How Gastric Bypass Impacts Your Hunger Hormones

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Losing weight is no easy feat. That’s why many people who deal with unhealthy levels of body fat often opt for weight loss surgery. With that being said, dealing with hunger after gastric bypass surgery is a complicated issue that runs more than skin deep.


Hormones play a major role in how we experience hunger. In fact it may surprise you that people who have high levels of “hunger hormones” are more prone to obesity than those who have lower levels.


Understanding how these hormones function and how they impact your ability to experience hunger will help you to better deal with any hunger issues you may experience before and after bariatric surgery.


Head Hunger vs Stomach Hunger

head hunger vs stomach hunger head hunger after gastric bypass


As a bariatric patient, it’s vitally important you understand the differences between head hunger vs. stomach hunger. Both of these hunger “types” originate from a different place and it can be confusing to differentiate between the two.


Head Hunger


Head hunger, AKA “emotional hunger,” typically occurs when an individual turns to food to deal with uncomfortable emotions.


Head hunger is very sudden, and the foods that are craved tend to be specific and often fall into the comfort food category. Head hunger is typically experienced “above the neck” and typically doesn’t go away quickly.


Oftentimes, after eating due to head hunger, you will feel uncomfortably full and potentially guilty. In order to curb food cravings and overcome head hunger, check out our blog:


Tips To Curb Food Cravings After Bariatric Surgery


Stomach Hunger


Stomach hunger is the natural hunger we all experience when our bodies require sustenance. Stomach hunger is often preceded by sensations such as growling and gurgling.


Unlike head hunger, stomach hunger comes on gradually and may cause dizziness or lightheadedness. Preferences for food choices are often more varied.


After acting on stomach hunger, you are more likely to feel satisfied and you are less likely to overeat.


Ghrelin: The Hunger Hormone

ghrelin gastric bypass how gastric bypass impacts hunger hormones


The hunger we experience every day can be traced back to our ghrelin levels. Known as the “hunger hormone,” ghrelin plays a major role in how we eat because it sends signals to the brain indicating when the body requires food.


The primary function of ghrelin, which is produced in the gut, is to increase appetite. In other words, ghrelin prompts the body to consume more food and store fat.


Furthermore, ghrelin has a direct effect on taste sensations, reward-seeking behavior, and sleep and wake cycles, amongst other bodily functions.


The higher your ghrelin levels, the more often you’re hungry. The reverse is just as true – lower levels allow you to feel full after eating fewer calories.


While ghrelin hormones may sound mostly negative, they play a vital role in helping us maintain healthy levels of body fat. With that being said, having too much or too little of the hormone can have a negative impact on your eating habits.


Leptin: The Hormone That Keeps Your Eating Habits In Check


Another hormone that plays a direct role in how you experience hunger is leptin, which is produced in the body’s fat cells and is responsible for the feeling of satiety after food is consumed.


Leptin is responsible for a number of bodily functions. However, its most significant role is to regulate the number of calories and fat stored in the body. Leptin keeps you from starving and also plays a major role in preventing you from overeating.


It’s important to note that those who struggle with obesity have often developed a resistance to leptin. Thus, even if the body is producing sufficient leptin levels, the brain will not be aware of it.


As a result, the brain may be “tricked” into believing the body is starving, despite having sufficient fat reserves ready to be burned. To prevent the body from “starving,” the brain signals for increased ghrelin production, which leads to feelings of increased hunger.


The body will also begin to conserve energy. This means calories are burned slower which may increase feelings of low energy and laziness. Those who naturally experience significantly low levels of leptin may also be prone to obesity for the same reasons.


How Does Gastric Bypass Surgery Impact Leptin And Ghrelin?

how gastric bypass impacts hunger hormones ghrelin gastric bypass

It turns out that gastric bypass surgery has been known to increase the production of leptin, which may lead to the decrease of ghrelin.


After bariatric surgery, the size of the stomach is reduced significantly. Because ghrelin is produced in the gut, ghrelin levels are reduced along with the stomach.


As a result, even if the brain (which may be tricked into thinking the body is starving) calls for an increase in ghrelin production, the body won’t have the ability to actually produce more of the hormone. Over time the body will begin to adapt, and its resistance to leptin will begin to decrease.


Because your stomach decreases in size after weight loss surgery, you won’t have the ability to eat as much as you used to. However, with increased leptin levels you’ll be able to feel full for longer with less food intake.


In many instances, patients who were hungry all the time before surgery often have to push themselves to eat post-surgery. This is one of the primary reasons why bariatric surgery often leads to long term success for many weight loss patients.


Weight Loss Often Requires More Than Will Power


Society often stigmatizes obese people for not having the will power to stop themselves from overeating. Sadly, many people don’t realize that hormones may lie at the root of the problem.


While bariatric surgery may potentially fix the hunger issues that leptin and ghrelin may cause, that is still not an excuse to avoid making healthier lifestyle choices post-surgery, such as exercising and eating healthy.


Dealing with unhealthy levels of body fat is never easy. If you’re ready to make a change turn to Olde Del Mar Surgical. Our gastric bypass procedures are second to none – we’ll take care of you from start to finish.


Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you take control of your life once more.


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