What insulin has to do with hunger?
I guess you know that feeling that comes after finishing a meal rich in carbohydrates. We finished eating lunch and half an hour later we are hungry again and feel weak and shaky. The next step will usually be a quick walk to the fridge or pantry trying to get an energy boost from a piece of chocolate, cookie or even nuts only to feel hungry again shortly after. Quite a few people make themselves a caffeinated drink on that occasion. The craving for coffee often results from a disruption in the daily energy balance. A healthy and metabolically flexible person will probably not suddenly have cravings for coffee. When we are not metabolically healthy, situations of energy deficiency may arise in the cell and thus also in the body. The sudden desire for a cup of coffee just to get a short boost of energy often stems from the signals the brain sends to signal to us that the body is in an energy crisis.
I believe that everyone can relate to this situation at some point in life. In this article I will explain the relationship between insulin and feelings of hunger as I know this relationship personally and I will try to connect the explanation to the other hormones that affect the feelings of hunger and satiety besides insulin.
Insulin is a peptide hormone produced by beta cells in the pancreatic islets and is considered one of the most important anabolic hormones in the body. The role of insulin is to allow the cells of the body to absorb glucose to be used for available energy or to store glucose as fat in the body. When we have finished eating and the blood sugar level rises, the pancreas releases insulin to help the liver, muscle and fat cells absorb the sugar. Insulin has many other functions, but its main function is to balance blood and cell sugar levels.
Leptin and ghrelin
Two hormones that are known to play an important role in balancing energy levels in the body. The role of leptin “the satiety hormone” is to regulate the energy balance by suppressing food intake and thus it also indirectly encourages weight loss. Ghrelin, the “hunger hormone”, has the opposite action of leptin and its activity time is faster. With the release of ghrelin, the body signals us that it is time to introduce new sources of energy into the body.
The insulin level rises as a response to the rise in blood sugar levels at the end of a high-carbohydrate meal. After the insulin has finished regulating the blood sugar levels, the leptin levels will rise to signal that we have enough energy and there is no need for additional food consumption. The action of leptin will cause a slower absorption of insulin and then gradually reduced insulin production. Thus, leptin and ghrelin rise and fall throughout the day according to the activity of insulin and according to changes in blood sugar levels.
Relationship between insulin and hunger mechanism to the metabolic syndrome
All body systems affect each other and depend on each other. When insulin rises and falls throughout the day as a result of eating large amounts of carbohydrates, a vicious cycle is created that disrupts the natural secretion of hormones in the axis: leptin-ghrelin-insulin-thyroid hormones-stress hormones. When insulin rises and falls over time, instability will occur which over time may cause resistance to some of these hormones. One resistance that has become relatively “famous” is insulin resistance. Prolonged resistance to insulin and insulin that rises and falls throughout the day may eventually cause erosion of the production and regulation of insulin amounts by the pancreas and an increase in the amount of insulin in the blood. High insulin in the blood over time leads to problems such as: obesity, metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes and most of the diseases of the modern world in which we live.
In my opinion, there is only one way to get out of this vicious cycle and that is a controlled restriction of carbohydrates to the amount that is correct for each and every one’s physical condition depending on the medical condition, metabolic status, age and other factors. A professional should be consulted who can assess the level of carbohydrate tolerance and the efficiency of the insulin response.
On a personal note
I know from experience that when my blood sugar drops even a little below 80 let’s say 70 I can feel a sudden pang of hunger. Could it be that these small changes are the ones that control the hunger mechanism in our body? Could this be the only reason we humans feel hungry in nature?
The balance of hunger and satiety in the body is balanced when we switch to a diet in which we limit the amount of carbohydrates from food, provided that we do it correctly by providing the body with the full spectrum of nutrients required to function, without starving ourselves, without forcing ourselves to fast and without forcing ourselves to eat.
One of the least understood mechanisms in the body in my eyes is the mechanism behind the feeling of hunger and satiety.
After I measure the blood sugar and the glucometer shows a value of 70 mg/dl, I correct with one glucose tablet and at the same moment that the sugar climbs back to 85 mg/dl, the hunger disappears. The obvious question is:
Is there real hunger in nature?
Or could it be that every feeling of hunger in us and in the whole mammal family is a direct result of mild hypoglycemia?
It is possible that we will never feel hungry if we do not eat for a few days and with the help of a correct dose of external or internal insulin we will be able to keep the blood sugar at a level of 85 mg/dL without fluctuations?
These are questions that come to my mind from time to time. There is a need for qualitative studies that will investigate this issue in order to answer the same questions.
Go to my full article on diabetes.
*The information on this website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The said information is intended for informational purposes only and stems from personal experience. The text is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any specific disease or medical condition. Reviews and testimonials about nutrition, training and various health approaches represent individual experiences and what is stated on the site does not guarantee any results for your specific situation. Any choice of a specific way of eating or medical treatment according to a given situation should be made under the guidance of professionals qualified to do so.