Ghrelin: The Hunger Hormone

Ghrelin: The Hunger Hormone


Did you know which hormone makes you hungry? It is called the Ghrelin hormone. This hormone is released by your gut in your stomach. It travels through your bloodstream to your brain and signals hunger and seeks out food to satisfy the hunger. It is also known as the hunger hormone. It works with another hormone called leptin that’s produced when you are full after eating by providing a sense of satisfaction. Log on to to know more about weight loss. 

Ghrelin’s main function is to increase your appetite. However, it also affects your sleep/wake cycle, taste sensation, reward-seeking behavior, and carbohydrate metabolism. The hungrier you are, the more ghrelin hormone is released and the less hungry you are, the lower the hormone is released. For people who want to lose or gain weight, this hormone plays a significant role.  

Several factors affect the levels of the ghrelin hormone which also affects your appetite and weight.  

Functions of the ghrelin hormone 

Besides increasing your appetite or making you aware that you are hungry, the ghrelin hormone performs several other functions as well, such as: 

  • It promotes your fat storage.  
  • It also affects your insulin release.  
  • It activates your pituitary gland to release growth hormones.  
  • It helps your digestive system to move food from the stomach through small and large intestines.  
  • It plays a key role in protecting your cardiovascular health. 
  • It also slows your metabolism by increasing your appetite.  
  • It also plays a role in taste perception, but it’s unclear how that happens.  
  • It also affects your reward-seeking behavior by affecting dopamine.  

What triggers ghrelin levels to rise?  

Ghrelin hormone is released when your stomach feels empty. It mostly happens around your mealtimes, and then it starts decreasing shortly after your stomach is full.  

There has been a misconception that obese people have elevated levels of ghrelin, that’s why they eat more. But that’s not true because research shows that ghrelin levels are lower in people with obesity. However, other research shows that people with obesity have overactive ghrelin receptors, that increase calorie intake. So, it is still unclear whether obese people have overactive ghrelin or not.  

One thing is clear though if you start a weight loss diet, your ghrelin levels will increase as the body’s natural response is to protect you from starvation. As your appetite increases, your leptin levels decrease and your metabolic rate, especially when you restrict your calories for prolonged periods. That’s why it’s harder for people to lose weight, as hormones and metabolism try to regain the weight you lost. 

Factors that affect ghrelin levels 

Normally, ghrelin levels increase when your stomach is empty and decrease shortly after your stomach feels full. However, several factors also cause chronic low or elevated levels of ghrelin hormone. 

Low levels of Ghrelin 

While it’s not clear, obese people have lower ghrelin levels, but they are more sensitive to ghrelin. But this theory means individuals feel hungrier with low levels of ghrelin.  

Other conditions and diseases that cause low levels of ghrelin include:  

  • Functional dyspepsia 
  • Chronic gastritis 
  • H. Pylori infection  
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

Elevated levels of ghrelin 

People have elevated levels of ghrelin usually when they restrict their caloric intake suddenly (such as starting a restrictive weight loss diet) because the body’s natural response is to manage your weight to prevent you from starvation. Other natural biological and genetic conditions which increase the levels of ghrelin are: 

  • Anorexia nervosa.  
  • Celiac disease 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease 
  • Cachexia 
  • Prader-Willi syndrome 

What to do to keep the ghrelin levels in check?  

Ghrelin is not the hormone you can manage with drugs, supplements, and diets.  

But there are several factors you can follow to keep your ghrelin healthy and levels in check, such as:  

  • Avoid special diets such as fad or yo-yo diets where you can gain or lose weight frequently.  
  • Eat a healthy diet that contains healthy carbohydrates, such as whole grains and lean proteins, trans unsaturated fats, vitamins, and other nutrients.  
  • Avoid or consume very little processed foods, especially high sugar foods, and saturated fat food with excessive amounts of salt.  
  • Get enough sleep, at least 7 to 8 hours regularly.  
  • Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water or consuming water-filled foods such as fruits and vegetables.  
  • Manage your stress by stress coping techniques because it increases ghrelin hormone which can lead to eating disorders.  

Ghrelin is your hunger hormone which is released by your stomach to signal the brain that it’s time to eat. But it also helps with other functions as well; it plays a key role in hunger, appetite, and food intake, which is crucial to regulate your weight. You can keep this hormone balanced by maintaining a healthy lifestyle by following the above-mentioned tips.  

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