Our hunger sensation is a tricky bugger. Most people’s hunger center doesn’t work right anyway because they are either misreading it or are chronically dehydrated. Understanding how hunger works will be the most important step towards translating your own sensations and reading them for what they really are.
There are seven types of hunger. Cellular, mass, blood sugar, volume, thirst, cilia, and emotional hunger are all various contributors to the sensation.
1.) Cellular hunger is our most instinctive hunger sensation. This hunger is caused by our cells craving certain things due to a deficiency or addiction. If your cells are low on a certain vitamin or mineral, certain hormones will send messages to your brain that tell you to eat.
In the same way, your cells will also report low levels of addictive drugs or even certain food ingredients if the cells have become addicted to them. This will launch specific cravings or just general hunger to try to fill that void.
Dehydrated cells will also cause hunger messages to be sent out which are often answered with more food consumption instead of the water they are really asking for. Water is the best weapon to win that battle so be sure to guzzle it down before you fill up on what you “think” you are craving.
Cellular hunger can be a very valuable tool and even help you survive. Most of the time however, it tells us to eat the wrong things. When you are eating enough dark greens and protein, and drinking enough water, this type of hunger will be much more reliable and will cause you to crave healthy foods.
2.) Hormonal hunger relates to the hormones and chemicals produced in your body that cause hunger. There are many different hormones and chemicals responsible for this response so going into each one will only confuse matters. What you need to know is the best plan to balance the hormonal hunger and read it correctly.
Getting quality sleep, adequate water, and quality exercise (especially high intensity exercise) will regulate your hormones better than any medication. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep, 3-4 quarts of water, and 2-3 sessions of high intensity exercise to reach peak hormone balance.
3.) Blood sugar levels play a very important role in your hunger. When sugar levels are low, your insulin levels will typically follow. In extreme low situations, you may even feel weak and sometimes shaky. Stomach growling can begin, your core body temperature my drop, and almost any food looks good to you.
This type of hunger can quickly be satisfied with a piece of fruit or sport drink. Most people go overboard however, and overeat or binge to make the sensation go away because this is one of the most uncomfortable hunger sensations when it is happening. Mood swings are also common and can make rational thoughts about how much to eat go out the window.
4.) Mass related hunger has to do with the weight of the food. The heavier the food, the sooner that hunger component will send its signals. This is why water and protein are so important. Water is of course, one of the heaviest materials you can put in your stomach. Protein is also heavy, and lean meats are even heavier than water.
The weight of food in your stomach will send signals to stop eating. This response is delayed however, and takes 15-30 minutes to register, so fast eating or “gorging” will rob you of this useful cue.
5.) Thirst response is the most often misread hunger cue. Most American are chronically dehydrated anyway and this causes the thirst mechanism to send the wrong signals. People feel hungry when they should be feeling thirsty because their signals are getting crossed. As you develop proper hydration habits, this mixed messaging will stop.
In the short term, you can fight this hunger miscue by drinking water 20 minutes before eating. Then reassess, and if your hunger level hasn’t changed, it might very well be another reason.
6.) Cilia hunger is an anatomically powered sensation that relates to the volume of food in your stomach. There are certain mechanisms at the top of your stomach which look like fingers sticking down that sense food when the stomach is full enough for the food to touch them. At this point, signals are sent to your brain that tells you to stop eating.
This hunger satiating response is another delayed mechanism that takes 10-20 minutes to register, so slow eating will help this work correctly as well. Some people can desensitize this response with repeated “squashing” of the cilia from overfilling the stomach. The messages also become less effective if they are sent to often with repeated overeating.
7.) Emotional hunger is often the most powerful sensation. We frequently medicate our brains in an attempt to alleviate stress, depression, and other emotional issues and feelings. This can be a temporary quick fix but always ends in a rebound of a worsened condition. Then the downward spiral begins until the food is part of the addiction library we store in our tissues and brain.
Now that you understand hunger a little better, you can face it down and manipulate it to eat less of the wrong foods and more of the right foods. Remember that the cravings you are receiving might be for the wrong things so stop and check yourself first, Think about what your body really needs and not what your brain thinks it wants. It might even be as easy as grabbing a glass of water!