Did you know that leptin is a hormone made and released by your fat cells in direct proportion to the amount of body fat you are carrying? When leptin is working properly, it signals to your hypothalamus – “Stop eating, you’ve had enough.” The message to your brain is, you’ve stored enough energy, you can stop eating now. So it’s leptin that controls the feelings of hunger and satiety; it also has actions related to fertility, immunity, and brain function.
Overweight people have higher amounts of circulating leptin in their bloodstream than leaner people because they have more fat cells producing leptin. You might conclude that overweight people should therefore have less hunger, eat less, and be able to lose weight more easily. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Hormones do not act alone. Leptin affects all other hormones, which means when we follow a low calorie diet we see a myriad of hormone imbalances causing havoc with fertility, menstruation, sex drive, and immune function.
So why are so many people overweight? Why are heavy people still hungry? Why do we so often gain the weight back after we lose it?
Over time, when your system is exposed to too much leptin, it becomes resistant – just as you can become resistant to the hormone insulin.
How do we become leptin resistant?
- Eating a typical North American diet, high in refined foods and junk food, causes insulin levels to ramp up thereby creating more fat cells.
- Our bodies secrete leptin as fat cells increase and signal the hypothalamus that adequate energy (fat) has been stored.
- Hunger and satiety should be relieved and excess fat stored for energy.
- Too much fat storage causes more leptin to circulate in the blood stream.
- The brain then becomes resistant to leptin; similar to insulin resistance, the body stops responding to leptin’s signals.
- When the brain does not receive the leptin signal, it erroneously thinks the body is starving.
- Leptin resistance is experienced as starvation causing a number of mechanisms and hormone pathways to activate, in turn increasing fat stores instead of burning excess fat
- Exerting willpower over the leptin-driven starvation signal is next to impossible.
- Fad diets and quick fixes that severely restrict calories cause leptin levels to drop significantly making overweight individuals hungry all the time.
- Diet measures fail and the person is left feeling tired, hungry, and defeated, feelings that often trigger emotional over-eating.
Symptoms of leptin insensitivity:
- Belly fat
- Feeling unsatisfied and hungry all the time
- Constant sugar cravings
- Night time eating
- Stubborn weight gain
- Elevated evening cortisol – please read my blog on adrenal fatigue
- Thyroid imbalance symptoms despite a normal TSH result
6 fixes right here, right now!
- Eat Protein: many studies indicate that a higher protein intake can reduce weight. This may be linked to reducing leptin insensitivity.
- Add Fat: specifically Omega-3 and healthy saturated fats like coconut oil, or butter from grass-fed cattle.
- Eat Soluble Fibre: for example legumes, wild rice, oat bran, etcetera, will improve your gut health and may protect against obesity.
- Get Physical: activity may help to reverse leptin resistance.
- Sleep: poor sleep has been linked to weight gain and leptin resistance.
- Ask your doctor to check your triglyceride levels: the best way to lower triglycerides is to reduce carbohydrate, sugar, and alcohol intake.
Stay tuned for the launch of my new Body Beautiful Workshop – a comprehensive, step-by-step, 12-week method for healthy weight loss. The program is designed to balance your hormones, heal your gut, reduce inflammation, and enable you to shed pounds. To join my mailing list click the “Nutrigal Me” button on the right hand menu, or contact me for more information. If you’re menopausal and struggling with your weight you won’t want to miss this workshop.
I am also offering a 6-week Hormone Bootcamp at Fertility Care Toronto beginning Saturday September 26th, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Contact Nutrigal for more details.
References and Further reading: