Cholecystokinin Hormone

Cholecystokinin Hormone (CCK)

The cholecystokinin hormone (CCK) is a lesser known hormone that has many powerful effects on cravings and satiety.

Where Does Cholecystokinin Come From and What is the Mechanism of Secretion?

CCK is secreted from the GI tract after eating via two different mechanisms:

  1. Neurons that innervate the gut “detect” the contents of the food you’ve eaten and then trigger the release of CCK if you have eaten the “right” kind of nutrients
  2. The microbiome sends signals as well when the “right” kind of nutrients have entered the GI tract.

So what are the nutrients that trigger CCK release?

Nutrients That Trigger CCK Release

The two main nutrients that trigger CCK release are:

Omega 3 fatty acids and Amino acids.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids stimulate the release of CCK in the gut.  As many of you know, good sources of omega 3 fatty acids can be found in wild caught fish.  

Lots of health enthusiasts take supplements like fish oil or krill to boost omega 3 levels. The problem with most fish and krill oil is if they are made with subpar quality the fats can go rancid. Instead of consuming high quality fats, you’re now consuming spoiled fats.  Consuming spoiled/rancid fats will do more damage than good. Therefore, if your fish oil supplement isn’t sourced from the best ingredients, you are better off not consuming any fish oil at all.

That’s why you have to seek out either the highest quality fish oil/krill oil to assure it’s not spoiled or just eat a lot of quality, wild caught fish.  

This is what I do.  I eat wild caught sardines and also wild caught salmon multiple times a week to make sure I’m getting in healthy levels of omega 3 fats without the risk of consuming spoiled fats.

Amino Acids

Amino acids, the other nutrient that stimulates CCK, are the building blocks of proteins. They can be found in any type of protein source like beef, fish, eggs, nuts, etc.  


One particular amino acid that triggers CCK the most is Glutamine.

Glutamine is an essential amino acid; which means it has to be consumed from exogenous sources. I.e. it cannot be synthesized in the body from other nutrients.  Therefore, getting healthy levels of glutamine are key to triggering the release of CCK. 

Emulsifiers and CCK

Something else to know about CCK is that highly processed foods actually prevent CCK from being detected by the neurons that innervate the gut. 

You see, processed foods contain emulsifiers. Emulsifiers are a lot like detergents/soaps and are used to dissolve away fats into an aqueous solution. These emulsifiers harm the mucosal lining of your gut and actually harm the neurons that innervate the gut that detect the CCK peptide hormone.

So how can any of this information help you?

If you’re trying to lose weight, on a diet, want to eat less, want to get cut, or just be plain healthier, then a good strategy would be to always try and consume healthy omega 3 fats and amino acids with each meal. This sounds pretty simple, but it’s not always the easiest thing to do. 

My strategy is to try and eat a can of sardines a few times a week, or consume grass fed butter that is high in omega 3 fatty acids

In addition, try staying away from highly processed foods because they erode the protective mucosal lining of the gut, which prevents your gut neurons from detecting the CCK peptide. 

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