Appetite – we all know this word and what it means. But how familiar are you with the Appestat mechanism? Doesn’t sound familiar? Well, we tend to lose control over this monster and end up binge eating or under eating but do you know what in your body is responsible for regulating appetite? Today, we will explore the science behind this and get to know the driver of this appetite engine, THE APPESTAT – a mechanism that primarily drives your hunger! Why exactly do we need to know this? Well, to get a little more control over your body processes that will only take you closer to better health.
What is the Appestat?
We all know that brain is the decision maker of the body. Every process in the body is a reaction to a decision made in the brain, as a result of the neurological function. And appetite is no different.
Appestat is basically a type of mechanism, that takes place in the hypothalamus of the brain, near pituitary gland. Now this mechanism is very important because it basically regulates the appetite in the body – it decides when and how much we eat.
How does it work?
It monitors your blood for nutrients and regulates appetite. Look at it this way – we tend to overeat junk food. Why does this happen? When we eat a chip (which has very less nutritional value) and the chip hits your bloodstream, the appestat wonders “Where are the nutrients?” So it waits for the nutrients, tells you what you’re eating isn’t enough and makes you eat more. But when we eat a healthy meal, it reads the blood and derives that there are sufficient nutrients and tells you that you are full for now.
Now the appestat mechanism also has a memory. It remembers the type of food you ate, when you ate and predicts your future eating, and pre-regulates the ‘hunger-hormones’ in an effort to maintain the nutrient levels in the body.
Therefore, with proper eating-habits, the appestat tells us when we’ve had enough to eat. It prevents us from overeating, which in turn regulates digestion and hormone-secretion. With erratic eating-habits, this clear memory doesn’t get registered and it cannot tell when we’ve had enough, as per the actual bodily requirements.
Why is it important to feed healthy memory to Appestat?
Erratic eating habits may happen due to various reasons (stressors and lifestyle) that affect our mental & physical health. Due to which, dysregulation of appetite can happen and this contributes to anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, cachexia, polyphagia (overeating), and binge eating disorders. Therefore, it becomes extremely crucial to keep the appestat mechanism and its two ‘hunger hormones’ in a healthy condition.
There are two ‘hunger hormones’ at play here – Ghrelin and Leptin. And it all comes down to managing the levels of these two in your body. Why? Leptin is a hormone, made by fat cells, that decreases your appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite, and also plays a role in body weight.
Here’s how they affect – Since leptin is made by fat cells (adipose tissue), it inhibits hunger when we have enough fat cells to provide us energy for all our physiological processes. Only when our fat cells deplete, leptin levels drop. However, it is interesting to note that in obese people, the high amounts of fat cells make them grow resistant to leptin and hence, there is no appetite inhibitor.
Ghrelin, on the other hand, is secreted in the lining of the stomach. The moment stomach gets empty, it sends signals to our brain to intake food. Hence, causing hunger. Ghrelin is high before you eat and low after you eat. So if you want to lose weight and eat less, you’ve to keep the ghrelin levels in check. Eating timely in limited quantities, ensures that the stomach never goes fully empty and spike up the ghrelin levels.
How to keep a check on Appestat and get Appetite under control?
While individually managing these two hormones seems like a lot, it is easier to keep a check on the type, time and quantity of food we intake. This food will in turn, do its job inside us and regulate these two hormones.
- Eat on time and have an eating schedule that you can stick to. This will tell your appestat that healthy food comes in regularly, so that it doesn’t go berserk with Ghrelin levels.
- Avoid fad diets (crash diets) as they may temporarily decrease leptin levels but over time, increase ghrelin levels and you end up eating more after the diet.
- Eat more protein and healthy fats
- Drink water before every meal
- Eat more high-fiber foods
- Exercise before a meal
- Switch to dark chocolate
- Eat some ginger
- Eat bulky, low-calorie foods.
- Eat more fibrous food. You may also add psyllium husk into your diet
- Lower your psychological stressors too (take lavender or chamomile tea regularly, engage in stress relieving activities)
- Be mindful of your eating. Eat only when hunger and don’t give into cravings
The goal is to ensure that the stomach stays full for a longer time (Low GI food) and it is timely compensated with limited yet ghrelin curbing food.
Hope this helps you in getting your appetite under control. Should you have any doubts or questions, drop them in the comments below and I will be happy to help you out!