Kiri Cole

Making you healthier one meal at a time 

Satiation: How It Works and Ways to Better Perceive It to Avoid Overeating

Determining whether you are full is not always automatic. This is no surprise, as satiation is a complex process. Moreover, various environmental factors and emotional ques can obscure satiation signals. Accordingly, this is a complex topic worth further exploring. 

Satiation signals originate from the gastrointestinal system (GI), particularly the stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon), and pancreas. Ingested food triggers feelings of satiety by two mechanisms – mechanically through gastric distention (stomach stretching) and chemically through foods’ nutritive value in the intestines and pancreas.

The stomach is equipped with neural sensors to detect tension, stretch, and volume. These sensors relay information to the brain via the vagal and spinal nerves, alerting you as to whether you are full.

The intestines are equally effective, but more complex. While gastric satiation is volumetric, intestinal satiation is nutritive. Nutrient-dense food triggers feelings of satiety quicker than devitalized foods, making it clear that healthy eating helps regulate weight. 

Satiation signals arise from the upper and lower intestines (see picture). Regarding the upper/small intestine, a hormone called CCK is produced there, as well as in the brain and nervous system. Ingestion of fats and protein stimulates CCK’s secretion. Research shows that this hormone works via delaying gastric emptying (when the stomach moves food into the small intestine) and therefore enhances gastric distention or stomach stretching. This makes you feel full. The hormones synthesized primarily in the lower intestine, including GLP1, oxyntomodulin, and PYY, work similarly. GLP1, produced by the distal small intestine and colon, are triggered by the ingestion of fats and carbohydrates. GLP1 stimulates a feedback mechanism, called the ileal brake, that inhibits GI motility and gastric emptying. Both oxyntomodulin and PYY are manufactured by the distal colon (descending and sigmoid colon) and secreted in accordance with caloric intake. Research shows that the former reduces hunger and single-meal consumption. The latter, like GLP1, slows gastric emptying, and studies indicate that PYY lessens hunger. 

2. Eat When You Are Happy: The journal Physiology and Behavior reveals that eating when stressed and under duress alters the brain’s reaction to food in a way that encourages the overconsumption of unhealthy fare. Therefore, it is prudent to avoid eating when angry, anxious, or stressed. Rather, enjoy a meal when your temperament is upbeat.

3. Stand Up Mid-meal to Help Determine Satiation: Dr. Joanne Lichten, noted nutrition expert, suggests standing up during your meal to be able to better sense whether your stomach is full. (I personally employ this strategy, which I find very helpful.)

4. Eat When Hungry: Try to eat when you actually feel hungry. If you ignore your hunger pangs, you are more likely to feel ravenous by the time you stop to enjoy a meal. This could lead to overeating. 

So, take time to eat when your body asks for food, but do not over indulge. With research indicating that overeating fuels America’s obesity epidemic, it is important to pay attention to the body’s satiation signals and respect them.
The hormones produced in the pancreas, Amylin and PP, also help control satiation chemically, as those in the colon. The secretion of both decreases appetite and food intake.
All of these hormones and others, as leptin that helps control short-term food consumption to achieve long-term energy balance, control and regulate satiety and caloric intake to help ensure that you are healthy and do not overeat. Still, various factors can squelch these signals, such as stress. Moreover, research indicates that those suffering from obesity may not produce sufficient amounts of certain satiation hormones. Nevertheless, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that you “hear” your body and stop eating when full:
1. Pay Attention to Your Food: When you eat, focus on your food. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study demonstrating that distracting study participants while eating and removing visual ques indicating the amount of food consumed led to overeating. Accordingly, it is best to pay attention to your food during a meal.