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Meet your Hunger Hormone

November 2019

Have you ever heard or ghrelin, also known as our hunger hormone? Ghrelin, amongst other things within the body stimulates our appetite. In our world of abundance, most people don’t allow themselves to get hungry (myself included, come at me snacks!). So you may not be familiar with how this hormone or its mate leptin work.

Ghrelins role in the body

Ghrelin is a protein released primarily by the stomach cells, it is a fast acting hormone. On a very basic level food should be considered as “energy”. When we eat we go into positive energy balance, so ghrelin is at its highest when we’re in negative energy balance – or in short, you’re hungry. Ghrelin works to regulate our food intake and maintain a stable body weight. This may be one reason why those trying to lose weight experience a yo-yo effect.

However, it also stimulates sleep. If you’ve ever overeaten and needed what I call a “fat-nap”, you can thank ghrelin. New mums or those who are not sleeping well may already be familiar with ghrelin and not even know it, it is due to this hormone that we reach for food when we are feeling tired.

What is Leptin?

You can think of leptin as the opposite of ghrelin. It is a protein released from our adipose tissue (fat stores) and the stomach cells. Leptin tells the brain and body that you have enough energy and to reduce/stop eating. The communication between your brain and stomach takes an average 20-30mins, so for leptin to communicate that you’re full, you will need to wait this long. When you reach the point of feeling full, stop and wait, give your brain time to get the signal. There is also research to consider that when energy is low, leptin levels also decline, and thus our metabolism declines in an effort to conserve energy. These two hormones act like two kids on a see-saw, one goes up the other goes down and vice versa.

Is Ghrelin good for us?

Yes ghrelin is a good hormone. It communicates with our growth hormone. Its discovery in 1999 has increased our understanding of feeding regulation, nutritional balance and our metabolic processors. On a simple level, you can use ghrelin as your trigger to eat. Instead of eating based on time of day (ohhhh it’s midday, it’s lunch time!), wait a little longer and allow this hormone to do its thing. Like everything, you can completely ignore and override these chemical messengers, but it is a good tip to learn what they are and how they work so you can start recognising your own body’s signals.

Until next time… x



Written by Jessica Worth, Nutritionist, Sydney, Northern Beaches, Mona Vale

Jess works with women just like you to provide clarity and guidance on nutrition for their body. She currently has a 21-day Reset running that guides you through 21 days of eating real food, you will not go hungry, instead you will feel energised to take on the day with mental clarity.

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