Night time binges and weight—my thoughts

Do you find yourself binging at night? You are not alone! . Millions other suffer from this devastating problem and that can lead to depression, fibromyalgia, obesity, fatigue, rashes, migraines, food allergies, high cholesterol, digestive problems etc
If you eat late at night just before bed, you will gain weight. Your body will store the extra calories as fat instead of processing and burning them. How does this happen? Why even after a big meal, we crave more food, more sugar, dessert, chips, and other unhealthy foods?
It is not psychological or emotional problem alone. (For some, night eating is triggered by emotions, stress of any sort). One of the underlying causes is an imbalance of the hormones that regulate appetite. These appetite hormones are insulin, Ghrelin, leptin, peptide YY and cortisol (the stress hormone.).

Insulin</FONT COLOR>

Insulin is a very important hormone that our body produces to process carbohydrate and sugar in diet. After meal when blood sugar goes up, insulin goes up and helps glucose up take in the cells, thus normalizing blood sugar. Insulin is appetite suppressor in our brain.

Ghrelin</FONT COLOR>

Ghrelin is a peptide produced by cells in the gastrointestinal tract (1, 2.) It regulates hunger, increase gastric acid secretion and gut motility. When stomach is empty it is secreted making us feel hungry, when stomach is full and stretched its secretion stops giving us feeling of full stomach.


It is a peptide that in human is secreted by cells in small intestine and colon in response to eating. In the blood and gut, PYY acts to reduce appetite, inhibit gastric motility which increases the efficiency of digestion, increases water and electrolyte absorption in the colon.


Leptin is a hormone made by fat cells which regulates the amount of fat stored in the body (3). When there is set amount of fat in the cell, leptin is secreted, which works on hypothalamus to inhibit hunger. This is a very complex process involving multitude of other hormones (4, 5, 6)

Cortisol</FONT COLOR>

When we are stressed, cortisol level goes up, which makes us hungry, blood sugar and insulin level rises. This sets the stage for insulin resistance and prediabetes.
So it is important to pay some more attention to balancing our hormone and help stop cravings and nighttime binges.


*Eat breakfast–when you eat late at night, you will not be hungry in the morning for breakfast. We need to break this cycle, so start with good protein breakfast. You can have whole free range pasture fed egg in any form you like for portion of protein (which helps balance blood sugar), or have protein shake, as I do, with hemp seed, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almond butter, frozen blueberries, strawberries, apple skins, with almond milk, with 10-15 gm of Rice, pea or whey protein. Put them all in a blender and get your morning shake.

*Avoid drinking empty calories in form of sodas, juice, sports drinks, iced tea etc. This spikes the insulin and blood sugar levels and finally results in cravings.

*Eat regularly, have breakfast, lunch and dinner and if you need small healthy snack in between, but eat at regular time.

*It is important to have protein and good quality fat at every meal. Seeds, avocado, olive oil, walnuts, are good sources of fat. Quality protein like free range chicken, wild fish, grass fed meat, plus lots of multicolor organic vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans.

*It is important to pause during the daytime, to reduce stress. Choose a method like yoga, abdominal breathing, meditation, or gentle exercise or a book you like to read, or listen to soothing music. Any of these methods that bring you back to Center, reduce stress, balance brain chemistry, and brings hormone in balance.

*It is important to have good sleep habit and have a good night’s sleep. When we deprive ourselves of sleep, Ghrelin goes up making us feel hungry and, Peptide YY, the hormones which make us feel full, goes down.

*It is very important to find food sensitivities, people do not realize this, but we often crave the things we are allergic to or sensitive to. Gluten and dairy are the biggest triggers for food sensitivity and leaky gut.

*If you are deficient in vitamin D, it needs to be checked as vitamin D helps regulate hormones.

*While following these suggestions, do not forget the Center of your being is your mental, emotional, and spiritual make up. Do not forget to nurture your own self.
Bringing hormones in balance, by attention to our life style choices, we can curb our cravings. We can bring improvement in chronic conditions like depression, diabetes, obesity, fatigue, high cholesterol, muscle aches and pains and much more.

Let us all be well.

Author: Rekha Shah

Dr Shah practices Functional & Integrative medicine. She is Board certified by American Board of Medical Specialists in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology. She is also a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner.

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