Hunger Hormone—Cholecystokinin (CCK)
The hunger hormone CCK is balanced by a combination of omega-6s and 9s:
Pine nuts and pine nut oil
As the most concentrated energy source, Smart Fats release the hormone CCK signaling a short-term urgent intense message of satiety. Without that particular message, we will continue to feel hungry and dissatisfied after a meal. What happens when you reduce or eliminate the hunger-reducing Smart Fats from your diet is your brain does not receive a message of satiety, and while your stomach may be stuffed, you do not feel satisfied.
Understanding the process of satiety enables us to see why people on low-fat diets chronically complain of feeling full, but not satisfied. They eat large quantities of food—food low in fat, but not always low in calories—and are left a short while later feeling hungry. Then they reach for a low-fat snack, typically one laden with sugar and refined carbs, which sends them for a ride on the glucose roller coaster. This is yet another vicious cycle that dieters became trapped in when they tried to adhere to the false gospel of the fat-free diet.
The body has developed finely tuned message centers that communicate all sorts of information about our physical status. When we eat even a relatively small quantity of Smart Fats, the stomach releases the hormonal CCK message to the brain, signaling both fullness and satiety. The brain receives the message and, if we are listening, we register the message of satisfaction and stop eating. When you begin to add the Smart Fats back into your diet, you enable your body to send clear messages to the brain. You eat. You are full. You are satisfied. Depending on the amount of fat you have eaten with your meal, you usually will not feel hungry again for four to six hours. When you do get hungry, it’s time to eat again. How cool is that?
Smart Tip: CCK
Here’s my favorite way of satisfying CCK.
Pine for pine nuts and pine nut oil. The clinical studies have shown that the pinolenic acid in pine nuts can increase satiety hormones like CCK by more than 60 percent. It can also decrease appetite by about a third In addition, it is extraordinarily helpful in healing the entire digestive tract including the stomach lining. Take one teaspoon 20 minutes before each meal to protect your gastrointestinal lining and enhance metabolism by controlling appetite.
The hunger hormone Leptin is balanced by omega-3 oils:
Fatty fish and fish oils
While CCK is the urgent messenger, leptin is a long-term chemical messenger for your appetite. If you never feel quite satisfied after a meal, then your leptin is too low and somewhere out in left field. High leptin levels are the ticket to speedy slimming and when this hormone is signaling correctly, it should actually decrease your appetite.
As a key appetite hormone, it would stand to reason that levels of leptin should be lower when you’re thin and higher when you’re overweight. So you would think that overweight people would have less of an appetite, but this isn’t how it seems to work.
People that are overweight and have high leptin levels somehow don’t get the signal to stop eating and stop storing fat. They develop a condition called leptin resistance, which is similar to insulin resistance where the body is no longer sensitive to the appetite-decreasing effects of leptin.
Both leptin and insulin resistance are triggered by an excess of refined carbs, sugar—especially fructose (fruit sugar)—and not enough exercise or sleep and too much stress. Leptin resistance, however, is especially frustrating when it comes to long-lasting fat loss because it has a habit of actually increasing the level of visceral fat, the fat that is deep within the abdomen.
Luckily, the Smart Fat fix is nearly identical to that of ghrelin.
Ghrelin, like the hunger hormone leptin, is also balanced by omega-3 rich oil:
Fatty fish and fish oils
Ghrelin, the appetite-stimulating hormone made by the pancreas and stomach, plays a major role in body weight and is kept in check by foods that provide the omega-3 essential fatty acids. Levels are lower when you are thin and higher when you are fat. Typically, levels should increase before meals and then decrease after eating.
But, if you are constantly hungry, it’s probably due to those high ghrelin levels—which can become elevated thanks to stress, skipped meals (especially breakfast), restrictive dieting and lack of sleep. Sound familiar?
When ghrelin rises, it activates the hunger control center of your brain, which triggers cravings for salty, sweet, and fatty foods. So when you should be resting and resetting this hormone, the ghrelin in your system is pining for foods that will ultimately make you gain weight.
From a dietary standpoint, the Smart Fats from the omega-3 rich fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies, and mackerel) as well as EPA and DHA rich fish oil can stabilize both your leptin and ghrelin levels by helping to balance brain chemistry. Since more than 60 percent of the brain is made from fat (primarily the ones that cannot be synthesized by the body, but must be eaten in the form of foods), I would say that these omega-3s are pretty darn important to trigger specific brain receptors, which control leptin and ghrelin. This is one supplement worth taking!
Smart Tips: Leptin and Ghrelin
How can you repair your leptin barometer and satisfy the hunger gremlin called ghrelin?
1. Go fish or pop a healthy dose of omega-rich fish oil every day. Fish has always been known as “brain food.” If you’re not crazy about the fatty fish that you should consume two to three times per week, then you are a candidate for the lemon or orange flavored fish oil liquid and softgels. This surprisingly tasty fish oil can be popped into your smoothie, drizzled on popcorn or used as a mild and delicate salad oil basic.
2. Avoid foods high in fructose, which stimulate the appetite and scramble leptin signals. Obvious offenders are processed foods and drinks that contain high fructose corn syrup, but you should also cross-reference a list of higher fructose fruits. Less obvious high fructose sources are whole foods like tomatoes, unsweetened applesauce, agave and balsamic vinegar.
3. Don’t skip meals—but especially not breakfast. Eat a protein-packed breakfast within one hour of waking. This will help you to lose weight and ward off insulin resistance, as well as balance all four of your hunger hormones. Study after study has proven that individuals who skip breakfast are well over 100 percent more likely to be overweight or obese. Protein-rich breakfasts like smoothies, or bacon and eggs, or turkey sausage and veggies will go a long way in getting your day off to the right start.
4. Strengthen your vagus nerve, which you will be hearing more and more about in the near future. The vagus nerve is the direct connection between your brain and every system in your body. It is a signaling pathway for leptin hormones. When you have leptin resistance, the signals aren’t being received correctly. One way to help reset your leptin receiver is to strengthen your vagus nerve. How can you do that? One fun way is gargling. You can just use plain water. Take a sip and gargle with it before swallowing, continue doing this with your entire glass of water. Gargling forces the muscles in the back of the throat to contract and this action activates and strengthens the vagus nerve.
5. Practice good sleep hygiene. Remember the sleep tips I shared in the Stress article to reduce cortisol? Those same suggestions apply to reset your hunger hormones. And, while so many of us glorify our sleeplessness like it’s something to be proud of, I have even more information to convince you otherwise. So, if I repeat myself, you’ll understand why. Again, try to be in bed by 10 pm and aim for about seven to nine hours. While the very highest quality sleep comes before midnight, the National Institute of Health reports that the body does its primary physical repair between 10 pm and 2 am. Interestingly, this is the same time when growth hormone is secreted which helps to keep us lean and vital. The mind regenerates between the hours of 2 am and 6 am. If you have intermittent awakening which disrupts peaceful sleep, take these insights from Traditional Chinese Medicine into consideration: If you are waking up between the hours of 11 pm and 1 am, your gallbladder may be acting up. If it’s between the hours of 1 am to 3 am, this may mean your liver is congested. And, if you wake up between 3 am to 5 am, your lungs and/or large intestine may need some TLC.
Unplug and disable all Wi-Fi equipment in your bedrooms like computers, iPads, cell phones, routers, and alarm clocks. The electromagnetic fields that all electrical and digital devices emit can slash melatonin—the antioxidant-like hormone, which regulates our sleep-wake cycle—and spike fat-storing cortisol.
Still Hungry? There are all kinds of appetites, so in the next article we’ll discuss how Smart Fats—like those from the essential fatty acids—can benefit the sex hormones, including the hormone of desire, and help get your libido back on track.
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS
Visionary health expert Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, has always been a trendsetter. With millions of followers nationwide, she has the uncanny ability to pinpoint major health concerns and provide solutions years ahead of anybody else.
Highly respected as the grande dame of alternative health and award-winning author of 30 books, she single-handedly launched the weight loss/detox revolution in her New York Times bestseller The Fat Flush Plan. A Connecticut College and Teachers College, Columbia University graduate, Dr. Ann Louise was recognized as one of the top ten nutritionists in the country by Self magazine and was the recipient of the American Medical Writers Association award for excellence. She has been a popular columnist for First magazine since 2003.