie intake causes a spike in the levels of these neurotransmitters and counteracts the negative feelings. This is sometimes referred to as comfort eating or emotional eating.
To manage your stress levels, you can try regular exercise, meditation, or yoga. You can also limit caffeine intake or eat stress-relieving foods, such as garlic.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is a physiological process that affects the levels of nearly every hormone in the body. One of these hormones is the hunger hormone ghrelin.
Research shows that sleep quality and patterns influence ghrelin. Sleep deprivation is linked to high ghrelin levels, an increased sensation of hunger, and an appetite boost.
7. Ensure Proper Timing of Meals
Another effective way to time your meals is to align your eating habits with your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock that controls your sleep-wake cycle. Generally, your body’s metabolism is high early in the morning and reduces late in the evening just before bedtime.
Scheduling your meals around your body’s use of energy, or circadian rhythm fasting, can help you manage your appetite through improved insulin response and better sleep quality.
8. Practice Mindful Eating
The brain plays a major role in determining the amount of food we eat. Mindful eating involves creating awareness of the eating process, types of food you eat, how much food you eat, and natural cues of hunger and satiety.
Simply put, paying attention to your eating habits can prevent overeating and control cravings. For instance, one study showed that eating a huge meal in darkness led to a 36% increase in the amount of food consumed. Another study showed that mindful eating helps to control cravings and reduce binge eating and comfort eating tendencies.
9. Consume Natural Appetite Suppressants
Several foods can help you suppress your appetite. These foods either affect satiety levels or stimulate peripheral signals that cause the brain to reduce your appetite.
Natural appetite suppressants include:
- Green tea
- Dark chocolate
- Cayenne pepper
- Green veggies
- Sweet potatoes
Consuming these foods is one of the best ways to regulate your appetite since they also pack several other health benefits.
10. Take Supplements and Prescription Drugs
Supplements that suppress appetite include green tea extracts, garcinia cambogia, yerba mate, glucomannan, and many more. These supplements act through different methods to reduce your appetite.
In addition to supplements, the Food and Drug Administration has cleared several prescription drugs, such as semaglutide, to be used as appetite suppressants.
But before taking supplements or medications, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider.
Control Your Appetite for Good Health
Food intake can affect your energy levels, body weight, skin health, wellness, focus, and other bodily functions. The key to maintaining good health is limiting calories without feeling starved all the time. One way to do this is by knowing how to control your appetite.
By regulating hormones that control your appetite, such as insulin and glucagon, you can keep your appetite in check. From food choices to regular exercise, there are plenty of options available for you. Consider implementing some of these strategies to boost your health.
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