Everyone has to eat. Some eat because of hunger; some eat for satisfaction; some eat for social norms. There are so many reasons from the smell of food to stress, exercise or even medications. When we are hungry, our bodies produce signals. These signals come in the form of “hunger pains or pangs”, that gnawing sensation that can even be somewhat painful and is relieved only mostly when we eat. Within these body cues, we also experience tricky signals called cravings. Cravings can be so powerful. Sometimes those cravings force us to do all kinds of crazy things to our bodies.

We have thousands of reasons for giving in to those cravings, but why do we really feel hungry? Is this pain real and is it dangerous? A hunger pain is a low-grade discomfort that is can be strong enough to notice. Some people do experience hunger pains that are somewhat sharp and bothersome. The most common origin of hunger pains is the fact that you may not have consumed enough food or drink for an extended period of time. This is when the muscle contractions begin to occur when the stomach has been empty for several hours. As the contractions take place, the sensation may be somewhat unpleasant and interpreted as pain. When this is the reason behind the hunger pains, we just cannot seem to control that discomfort.

There can be other medical symptoms that cause hunger pains such as people who suffer from blood sugar issues both low and high. The lack of a proper amount of glucose in the blood causes the stomach contractions to begin. Usually, the contractions are mild at first, but become increasingly stronger until the individual consumes something that provides the right type of carbohydrates to restore a safe glucose level.

Can we actually resist eating? Our genes are designed to feel hunger and fight for food. The secret is derived from our brain. The hypothalamus in our brain regulates hunger by communicating between the brain and body. During fasting, a hormone called Ghrelin, the “hunger hormone”, is released from the stomach, and our nerve system can sense this signal and push our body to eat by increasing our appetite. What if there is too much Ghrelin in our body? Bon appetite? Then people will increase their appetite and definitely GAIN WEIGHT! Wow, for many it is scary to think about the effect of having too many Ghrelin hormones.

Don’t worry! Our body has a counterpart hormone called Leptin, which can help us stop eating. Leptin means “thin”. The effects of Leptin were first observed on Leptin-mutant obese mice in Jackson laboratory in Bar Harbor Maine in 1950. Lacking Leptin, mammals continue to eat, which induces obesity. Leptin is released from fat tissues after fed, and acts on receptors on the hypothalamus, which results in reducing our appetite and regulating our metabolism effectively.

It’s good news that our body has Leptin to tell us a stop eating when we are full, but we still need to know and take actions on what’s the best meal size for everybody, because, sometimes, we are guilty of indulging and eating too quickly or too much. So whether you experience hunger pains because of blood sugar inconsistency or just because you really do need to eat… try the small meals approach. It will keep your moods at bay and will hopefully keep your weight in check too.

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