I suddenly realised that it would be good to write about hunger and how to control it when I started writing about diets in general and Diabetic diet in particular. It is quite obvious that if someone can’t control his hunger, he won’t be able to control what he eats and therefore won’t be able to achieve his health goals. So quite often when you repeatedly fail in your attempts at controlling hunger, you just give up. So let us talk about what is hunger, why it happens and how it can be controlled.
Hunger is a sensation that represents the need to eat food. It is that uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your tummy that tells you that you need to fill your tummy with food. Satiety on the other hand is the absence of hunger and a feeling of fullness. Appetite is the desire to eat food.
It is said that hunger is essential for survival, development and evolution. If there was no hunger (as it might be in heaven), there would be no sadness, no misery, no greed, no ambition, no development, no competition, no lifestyle disease, no change, no migration, no violence etc etc.
So while hunger is essential for our own survival, like every other urge of the body and mind, it should be controlled for us to live happy healthy and fuller lives. Hunger management is most important for those trying to lose weight or for those living with diabetes. Let us look briefly at the hunger mechanisms and at things that one can do to control it.
HOW IT HAPPENS?
There are many different mechanisms by which we become aware of hunger. You can look at them as Gastric, Intestinal/hormonal, Neurological/ psychological and others.
Empty stomach increase hunger.
Increased Gastric acidity
High Glycaemic index foods
Low protein and fat in diet
Low ruffage/Fibre diet
Fast foods or anything that you eat out of a package or parcel foods.
Poor sleep can increase hunger (Ghrelin levels increase by 28% and Leptin reduce by upto 18%)
Life stress can increase hunger
Although exercise can increase hunger in the long term, exercising when hungry can make you forget your hunger.
Having an unsatisfactory meal can also trigger increased hunger.
Having too much alcohol the previous night and dehydration can increase hunger.
Insulin peaks after a high carb diet or sugary meal (especially in diabetics), cholecytokinin, Neuropeptide Y levels and increases Hunger
Low blood sugars even in non-diabetics can increase hunger.
Glucagon and Adrenaline reduce Hunger (during stress anger rage etc)
Leptins produced in fat cells reduce hunger. Leptin secretion increases with increased food intake and reduces with fasting or starvation.
Ghrelin produced by the stomach stimulates hunger.
Hyperthyroidism can increase your hunger.
Hypothalamus area of the brain controls hunger and strokes affecting the hypothalamus can cause uncontrolled hunger or reduce appetite depending on the part of the hypothalamus affected.
Dopamine induces satiety and reduces appetite
Serotonin also reduces appetite by acting via neuropeptide Y and Agouti related peptide (AgRP) and Pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC)
Thinking about food or smelling food or partying can increase hunger. Food is very closely associated with fun and friends.
Tricyclic antidepressants , steroids and antipsychotics increase hunger.
Suggested ways to combat Hunger
Fill your tummy with a large quantity of water when hungry.
Eat a healthy snack one hour before your meals.
Split your meals in 2 and have them 20-30 mins apart.
Avoid a high Glycaemic index meal. Avoid large deserts (cakes/ ice creams etc)
Incorporate more proteins/fats into your meal.
Chewing your meal well (15-30 chews of each mouthful) can reduce your hunger and food intake.
A meaty meal can suppress your hunger more effectively.
Plan your meal in advance. Take a healthy in-between meal snack.
Take in a large bowl of high fibre vegetables with every meal. Veggies slow down gastric emptying and therefore keep the stomach full for a longer period thereby suppressing hunger.
Avoid ultra-processed foods – the feel good/tasty/palatable foods!
Avoid high salt and sugar contains foods. This would include virtually all fast and processed foods. (nearly everything that is not cooked at home on a regular basis)
Contact your doctor for any medication that could help you reduce your appetite. Metformin/ Liraglutide/ Setmelanotide can be useful in helping you manage your hunger.
The following natural foods are believed to be able to suppress Hunger!
Fruits and Vegetables
Avocados in moderate quantities
Apples – rich in pectin and fibre
Green leafy vegetables
I hope that the information given above is of some use to you. My intention is not to write a comprehensive all including essay on hunger but just to give you enough information to stimulate your curiosity to begin your own research into your hunger, to experiment and see what would work for you and to change your eating habits to achieve your best health.
A hundred years ago, the concept of food storage wasn’t existent in most parts of the world. People hunted and gathered food that they cooked immediately and ate (unless it was rice that was harvested and stored for a while). In today’s world, most of us in the city do not face food shortages as we have the means to store food for long periods. Our food culture has also changed so much that we have also started eating very high salt/sugar containing calorie dense foods that are very addictive. Having easy access to these addictive foods promotes this dependance and we end up eating more than we want, to put on more weight than we need and then suffer more from “lifestyle diseases” than we should.