Why and how your brain gets hungry
What is your brain stomach?
Well, there is not a tiny little stomach sitting in your brain. That would be uncomfortable, but there is the endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoid; endo meaning from inside, cannabinoid meaning like cannabis (commonly known as weed). Basically scientists asked the question why does weed do funny stuff. That lead to the discovery of this group of molecules naturally found inside the body that reacts with the same receptor as weed, hence the name.
What does it do?
The endocannabinoids, lets call them eCB for short, are one of the main ways that your brain deals with food. They have two major roles the brain related to food. First are in charge of stimulating eating and getting the body prepared to store food. They do this by interacting with a receptor we call CB1. When they bind to CB1 your brain tells your body that it is time to eat. Your body also has chemicals that signal that you are not hungry. These are blocked by some of the eCB’s so that you feel hungry longer and eat more.
The second way it works it by signaling pleasure while eating food. Food is nessiesary for your body. So your body likes it when you eat food. This happens because nerve cells (neurons) in your brain release dopamine. Dopamine signals your brain that what you are doing is pleasurable. This only happens in short blips because other neurons stop the release of dopamine. That is where eCBs come in. ECBs stop the stopping neurons. This means your body releases more dopamine and you feel even better.
So how do we ever stop eating if eCBs are telling us to eat and dopamine is telling us it is fun? Well after eating enough your body releases the hormone Leptin. It stops the eCBs from signaling and sets the body back into balance. It also lets your neurons stop producing dopamine by removing the eCBs. This process is healthy. Your body needs to eat when it needs food and stop when it is full.
When it goes wrong
The eCB system is very complex. It depends on a lot of things to be balanced. One of the most important things is diet. This is because eCB are made from the tiny amounts of fat that we naturally have in our cells. When we eat very high fat diets there are more fats to convert to eCBs. This leads to large amounts of dopamine in your brain. This release of dopamine in the brain can make people addicted to food. They experience the desire to eat even if their body is not actually hungry. This is why people have so hard a time going on diets. Their brain wants fatty foods and lots of it. In severe cases this can lead to extreme obesity and many other health problems.
What does this mean
It means that it really is harder to make the healthy choice when it comes to food. But good news. The healthier we eat the more our eCB will be balanced and the easier it will be to eat healthier foods.