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What is the difference between hunger and cravings?

Cravings and hunger are different sensations. The body regulates hunger, while the mind plays a much larger role over cravings.

Hunger signals our brain that is time to eat, communicating from abdomen to the brain via the vagus nerve.

The hunger cycle in human begins begin with a hormone called ghrelin.

Our blood sugar and insulin levels begin to drop when our bodies have burned up the food in our stomachs, then ghrelin communicates that fact to the hypothalamus in our brain.

The hypothalamus, which is housed in the deep center portion of our brain cavity, regulates such body functions as sleep, sex drive and thirst. When the hypothalamus receives the message that we need to eat something, it triggers the release of neuropeptide Y, when then stimulates our appetites.

Once we recognize our bodies wants food and we start to fill it up, then another process occurs to counter that feeling of hungry - to prevent us from gorging ourselves.

Our fat tissues expel a hormone called leptin, which tells our brains that our bodies are satisfied and we can stop eating. That is accomplished by turning down production of neuropeptide Y and ratcheting up levels of an appetite suppressant in our bloodstream called proopiomelanocortin.

Another job that that the hypothalamus does is to monitor our blood sugar and insulin levels to ensure we have eaten enough to bring those levels back up.

This is not an instantaneous process, which helps why we can feel too uncomfortable after overindulging in a large meal.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.