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Wednesday with Whitney: What is hunger and how does it work?

September is Hunger Action Month. A month to raise awareness and act towards reducing hunger. Where does that belly grumble come from and why does it make such an odd noise? Strangely enough, our brain is mostly in charge of hunger. Our belly feels hunger pains when it is empty, however seeing a jar of cookies could also trigger a sense of hunger.

Our stomach and brain send messages to each other to communicate hunger. About two hours after a meal our stomach starts to send signals to the brain that we are getting hungry. Do you feel hunger pains, light-headed, grumpy, or “hangry” when you are hungry? Our hunger level is impacted by blood sugar levels, your brain (mainly the hypothalamus), hormone levels and how empty your stomach and intestines are. Our stomach and small and large intestines have a process for sweeping, emptying out and contracting our stomachs.

Our body is always on the lookout for energy dense foods just in case we must go without at some point. Our brain also registers when we see foods we have previously enjoyed. Depending on how full we feel, we may feel the urge to eat what we are seeing (even if we just ate). Our bodies play a balancing act between keeping us fueled and satisfied and having enough in the reserve tank should we at some point not have enough food to eat.

Some experience this sensation of hunger more often than others and some experience it due to circumstance. Take a minute to think about how you feel when you are hungry. How might you be able to help spread awareness and take action to decrease the number of neighbors who experience hunger on a regular basis?

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