Ghrelin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract and pancreas whenever we’ve gone without food for too long. Its primary mission is to stimulate the brain to send the message that it’s time to eat. Naturally, once we submit to this command and take in some food, levels of this hormone begin to subside and our brain tells us that we’ve had enough. In fact, this is where the sensation of feeling full first stems from.
Unfortunately, enduring stress causes ghrelin levels to increase. Not only does this trigger the brain into thinking we need to eat more, but it also makes memory centers in the brain remember food better. In effect, increased production of the hunger hormone in response to stress can turn us into food junkies.
We know this due to a recent study on the effects of ghrelin, the findings of which were reported in New Scientist. The study researchers scanned the brains of a dozen subjects and then allowed them to enjoy breakfast. A few hours later, the study subjects were injected with ghrelin and their brains were scanned again, only this time, after showing them pictures of juicy hamburgers, pizza, and other enticing foods. Not only did the study subjects become hungry again, but certain brain areas also lit up like Christmas trees. As the article states, “Seeing pictures of pizza and other treats sparked activity in several brain regions involved in decision-making and anticipating a payoff.” In other words, their brains responded to food in the same way that an addictive personality might respond to the thought of receiving alcohol, cigarettes or drugs.
The next time someone tells you that they’re a junk food junky you can believe it. Only now you can tell them why (not that they’ll want to hear it). But, the question is, how can you prevent yourself from falling into the same trap?
The answer is to take steps to manage your stress. To that end, we have some suggestions to help you do just that.
Learn to delegate responsibility. Unless you operate under a written contract, there’s no reason why you can’t farm out certain tasks that can be completed by someone else whenever possible. This applies to your domestic life as well as your work environment.
Open up and say OM. Setting aside a few moments a day to meditate can do a lot to help you reduce stress and stay balanced. You don’t have to become a robe-clad philosophical guru to benefit from meditation either. There are scores of books, videos and audio tools available to help you learn the basics.
Get moving. Exercise in any amount naturally lowers stress levels as well as offering additional benefits, such as improved circulation and immunity. So get out there and do what you love, whether it’s hiking, cycling or just taking the dog for a walk around the block.