Hunger is an important signal your body sends when you need sustenance. Eating food provides your body with the energy it needs to function and heal itself every day. Understanding how your brain regulates hunger can help you learn how to form a positive relationship with your body’s need for food to maintain your weight loss goals.
What Is the Hypothalamus?
The hypothalamus is one of many regions inside the brain. It is responsible for connecting two important and major systems in your body: the endocrine system and the nervous system. The nervous system sends signals back and forth between the body and the brain using electrical signals, which travel along nerves. Your endocrine system is a complex system of organs and glands that regulate many bodily processes. The hypothalamus regulates systems such as blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, waking and sleeping cycles, immune responses, sexual function, thirst, and hunger.
What Is the Hypothalamus’ Role in Hunger?
Regulating hunger is one of the many functions carried out by the hypothalamus. It is responsible not only for signaling the need to eat, but also for signaling the feeling of fullness. Hunger is regulated by the hypothalamus using two different chemical messengers, or hormones. These hormones are ghrelin and leptin. When your body needs food, ghrelin is released by the stomach and hypothalamus into the bloodstream, prompting feelings of hunger. The levels of ghrelin in the body drop after a meal. Leptin is responsible for feelings of fullness, and is released by fatty tissues when the body has had enough to eat. This hormone is detected by the hypothalamus, which signals you to stop eating. Because this process takes time, you may be full before you actually “feel” that you are finished.
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