Increased Food Cravings and Hormonal Balance – How BHRT Can Help

happy woman looking at croissants to illustrate food cravings
Medically Reviewed
September 4, 2023

Have you ever wondered what’s behind your craving for a certain food treat even before you feel a genuine hunger pang? Sometimes even before you’ve digested your last meal! Food cravings like this can often be a sign of hormone imbalance.

There could be other causes, but science states there’s much more behind your appetite’s whims than you think.

In this article, we’ll look at the link between food cravings and hormone imbalance, and how to improve the situation with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT).

Food Cravings: When Food Becomes the Ultimate Reward

Why does eating behavior become a habit and then a craving?

The truth is food cravings happen due to an interplay of neurological, biological, and even cultural factors. So, if you want to unravel them, you must first understand what happens inside you when you eat:

  • What hormones does your body release, and what areas of your brain spring into action when you satisfy your indulgence?
  • What messages and chemicals travel within your body when you taste a particular food?

The Reward System Inside Your Brain

Food cravings often happen when you feel sad, stressed, or anxious. Food is then a mechanism to relieve discomfort. It’s also the perfect recipe for developing increased food cravings.

Let’s see why.

Inside your brain’s reward system, a small but vital area – the hypothalamus – plays a central role in regulating some essential functions of your body by serving as a critical link between your nervous and endocrine (hormonal) systems.

Despite its tiny pea size, the hypothalamus influences a wide range of physiological processes and behaviors – including releasing hormones related to stress, pleasure, pain, and hunger.

One of these hormones is dopamine, a neurotransmitter that sends positive sensations to other nerve cells and is associated with pleasure and a rewarding experience.

The higher the expectation of the reward, the higher the dopamine production and activity.

But when the reward is even better than your anticipation, the dopamine production and release are even higher – which may cause you to want that experience repeatedly.

So – when you often eat certain foods that stimulate your brain’s reward system, that first innocent delight may turn into increased craving for food, which can even become a more serious concern, like addictive food behavior.

The Hormonal Alchemy of Food Cravings

Now that you understand how the reward system within your brain works, let’s discuss how your hormones affect food cravings.

The overall eating experience is not just a simple physical action but a sophisticated process!

It’s influenced by the interaction of hormones that regulate

  • hunger,
  • appetite,
  • satiety, and
  • other physiological responses.

This dynamic interplay of biochemical signals shapes your eating behaviors, cravings, and experiences, because different hormones interact with the brain and other organs to control when and how much you eat.

In addition to dopamine, the hormones that play a crucial role in the hormonal alchemy of cravings are the following:

1 Ghrelin:

Often referred to as the hunger hormone, ghrelin is primarily produced in the stomach when you feel hungry, sending signals to the brain that you need to eat. This hormone stimulates appetite and increases food intake, making you feel hungry and more prone to cravings.

2 Leptin:

Leptin is known as the “satiety hormone” and is produced by fat cells. Its primary role is to regulate energy balance and body weight.

Fat cells release leptin into the bloodstream when you eat, signaling to the brain that you’ve had enough food and should stop eating. This signaling process may be disrupted in individuals with leptin resistance, leading to increased food cravings and overeating.

3 Insulin:

Insulin is a hormone the pancreas produces in response to rising blood sugar levels after meals. Its primary function is facilitating glucose uptake into cells to be used for energy or stored as fat.

After a meal, insulin helps lower blood sugar levels, which can sometimes lead to a drop in blood sugar later on. This drop in blood sugar can trigger cravings for sugary or high-carbohydrate foods to raise blood sugar levels again quickly.

4 Cortisol:

Cortisol is also known as the “stress hormone” because it’s released in response to stress and low blood sugar levels. When cortisol levels are high, it can increase appetite and promote the consumption of high-calorie, comfort foods, leading to food cravings.

5 Estrogen and progesterone:

These female sex hormones fluctuate during the menstrual cycle and can influence some women’s food cravings. Changes in estrogen and progesterone levels may increase sugar cravings during certain phases of the menstrual cycle.

What You Eat Can Lead to Hormone Imbalance

The food you eat significantly influences your brain processes and hormone production. So – if you want to keep your hormones and metabolism working well, you need a healthy and nutritional diet.

That’s because some less-healthy foods are “hyper-palatable.” They’re often sweet, salty, or fatty and activate the reward region of your brain strongly, causing you pleasure and increased food cravings.

Studies indicate that when you overeat hyper-palatable food, your brain signals may become disrupted, triggering the production and release of pleasure hormones. This leads to a constant desire for a reward experience and increased food cravings. And hormonal imbalance.

How BHRT Restores Hormonal Balance and Fights Food Cravings

Although food cravings may be triggered initially by various factors, including emotional stress, dietary habits, and learned behaviors, if you’re experiencing increased food cravings, the original cause could be a hormone imbalance.

BHRT is a treatment to balance hormones, using hormones that are structurally identical to those naturally produced by your body.

Your healthcare provider may diagnose specific hormone imbalances, such as leptin resistance or fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels. In that case, BHRT can help restore your hormonal balance and improve your overall health.

BHRT can provide you with exactly the amount of specific hormones you need to bring you back into balance and remove your food cravings.

Nava Health Can Treat Increased Food Cravings

At Nava Health, we take an integrative and functional medicine approach to your health. We’ll assess your situation, conduct appropriate tests, and determine a customized health plan to manage your food cravings. This might include lifestyle modifications, a personalized diet plan, stress management, and BHRT.

Whether you visit in person or would like to access our telehealth services, we have top specialists to help you rediscover your 100%.

So – if you’re ready to take a comprehensive health assessment with a team of practitioners specialized in BHRT and all aspects of nutrition, schedule your consultation with us today.

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A Medical Director, and one of the first physicians to join the Nava Health & Vitality Center, Dr. Douglas Lord has made significant contributions to our Center and its founding principles. Dr. Lord has helped develop and implement the Nava Method™—Nava’s proprietary approach to total body wellness. He has also been instrumental in liaising with other expert practitioners to successfully implement Nava’s range of therapies, treatments, and products.

Article Name
Increased Food Cravings and Hormonal Balance – How BHRT Can Help
Food cravings are an interplay between the brain's reward system and hormones. BHRT can be part of an integrative approach to taking charge!