The Role Of Leptin And Ghrelin Hormones In Weight Loss
Leptin and Ghrelin Hormones and Weight Loss
Many weight loss problems don’t always revolve around diet and physical activity, or lack thereof. Other problems include hormonal imbalances. Leptin and ghrelin are two of the hormones that can cause problems with your weight loss efforts.
Leptin is the hormone that lets you know you’re full and ghrelin is the one that lets you know you are hungry. If they are out of balance, you will almost have an impossible time trying to lose weight.
For example, your ghrelin hormone may grumble at you all day to eat, especially if your leptin hormone is asleep on the job. Your leptin hormone won’t be letting you know to stop eating, and that your body has enough energy to keep going for a while. So your hunger-inducing ghrelin hormone will be the winner.
You’ll keep eating, and your body will store the excess for later, in case it needs it. The problem is, there is no later because the food supply doesn’t cease. Here’s where the problem lies. Your hormones are so out of whack that your body isn’t doing what it is supposed to be doing.
Leptin plays an important role in regulating the amount of food that a person ingests. The amount of leptin that we have in our body partly depends on how much body fat we have. This is because leptin is produced by the fat cells of the body.
Once this hormone is released into the blood, it travels to the brain and reaches the hypothalamus. This is where it signals the brain that you’ve eaten enough.
If the amount of body fat increases, leptin is the hormone that sends the message to the brain letting it know there are fat stores and it’s time to reduce food intake. This is how the body tries to keep it lean and healthy.
It’s why this hormone is called the good hunger hormone.
The function of ghrelin is quite the opposite to that of leptin. This hormone is produced in the stomach. This hormone triggers feelings of hunger as it increases the appetite for food. The secretion of ghrelin occurs at regular intervals and is your body’s way of making sure that you eat and do not starve.
Think of when you ‘feel hungry’, you can even hear the noise in your stomach. Times when your stomach becomes empty is when the ghrelin hormones are secreted. These hormones will send their own signal to the hypothalamus, letting the brain know that the body is hungry.
After eating, the ghrelin secretion is reduced, and then, if all is in healthy balance, the leptin hormone will jump in and do its job, and send the signal that it’s time to stop. This is how the leptin and ghrelin hormones work. If these hormones are running smoothly, you can expect them to work harmoniously with each other. When one hormone rises, the other hormone drops.
However, in many people, an imbalance of these hunger hormones causes them problems with their weight management.
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How Leptin and Ghrelin Affect Your Weight Loss Efforts
People who have issues with obesity or are overweight may have leptin resistance. Leptin resistance is preventing their brain from receiving the vital message saying they have consumed enough. Leptin is being produced, but their brain is not processing the message that satiety has been achieved.
This is why, even after just an hour or two after eating a huge meal, a person with a hormonal imbalance may seek out more food because they feel hungry again.
Your Body’s Starvation Protection
The human mind and body are designed to sense and prevent starvation. This programming is essential to our survival, where food is a scarce resource. If you start losing weight, and if the amount of loss is more than 5 to 7 percent of your weight, your body will react, thinking it is starving. It will go into starvation mode for its survival.
Regardless of how hard you try to lose weight, you are fighting with your own body. Your body’s responses will counter-regulate your weight loss efforts. This is one reason why it is so hard to lose weight and then keep it off. Sometimes it can actually make you gain more weight than when you first started because your body wants to be in better preparedness for the next food-reduction (which is perceived as starvation) cycle.
How to Make Your Hormones Help You Lose Weight
If you want to help your hormones and not scare them into survival mode, stick to a moderate weight loss diet, and don’t lose more than 5 percent of your weight fast. Don’t go for drastic weight loss.
Eat at regular intervals, preferably between 4 to 5 hours. You also need to observe balance in your diet, especially in terms of your carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Most of all, stick to your exercise routine. This will help boost your metabolism and get your blood and oxygen circulating throughout your body.
Studies have shown that people who exercise are better able to manage their ghrelin hormone levels, compared to those people who only eat less in their efforts to lose weight.
What is Leptin Resistance?
Have you ever wondered what regulates your appetite? We don’t often get taught the ins and outs of how our body works, we just accept that in most cases it works automatically, without us having to think consciously on what it needs to do next.
Our body’s automatic functions are incredibly complex. Simply though, our body has a system that is designed to trigger hunger when our blood supply is deficient in energy reserves, and to switch off hunger when our stomach is full and energy is available.
The Role of Leptin
One vital part of this complex puzzle is the hormone known as leptin. Leptin performs on receptors in our brain, in the hypothalamus. When the hypothalamus detects the presence of leptin, your body is in a state where it doesn’t need food as fuel. In a properly functioning system you will not be receiving any hunger signals.
However, this system evolved and developed to deal with a straightforward hunter/gatherer diet. Our modern western diet, overloaded with simple carbohydrates, throws this system into disarray.
Most processed food produced today is not designed with nutrition as the major focus. Simply, it is created to tantalize and excite our taste buds, to make us buy and eat more of it. It works too well at this, and much ‘food’ consumed today is chosen solely for taste ‘highs’, with little regard for nutrition.
Leptin evolved to trigger feelings of fullness and satiety based on a diet high in the macronutrients protein and fat. Because simple carbohydrates, primarily sugar in one form or another, is a primary ingredient (the one that gives the taste highs) it largely bypasses the leptin response. Leptin is released, but the brain is immune to it, as it is more focused on the current taste triggers. Most people have experienced how eating very tasty, high-carb foods actually sharpens your appetite, causing them to eat more and more of the same types of food.
When this is an occasional occurrence, the body can deal with it, and moves on. However, when this the norm (as is common) more and more leptin is released. When high levels are persistently present it can cause leptin resistance, a lack of sensitivity of your hypothalamus to this hormone.
This means you don’t know when your stomach is full, so you keep on eating. As in every other form of hormone resistance, this means that the mind and body become less sensitive to the hormone, even when larger amounts are released.
Eventually, the person never feels full, or satisfied. They are always hungry, as their satiety response has been totally dulled. Their system is resistant to leptin, and they are at great risk of overeating, with all of the potential health risks that carries.
Leptin resistance is very often one of the first steps in developing one of more of the lifestyle ‘diseases’ that seem to be an epidemic. Persistent overeating is almost always associated with poor dietary choices. This combination causes persistently elevated blood sugar and insulin levels. By unfortunate design (to prevent future starvation) this causes the body to lay down fat cells.
All of this is the precursor to dangerous conditions such as type 2 diabetes and even some cancers.
How to Increase Leptin Sensitivity
The most common cause of insensitivity to leptin is a long-term diet based on an excess of high-GI carbohydrates. This triggers larger and larger leptin releases, which the mind and body become immune to.
Another reason for the lack of sensitivity is hypothalamus inflammation. It can be diet-induced hypothalamic inflammation, or an associated disease which can affect glucose, fat, and energy metabolism. For this reason, dysfunction of your hypothalamus can also result in weight gain.
For your health’s sake, it is essential to reverse leptin resistance. Especially when this has occurred as a result of adherence to a modern western diet, this can be addressed to a large degree by changing what we eat. Here’s how.
Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods
To reduce inflammation in your hypothalamus, eat whole, nutritious foods, ones that contain antioxidants. These include beta-carotene (precursor of Vitamin A), Vitamin C, lutein, lycopene, anthocyanin, chlorophyll, zeaxanthin, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, selenium, or manganese.
Antioxidants prevent damage to your body’s cells caused by free radicals, the by-products of your body’s metabolism and different chemical processes. If free radicals are not eliminated, it can result in oxidative stress which is linked to several health conditions. Antioxidants help in breaking down free radicals, which promotes overall health and slows the ageing process.
Higher amounts of antioxidants and nutrients in your body help to prevent hypothalamus inflammation and makes it more sensitive to leptin.
Examples of anti-inflammatory foods are:
- Fruits such as avocados, cherries, grapes, oranges, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and acai berries.
- Vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli, collard greens, and red peppers.
- Legumes such as chickpeas, red kidney beans, lentils, soybeans and peas.
- Garlic, one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories.
- Others such as green tea, mushrooms, and turmeric.
Follow a High Protein, Low Carb Diet
Fatty fish such as salmon and sardines are rich in omega 3s and healthy sources of protein. You can also get your omega 3s from shellfish, such as Dungeness crab, lobster, shrimp, oysters, clams, and scallops. Other lean proteins include eggs, turkey or chicken breasts, sirloin, or lamb.
High levels of triglycerides in your body are associated with inflammation. Eating fatty fish and shellfish rich in omega-3 fatty acids lowers the rate of triglyceride production in your liver, thus reducing inflammation especially in your hypothalamus and improving leptin sensitivity.
Proteins boost your metabolism. These macronutrients make you burn calories from 80 to 100 more per day due to their high thermic effects or dietary induced thermogenesis, a process of heat production. When you eat protein rich foods, you produce more heat or energy, so you burn up stored fats in your body.
Choose low-GI carbs such as cauliflower, rutabaga or turnips, beetroots, fennel bulbs, asparagus, green peas, nectarine, apples, and zucchini. They are also high in fiber which contributes to the feeling of fullness, thus controlling your hunger. They are also gluten-free which further helps maintain gut health and prevent hypothalamus inflammation.
Not only is choosing the right foods is important, your portion control is too. Make a real effort to only consume the recommended daily allowance of macronutrients, especially carbohydrates. Take supplements if you are deficient in any vitamins and minerals. Choose complex carbs as in fruits and vegetables as snacks and avoid sugary, simple carbs, and processed foods.
Work With Your Circadian Rhythm
Make your eating and sleeping routines into healthy, mindful habits. Try to create healthy eating and sleeping schedules. Leptin works on your circadian rhythm. Simply put, eat when you should, sleep when you should, and get adequate sleep. Disruptions affect your metabolism and your leptin levels. Your circadian clock regulates leptin production and plays an important role in responding to leptin signals through your hypothalamus.
Disruptions help cause leptin resistance. Have you ever experienced a craving for a favorite comfort food when you haven’t had enough sleep? Perhaps you had a late night and the next day you are craving for something you enjoy, just to give you a lift. This is why your circadian rhythm has a profound effect on your weight.
Get Plenty of Exercise and Maintain an Active Lifestyle
Prolonged exercise, from medium to high intensity, regulates your energy balance. With regular workouts, you will help with weight management since increased cell metabolism results in increased energy consumption. You burn calories by breaking down glycogen. When engaging in a low carbohydrate diet, you also break down fats which leads to leptin sensitivity.
Keeping an active lifestyle does not mean pumping weights at the local gym. It means going for a walk, or riding your bike. Brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling is all it takes to get active. You can even work-out at home with the use of treadmills, elliptical machines or an exercise bike if you are so inclined. If you are elderly, doing the gardening or walking your dog is a great way to get your desired exercise quota.
A healthy lifestyle enables you to manage and control stressful situations in your life. Stress can affect your eating habits and in turn, your weight.
Highly stressed lifestyles produce high levels of cortisol, another hormone, and causes you to crave high-fat, and calorie-dense foods, that can lead to leptin resistance. Exercise helps you de-stress and maintain leptin sensitivity, and that’s exactly what you want in order to help keep your appetite under control.
Leptin Diet for Weight Loss
The leptin diet was originally designed by a clinical nutritionist named Byron J. Richards, and as he is nutritionist, it is based on sound dietary advice. It’s a diet to help people lose weight, and there is a big focus on portion control.
The ‘Leptin Diet’ has five basic rules.
- Don’t eat after your evening meal.
- Eat three meals a day with a 5 to 6-hour gap between meals.
- Eat small meals.
- Start your day with a high protein breakfast.
- Limit your carb intake.
Now let’s take a look at the five rules in more detail.
1) Don’t eat after your evening meal.
There’s another step here, and that is not to eat anything at least three hours before you retire. So you have to make sure that you eat your evening meal 3 hours before going to bed.
In the leptin diet, your breakfast and evening meals are the two most important. To follow this diet correctly, you also need to make sure you only eat within a 12-hour window. So if you first eat at 6.00am, make sure you need to have eaten your evening meal before 6.00pm.
During sleep periods, the body’s metabolism generally slows down. Therefore, if you eat after dinner, you are placing a burden on your body’s processing functions. If your body has to continue to process excess fats while the metabolism is working at a slower rate, well as you can see, it’s not the ideal.
Plus, if you insist on eating food after dinner, it will be added to your body’s fat stores. That’s not ideal either.
During daylight hours, the 12 hour window for digesting your breakfast and dinner gives your body time to digest the food, without giving your metabolism a hard time processing it.
2) Eat three meals a day with a 5 to 6-hour gap between meals.
Your breakfast, lunch, and dinner should have a 5 to 6-hour stretch in between. If we use the example above, the breakfast at 6.00am, that means you could have lunch at 12.00pm and your dinner between 5.00 and 6.00pm.
Many believe that the human body requires three regular meals every day for it to function at its best. There are other thoughts on this topic. However, we are looking at the ‘Leptin Diet’ rules, so we’ll stick to the 3 meals per day theory. The reason behind 3 meals per day is so that the body gets all the important nutrients it needs. Remember, this should be done without any snacking!
An important point to note here, in regards to snacks, is that most people do not realize that triglycerides prevent leptin from sending signals to the brain, letting you know you’ve eaten enough. Triglycerides can block the pathway of leptin over a period of time. If you are a habitual snacker, especially of high cholesterol foods, this pathway will clog up even more.
However, if you stick to three meals a day, with an interval of 5 to 6 hours in between, your body will have the chance to use up the stored triglycerides.
3) Eat small meals.
The leptin diet does not just focus on certain foods; it also focuses on how much you eat. It’s all about portion control. It also emphasizes on how you should eat. Do not wait until you are full, stop before you are.
It’s amazing how, after eating, if you sit and wait just 10 minutes, you will feel sated. The 10 minutes prior you may have asked for seconds, 10 minutes later and your brain has processed the signal, that yes, you have eaten enough. That’s because it takes 20 minutes for the leptin hormone to reach the brain.
Allow yourself time to be told!
Next, slow down your eating. Instead of eating fast, it is highly advised to take more time eating. Put your knife and fork down instead of loading it up and getting it ready for the next mouthful.
Again, give your brain time to receive the right signals. Slow, mindful eating is important here.
4) Start your day with a high protein breakfast.
Instead of having a stack of pancakes covered in maple syrup, which is not recommended, by the way, opt for lean meat, organic eggs and other healthy sources of protein. Your breakfast requires 20-30 grams of protein.
Protein after a 12 hour fast (your sleep period) is one of the most effective ways to increase your metabolic rate, by up to 30 percent. This is why it is important to start your day with protein-rich foods.
5) Watch your carb intake.
If you do not reduce your high carbohydrate consumption, you will adversely affect your blood triglycerides, as explained earlier. You still need complex carbs in your diet, such as fruits and vegetables. It’s the simple carbs you have to reduce. They’re the foods that you know you shouldn’t be eating already, such as cookies and cakes.
In conclusion, the rules are simple to follow. The leptin diet is not just a diet; it’s a lifestyle change that you can follow for life.
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