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Hormones Important to Weight Loss & Digestion Part 2

Hormones of Hunger and Satiety and Timing of Digestion


In this science post we are continuing the conversation discussing the hormones that are involved in digestion and are important to weight loss.


We will be focusing on the hormones that are imperative to regulating our hunger and feelings of satiety, or what we at Weight Loss By Gina like to call, eating to satisfaction! We will also be looking at the concept of breakfast and how making it high in protein sets up our day for success. Finally, we will conclude our discussion on digestion by looking at how long it takes our bodies to process and digest the foods that we eat. All of these topics can give us more insight into the “rhyme and reason” behind the different tweaks and the organization of The Livy Method Food Plan, and how it promotes weight loss.


Hunger


In the science post The Migrating Motor Complex (MMC) and Hunger, we discussed how the feeling of “hunger” is a fairly complex concept that can be influenced by many things including physical/physiological, emotional, social, economic, and mental factors. In fact, many of us have lost touch with gauging hunger signals, or never really become in tune with them in the first place.


We discussed strategies for reconnecting with these signals such as journaling, using a hunger scale, revisiting the four mindfulness questions at every meal and snack. We also discussed the importance of being in the moment when you are eating, minimizing distractions, to really tune into your food and how it is making you feel!


Let’s dive in a bit deeper and look closer at the physiological processes that occur in our bodies that drive our feelings of hunger, but also lead to our feelings of satisfaction when we have eaten enough.


What are hormones?


Hormones are defined as a special substance produced in the body that contains “chemical messengers” that control and regulate the activity of certain cells or organs (Davis, C.P., 2021, March). They are secreted into the blood or extracellular fluid by one cell and in turn, alter the functioning of other “targeted” cells. These target cells may be in glands, tissues, and other cells. The target cells recognize the hormone circulating that is specific to it, and become a “receptor” allowing the hormone to activate it! In fact, many hormones are active in more than one physical process and may have multiple functions!


Many hormones are secreted by special glands and are essential for every activity of life, including the processes of digestion, metabolism, growth, reproduction, and our mood.


There are two types of glands. Endocrine glands, which are ductless glands that release the hormones they make directly into the bloodstream. These glands form part of what we know as the endocrine system. The other type of gland that is present in the body is called an exocrine gland (for example sweat glands and lymph nodes). These are not considered part of the endocrine system as they do not produce hormones, and they release their product through a duct.

Neurotransmitters, although not specifically hormones, are also special chemical messengers that help carry, promote, and balance signals between neurons (also known as nerve cells) and target cells throughout the body. Neurotransmitters are more specific to the central nervous system.


Neurotransmitters can also have strong influences on our hunger and satiety cues and signals!


Here is a great video that briefly talks about hormones and how they work in the body.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SPRPkLoKp8


This video explains the endocrine system for those that want to learn a little more about how it works!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER49EweKwW8


This video talks about how neurotransmitters travel across neurons in the body.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhowH0kb7n0&t=5s


Now that we understand a little more about how hormones and neurotransmitters work in our body, let’s talk about how these chemical messengers influence our hunger, satiety, and can influence weight loss!


Insulin


As we discussed in the science post Hormones Important to Weight Loss & Digestion Part 1-Insulin, the pancreas has a major role in digestion by producing and secreting digestive enzymes. However, it also produces the hormone insulin, which is responsible for regulating and storing glucose (a simple sugar that is broken down from food) in the muscles, liver, and fat cells, for later use when needed.


To recap, the beta cells in your pancreas monitor your blood sugar level every few seconds. When your blood glucose rises after you eat, the beta cells release insulin into your bloodstream. Insulin acts like a key, unlocking muscle, fat, and liver cells, so that glucose can penetrate them. Once inside, the cells convert glucose into energy to use right then, or store it to use later.


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