The Brain-Gut Disconnect: Why am I always so hungry?

The Brain-Gut Disconnect: Why am I always so hungry?

The Brain-Gut Disconnect: Why am I always so hungry?

For some people, weight loss is hard because of constant signals between the brain and gut. Here’s how obesity doctors can help.

Elizabeth Millard
Last updated:
October 17, 2023
5 min read
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Wanting to stay on track with nutritious eating—including getting enough calories, protein, and healthy fats to keep you full until you eat again—you prepare an abundant and balanced meal. Then, you make sure to eat slowly and thoughtfully so your brain fires its satiety signals efficiently. 

You're doing everything right: Having the right foods, eating the right way, and in the right amount. But then, not even an hour later, you feel ravenous. Your meal should have been enough to turn off those hunger signals for hours. Instead, they seem to be clanging louder than ever. What's going on? 

One strong possibility is that you have Brain-Gut Disconnect.™ It’s one of the four main obesity profiles included in Found’s MetabolicPrint,™ a proprietary metabolic health assessment engine that Found-affiliated health care providers use to personalize a treatment plan for weight management.

If you have Brain-Gut Disconnect, you may find yourself incredibly frustrated and dispirited. You might feel like you have to put up with being hungry all the time or that despite all your best efforts, you're still doing something wrong. Neither of those are true—there are meaningful ways to address this disconnect if this is your dominant MetabolicPrint. Here's a look at why the brain-gut disconnect happens and how Found can help.

What is MetabolicPrint? 

For many people, dieting alone doesn’t work. In fact, many factors are out of our control when it comes to our ability to effectively and sustainably manage our weight. Think back—were you told to finish your plate as a kid? Does anyone in your family have extra weight or obesity? Are you dealing with hormonal fluctuations or other medical conditions? Is your work stressful?  Do you have young kids at home? The list of these types of questions is endless—and each one of these factors influences your ability to lose weight. Bottom line: It’s not just about you and your willpower.

That’s why Found launched the MetabolicPrint. We capture inputs unique to you that indicate what’s going on beneath the surface—your weight history, your family history, environmental factors, age, and more—to create a personal profile that Found-affiliated clinicians can use to get to the bottom of what’s causing your weight gain and craft a tailored blueprint for treatment. 

Unlike most medical providers, Found clinicians are trained in obesity medicine. Like any chronic disease, weight management requires precision expertise and ongoing care to achieve lasting results.

What is Brain-Gut Disconnect?

A brain-gut disconnect occurs when you eat enough food during meals but are hungry again, even though you may have eaten just an hour or two ago. 

The Brain-Gut Disconnect profile is different from the Constant Cravings™ profile because with the latter, you don't tend to feel full even after a large meal. Instead, those with Brain-Gut Disconnect can feel satiated, but that feeling doesn't last long. 

What are the gut factors that make you hungry?

With the Brain-Gut Disconnect profile, there can be a few different factors at play that affect how full you feel. 

The most significant factor for this profile is gastric emptying—how quickly your stomach empties after you eat. Research indicates that the typical time range for this process is two to five hours. After the food leaves your stomach, it will continue through the rest of your digestive system.

But when the food leaves your stomach and enters your gut, your body sends signals to the brain which prompts a hunger response. 

What is the difference between Brain-Gut Disconnect and actual hunger?

Although a brain-gut disconnect drives feelings of hunger, you may also experience actual hunger as well. So, how do you tell the difference?

If your dominant MetabolicPrint profile is the Brain-Gut Disconnect, the crucial clue is timing. Feeling hungry when you haven't eaten for hours is a normal response. Scans of the gut show you would typically start to feel hungry again about two hours after a meal. But the symptoms can be subtle, like low energy or feeling jittery, before more obvious signs, like a growling stomach, begin. 

The timeframe from feeling satiated to feeling starving is much shorter and often more intense in those with Brain-Gut Disconnect. You may feel like you haven't eaten all day even if you had a big meal just an hour ago.

How does Found help address the Brain-Gut Disconnect?

Knowing your MetabolicPrint profile can lead to more targeted weight loss and obesity interventions because it identifies the root cause of what may be going on. It offers a personalized approach that combines specific behavior-change tools, community support, and medications geared toward your profile.

Does a personal profile like MetabolicPrint make a difference for weight loss? 

In a study published in 2021 in the journal Obesity, researchers found that targeted therapy based on phenotypes—the physical characteristics determined by someone’s genotype and environment—led to almost two times more weight loss after a year than non-targeted obesity treatment. Participants in the phenotype-guided group in that study lost an average of about 16% of their original body weight, while those in the group not guided by phenotyping lost an average of 9% of their body weight.

Part of that research, and a critical component in how Found tailors weight-loss treatment using MetabolicPrint, is the strategic use of anti-obesity medications. 

How personalized treatment makes medicine for weight loss more effective 

The fact is there are many drugs to treat excess weight and many types of obesity. Going through a process of trial and error isn't just time-consuming—it can be disheartening. Suppose you're taking medication for a couple of months, and it isn't working, so you switch, and the same thing happens. How many cycles without results will there be until you find the right fit?

Medications can be much more targeted thanks to a phenotype-guided approach like MetabolicPrint, which can identify those with Brain-Gut Disconnect or another phenotype. In fact, the Obesity Medicine Association notes that addressing a fast digestive system requires slowing the gut transit time so the stomach empties more gradually. Increasing the time it takes the food to leave your stomach will keep you feeling full longer. There are medications that will help you achieve this by boosting levels of gut hormones to slow stomach emptying.

How Found can help you with personalized treatment for weight loss

Once you take Found’s quiz, you’ll have a one-on-one consultation with a clinician trained in obesity medicine. They’ll review your MetabolicPrint, medical history, weight history, and lifestyle to personalize your treatment plan, including prescription medicine if you’re eligible. 

Found’s combination of targeted medication therapy for weight loss paired with social support, coaching, physical activity, and other lifestyle interventions can be a powerful way to keep your brain and gut on track—and help you enjoy your meals as well, since you know they'll keep you full for longer.

Found is among the largest medically-supported telehealth weight care clinics in the country, having served more than 200,000 members to date. To discover your MetabolicPrint and start your journey with Found, take our quiz. *Individual results may vary. 

Published date:
October 17, 2023
Meet the author
Elizabeth Millard
Freelance health journalist

Sources

  • Lee YY, Erdogan A, Rao SS. How to assess regional and whole gut transit time with wireless motility capsule. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2014 Apr 30;20(2):265-70. doi: 10.5056/jnm.2014.20.2.265. PMID: 24840380; PMCID: PMC4015195. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4015195/
  • Banks KP, Syed K, Parekh M, et al. Gastric Emptying Scan. [Updated 2023 Apr 13]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK531503/
  • MedlinePlus [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); Gastric Emptying Tests. Retrieved September 29, 2023. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/gastric-emptying-tests
  • Acosta A, Camilleri M, Abu Dayyeh B, Calderon G, Gonzalez D, McRae A, Rossini W, Singh S, Burton D, Clark MM. Selection of Antiobesity Medications Based on Phenotypes Enhances Weight Loss: A Pragmatic Trial in an Obesity Clinic. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2021 Apr;29(4):662-671. doi: 10.1002/oby.23120. Erratum in: Obesity (Silver Spring). 2021 Sep;29(9):1565-1566. Erratum in: Obesity (Silver Spring). 2022 Jul;30(7):1521. PMID: 33759389; PMCID: PMC8168710. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33759389/
  • Obesity Medicine Association. (July 20,2021.) 4 Metabolic Phenotypes to Aid in Weight Loss. https://obesitymedicine.org/4-metabolic-phenotypes-to-aid-in-weight-loss-obesity-medicine-association/
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