“Why am I so hungry when I am morbidly obese?”. This is one of the most commonly asked questions from my obese patients. They often come to me feeling like a failure because they can’t follow the weight loss advice of their physician to “just eat less food”. This is extremely difficult to do when you are always hungry. What could possibly be creating these feelings of hunger?
There are primarily two hormones that tell us when we are hungry and when we are full; ghrelin and leptin. Leptin is produced by fat cells; it turns on the signal that tells us we are full and turns off the signal that tells us we are hungry. Ghrelin is produced by stomach cells; it turns off the signal that tells us we are full and turns on the signal that tells us we are hungry.
Obese individuals typically have high levels of leptin and low levels of ghrelin. Over time this leads to a firm of insensitivity to leptin and hypersensitivity to ghrelin.
So what does this mean? The brain is almost constantly receiving a signal that the body is hungry and rarely receiving a signal that body is satisfied. If you are overweight and are experiencing constant feelings of hunger, even after you have recently eaten, I encourage you to talk to your physician about having your serum leptin levels and serum ghrelin levels checked.
So what can be done to correct this imbalance? There are many sources that list a variety of supplements that can be used to balance out leptin and ghrelin levels. however, this approach treats the symptoms rather than the cause; an imbalance in these two hormones suggests that there is malfunction going on within other parts of the body. Supplements may help these two hormone levels fall or rise into a “normal” range for a short period of time, but if you aren’t treating the root cause it is likely that eventually you will need to take higher and higher dosages in order to keep them in a “normal” range. The cause of this malfunction within the body will vary from person to person, it could be anything from a parasite infection to leaky gut. We’ll be talk about parasite infections and leaky gut in an upcoming blog post. So stay tuned!
Dr. J. Renae Norton is a clinical psychologist, specializing in the outpatient treatment of obesity and eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, bulimarexia, and binge eating disorder (BED) and the Director of The Norton Center for Eating Disorders and Obesity in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the Director of The Norton Center for Eating Disorders and Obesity in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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