I have to admit, I am not much into Halloween, but love this time of year with the beautiful fall colors. We have a neighbor farm down the road from us who has quite the display of skeletons, ghouls and goblins. It is a bit of a scary sight as you drive by, although it does make me laugh.

Over the past 10 days I listened to a very informative summit on “The science of prevention, Alzheimers.” They brought up topics that made me think of a couple of questions you can ask yourself. Do you wake up during the night hungry, needing to eat? Have you noticed when you don’t get a good night’s sleep that you are hungrier during the day? When you eat carbs do you find yourself needing to eat again in 2-3 hours? The answer to these questions can be related to imbalances in a hormone called Ghrelin. Getting up because of hunger can be related to many things; simply not eating enough, use of alcohol later in the evening and even sleep deprivation to name a few. More importantly what is happening to the body during this time when we wake hungry.

Ghrelin is a hormone produced by the enteroendocrine cells of the gastrointestinal tract. It has been referred to as the “hunger hormone” because levels increase prior to a meal and once we are satisfied with food levels go down. This hormone is primary in the GI tract but smaller amounts are also in the small intestine, pancreas and the brain. It has functions aside from stimulating appetite and increasing fat storage; it is also involved in stimulating growth hormone release which helps in increasing muscle mass. It can be protective on the cardiovascular system with control of insulin release but also been shown to act on the amygdala our reward processing center. The latter is particularly true if food choices are higher in refined sugars and carbohydrates.

Ghrelin’s affects are opposed by Leptin which is referred to as the “satiety hormone”. When we have enough Leptin levels, your brain sees that you can burn energy at a normal level, eat just till you are full and engage in exercise normally. Processes such as puberty and pregnancy occur normally. Sleep deprivation has an affect on these hormones suppressing Leptin and increasing Ghrelin. This affect can lead to opting for higher carbohydrate foods such as pasta, breads and sweets. This ends up being somewhat of a double-edged sword, in that if we are sleep deprived, it tends to cause us to want and consume more of these higher carbohydrate foods; which in turn leads to poor blood sugar regulation and worsening sleep. Lack of sleep can be one of the contributing factors to Beta Amyloid production in the brain which is a contributor to Alzheimer’s Disease. This and lack of good blood sugar control can have negative impacts on the brain. Quality sleep is important in optimal brain function. Sleep assists in lowering Beta amyloid production in the brain which is like flushing out the cobwebs.

So as we approach the holiday time of year take a moment to think about the food choices and how that may impact Ghrelin and Leptin levels. Work on keeping your “Ghrelin” in check. Consider the effects of different food and drink consumption and how that in turn can affect sleep. Remember sleep is crucial in maintaining proper mental and physical health during the day as well as appropriately detoxifying our brain. https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms3259