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My last post was about insulin resistance. Intriguing……I know! At least I found the topic intriguing, but that is why I write about this stuff. Often people who realize they are insulin resistant are also leptin resistant. Leptin resistant? You mean they are resistant to tea bags or something? No, that is Lipton! Leptin is yet another hormone in our bodies. You’ll quickly learn there are lots of hormones that when working in concert help our bodies run like the well oiled bio-mechanical machines they are supposed to be, but when they are out-of-whack (that’s a technical term) they can make life pretty uncomfortable. So, you’ve already learned a bit about insulin now let’s talk about leptin.

What is leptin you ask? The short answer is leptin is the hunger hormone. One of its functions is to tell the brain, “I’m full. I have enough energy to run. Stop eating!” This is most succinctly described by Mark Sisson in this blog, MarksDailyApple, like this:

“Put simply: long-term, leptin signals that the body has adequate adipose tissue (energy) stores; short-term, leptin signals that the body has had enough to eat. Both are supposed to result in the reduction in appetite.”  Click here to read more from Mark.

But leptin is even more than that. One of the experts in this realm whom I follow is Nora Gedgaudas, author of Primal Body, Primal Mind.  If you ask Nora, leptin is the master hormone. It’s the big kid on the block that all the other kids look up to. Leptin is secreted from our stored fat tissue (adipose tissue) and tells the hypothalamus in the brain we have enough energy and thus do not need to eat more. This will obviously influence how much we eat which will then influence insulin production. Depending on what we eat and how we eat it impacts the adrenal hormones, pituitary hormones, sex hormones, etc. Leptin essentially manages our entire metabolic and hormonal (endocrine) system.

So, why do we all have such a problem maintaining our weight? If leptin is supposed to signal the brain that the body has had enough and is no longer hungry, why can’t we seem to push way from the trough? Why have portion sizes grown so out of control that quite frankly they could feed 2 people? Why has more food become synonymous with better food? What is going on? Somehow that leptin signal isn’t working. Either the receptors aren’t receiving the signal or they are being “down-regulated” meaning there are fewer and fewer of them. When leptin is low, or isn’t being heard then we never really feel satiated. We are leptin resistant. This can lead to binge eating, emotional eating and real problems losing weight. We get that feeling of a lack of self-control or self-discipline.

 

Some common signs of leptin resistance are: (these come from Nora’s book)

  • Being overweight, particularly persistent love handles
  • Fatigue after meals
  • High blood pressure
  • Cravings for comfort foods
  • Consistent feelings of anxiousness or feeling stressed out
  • Feeling hungry all the time or a desire to eat at odd times of the night
  • Persistent problems sleeping
  • Regular cravings for sugar or other stimulants
  • Consistent desire to snack after meals
  • Difficulty losing weight or changing body shape regardless of how much you exercise
  • High fasting triglyceride levels

Some of these symptoms are obviously signs of insulin resistance, adrenal fatigue and other hormonal issues but since leptin is the granddaddy of them all, it makes sense the symptoms would be similar.

So what causes leptin resistance? According to Nora, the single most disruptive influence to hormone regulation and leptin resistance is the blood sugar surges caused by the regular consumption of dietary sugar and starch. Foods like bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, chips, potatoes, cookies and other baked goods, sugary drinks, candy, other sweets are examples of the foods that are making our nation fatter and sicker with each passing day. The chronic over consumption of starch and/or sugar at every meal and snack has led to rampant leptin resistance, insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and more. Some other culprits are many medications that can disrupt hormonal imbalance, caffeine and other stimulants, and persistent alcohol consumption.

This perpetual state of imbalance puts tremendous pressure on the adrenal glands which are already taxed with trying to reduce the inflammation caused by everyday stress and now also the inflammation caused by these inflammatory foods, chemicals, drugs and stimulants. Eventually you can end up with adrenal fatigue as well. Now we have a vicious bundle of hormone dis-regulation starting with leptin, moving to insulin and now the adrenal hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. Yikes!!! Now we have the perfect recipe for chronic fatigue, physical, emotional and psychological degeneration and disease. Awesome!  Pass the bread basket. Ugh!!

Your best shot at healthy leptin functioning is maintaining a diet very low in sugar and starch and with adequate levels of healthy fats. By healthy fats I mean good sources of saturated animal fat from healthy pastured animals including butter, but also avocados, coconut oil and palm oil. As well as healthy mono-unsaturated fats like olive oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil. (Under no circumstances will you need any other vegetable or seed oils. ALWAYS look for cold expeller pressed on the label.)

 

This is where the Paleo Diet once again can help you regain healthy leptin function. While The Paleo diet isn’t low carb for low carb sake, it does eliminate and/or dramatically reduce the biggest culprits. At the core of the Paleo Diet are animal foods from animals raised in a healthy environment whenever possible, sufficient good fats, vegetables, some fruit (this should be limited) and some nuts and seeds. It’s the simplest and oldest diet on the planet. Now, I know I post some Paleo friendly sweet treats like grain free muffins and baked goods, non dairy ice cream etc, but those recipes are best used occasionally, as transitional foods for people just starting and tired of eating eggs for breakfast everyday, and when you already have a healthy functioning endocrine system.

If you are reading this and these symptoms sound familiar and you know you are eating many of the foods that cause the problem and too often, then you know something has to change. You have to get well before you can indulge in a little bit of not-too-naughtiness. There is nothing more powerful than knowing that you have the power to take back your health! Nothing is more empowering than knowing YOU are calling the shots and making the choices you need to make in order to become the beautiful healthy specimen you know you can be. YOU are the master of your own destiny and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Don’t tell me that pizza was just calling your name, go get a steak! YOU ARE THE BOSS!!

Let’s get those hormones under control and functioning normally so the hurdle to awesomeness no longer feels unattainable. I promise you your awesomeness awaits! You just need the courage to go get it! Life it too short to not feel AWESOME!  I’ll help!

Until next time,

 

~ Laura, MGP

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One Response to “What The Heck is Leptin? And Why Should You Care?”

  1. […] master hormone Leptin (see my post of Leptin resistance) is a hormone released by our fat cells that tells the brain we are full (or we have enough fat […]

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