Having a heathy appetite, one that says, “I’m hungry”, then “I’m full”, is part of a cat and mouse game we play daily. The majority of us have no problem wanting to eat, but stopping is a whole other event. The hunger hormones in the body are called leptin and ghrelin. Both play a role in body weight. Leptin is in charge of decreasing one’s appetite while ghrelin increases appetite. They have a tug of war relationship; one that we fully sense and feel.
Leptin is made by our fat cells. It is the all-ruling appetite suppressor. Leptin levels are lower in persons who are thin and are higher in overweight people. Leptin communicates with the brain that the body has enough energy (body fat) and doesn’t need more fuel. Obese people have higher levels of leptin, but the body seems to miscommunicate and misinterpret these hunger signals. The more fat in the body, the more leptin in the blood. For overweight people the body appears to be resistant to leptin.
Ghrelin is the hormone that increases appetite. Its action involves releasing signals in the stomach to the brain that cue hunger. This hormone is produced in the gut and travels through the blood stream to the brain to tell the body to get food quickly. The body is smart because research has shown that in people who have eating disorders or who under-eat, ghrelin levels increase. In people who are obese, this hormone reduces. Ghrelin levels naturally rise when the stomach is empty because you are actually hungry. The body is trying to protect itself from starvation. Dieting causes ghrelin levels to increase. That is part of the fight when trying to lose weight.
The mind and body and do have an interesting relationship, one that we would love to have better control of. Foods that are especially high in fat cause major disruption to this communicating relationship between the body and the hunger hormones. There are some self-care tips to balance these hormones. A diet full of healthy carbohydrates and lean protein suppresses ghrelin versus a high fat diet. Sleep deprivation has been linked to higher levels of ghrelin too. Dieting is hard when ghrelin tries to use its power. Having more muscle mass is associated with lower levels of ghrelin, so start lifting those weights. Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding extremes will help keep these hormones in check. Hormones are a tricky situation for us all. Poor choices to our eating will eventually catch up, and the hormones like to take advantage of this. Eating poorly only makes you want to eat more. Food is a drug but be sure not to self-inflict more damage by making impulsive eating decisions. Your body will love you back when you love it.
Waking up to a cup of Joe is a morning routine for most of us. Billions of people rely on caffeine to get the day going, for a pick me up, and just because they enjoy it. One day we hear it is good for us and then the next day we hear that it is bad. So what’s the right answer?? Let’s take a look at the good and bad.
Caffeine dates back to 2737 BC. It is a natural stimulant most commonly found in coffee, tea, and cacao. It is derived from nuts, seeds, and leaves that contain it. Upon consumption, the central nervous system becomes alerted. Folk lore says it was discovered by a shepherd that noticed how much energy his goats had from it. Since 80% of the world’s population has at least one drink with caffeine in it per day, caffeine is one of the top ingredients used in the world. Popularity spiked in the 1800s when soft drinks hit the market with caffeine in them. Caffeine goes straight to our bloodstream. Upon entrance, caffeine puts up a fight against adenosine which is the hormone that makes us feel tired by relaxing the brain. By blocking neurotransmitter communication with adenosine, caffeine defeats the build up of tiredness. Out brain becomes alert and focused, making caffeine quite the natural stimulant. Energy drinks, sodas, and weight loss supplements make the classic cup of coffee sound so basic.
Research points towards caffeine having the ability to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, dementia, strokes, some forms of cancers, and Parkinson’s disease. A cup of coffee is low calorie, so it won’t hurt your waistline provided creams and sugars are skipped. We feel better able to function mentally. Fatigue disappears for the time being. Our short-term memory can improve. For some, having a caffeine beverage is stress reducing and a nice compliment to a dessert or while chatting with a friend.
That alert feeling from having caffeine, is the result of our adrenaline being stimulated. Our blood pressure raises, and the fight-or-flight signal is activated. It is a natural diuretic, so the bathroom might have a higher number of visits. The acid in coffee can exasperate heart burn. Many people are hooked on caffeine. Between energy drinks, chocolates, teas, and sodas, caffeine gives a head change that makes us want more. Young people are being highly exposed to more and more caffeinated products with higher and higher amounts. Like a drug, when we have less or try to eliminate it, headaches from withdrawal can result. Overconsumption becomes harmful and can lead to high blood pressure, decreased bone density, and high blood sugar. Insomnia and palpitations can also result.
There’s a coffee shop on every corner. There’s coffee flavored candy and ice cream. Energy drinks and pre-workouts are trendy. 3 or 4 cups per day is the average amount we drink, which is about 350 milligrams of caffeine. Having more or less would influence the “good” and “bad”. Moderation has never been the easiest of our human qualities to live by. Caffeine has both “good” and “bad” qualities and that cup of Joe is a personalized experience that affects each of our bodies differently. The majority of us would say they couldn’t imagine a world without caffeine.
The inability to control is the bottom line when it comes to addiction. A person’s brain and behavior are greatly affected. When you become addicted, you continue to use the drug or carry on the habit despite the consequences. A person can become powerless to legal or illegal drugs and substances such as alcohol, nicotine, opioids, and/or marijuana. The brain starts to receive altered messages and all it can think about is the rewarding feeling the drug produces. The functioning of the neurotransmitters becomes distorted. The viscous cycle of tolerance starts to happen, and the person becomes persistent on experiencing the same high or an even better high better each time.
Addiction doesn’t just happen instantly. It builds its way into someone’s life. Cigarette smoking can start just at parties or social events, but then the person finds themselves keeping a pack in hand and reaching for a smoke more and more frequently. The risk of addiction varies by drug and certainly affects how quickly one forms the habit. Sometimes a person is prescribed a medication, and they become hooked after use (especially opioids). Painkillers cause a high risk for addiction.
Addiction is the accumulation of more and more of the user’s choice. The person needs higher doses to get high. Hence, drug addiction is also called substance abuse disorder. When a person tries to stop, they crave more and feel withdrawl symptoms. Some of the symptoms that person has become addicted to their drug of choice include the following:
- Having intense urges to use/take the drug.
- Drug use starts to prevail over responsibilities like work.
- Daily use of the drug, sometimes even several times per day.
- Continuing to use the drug despite any physical and health consequences.
- Doing whatever it takes to obtain the drug, which are behaviors you normally wouldn’t do.
- Spending lots of time going to get the drug in addition to time spent taking it.
- Spending excess money on the drug rather or not you can afford it.
- Doing things you shouldn’t under the influence of the drug, such as driving.
- Making sure you always have available supply of the drug.
- Feeling withdrawl when you don’t take the drug.
The main factors that cause addiction are your environment and genetics. Being exposed to the drug creates risk to partake. Traumatic life events can also cause a person to turn to drugs to deal with the situation. Feeling overwhelmed by stress can also cause drug use to help this feeling subside. Many addicts follow in the footsteps of their relatives. The reason people become addicted to drugs is an individualized experience.
Many addicts enjoy drugs and don’t want to stop, while others want and know they need help. The willpower to stop becomes a problem. Addiction is much more complicated than just deciding to stop and then you instantly doing it. The brain has to be re-wired to believe it can and will function without and the body has to feel committed to this process as well. There is help and hope and those in recovery help others. Addiction is a serious problem with serious consequences so most of the time testing the waters is never advisable because you may not be able to turn back.