When my clients talk about their weight, I’ve noticed many of them aren’t aware of how certain hormones affect and control their appetites and diet choices. Weight gain and loss aren’t only attributed to calories and personal willpower; the chemicals in your brain are playing a part too!
One very important hormone linked to weight loss and appetite is leptin. If you’ve never heard of leptin, you might be surprised at how big of a role it plays in your body’s natural ability to stay energized. If you have heard of leptin but aren’t sure how to manage it or struggle with your weight and appetite control, I have some tips for you.
Before we get to three natural ways to manage leptin, let’s learn what leptin is, why it’s called the “diet hormone,” and how leptin resistance can throw off your health goals.
What Does Leptin Do and Why Is It a Diet Hormone?
Leptin tells your brain when your body needs more fuel (energy) or when you have a full belly. This is why we call it a “diet hormone,” “satiety hormone,” or “starvation hormone.”
Specifically, leptin is a vital hormone that regulates your appetite and how much you eat, which in turn affects your weight. Leptin comes from fat cells turning into protein. When it’s released from your fat cells, it acts on your brain to help control your diet. Leptin is also related to fertility, immunity, and brain function, but its primary function is energy regulation.
A variety of hormones are produced by different glands throughout your body and help regulate many major bodily functions. They are transported through your tissue fluids such as your blood. Leptin, particularly, is only released from the fat cells in your body. After they’re released, they signal your hypothalamus, the part of your brain that helps control eating.
Think of leptin as your personal trainer. When you are full, leptin tells your brain to quit eating. When you are eating a meal and you start to feel full, that means leptin has reached your brain and is signaling to your body to stop eating.
Consider hunger like a scale, ranging from “starving” to “nauseous.” Leptin helps you stay as close to the green zones of “neutral” and “satisfied” as possible, by giving your body signs like a growling stomach or feeling “stuffed.”
Leptin is your body’s natural way of regulating energy. But if you build up resistance to leptin, it can interfere with your weight loss goals.
What is Leptin Resistance?
Do you ever feel like you are gaining too much weight but still crave more food? This feeling may be the result of either too much or too little leptin.
Here are two major ways leptin may be holding you back from your health goals:
- Leptin resistance: Leptin resistance is a condition that dulls the sensitivity to leptin in your brain when your body produces too much leptin. It’s like any other repetitive task — you do it too much, and you become numb to the overall effect it has on you. Leptin resistance can lead to obesity and for children, and it can delay puberty if not controlled in time.
- Congenital leptin deficiency: While it is rare, some people are leptin-deficient from birth. Their bodies are naturally unable to produce leptin. This condition is called congenital leptin deficiency. Your body consistently does not produce leptin from fat cells, which makes your mind believe you are not full.
When leptin is absent or stops signaling your brain, it can lead to an uncontrollable appetite and obesity if you are not careful. By now, you’re probably thinking: If leptin controls body weight and appetite, shouldn’t you just increase your leptin through your diet and by taking supplements for better control?
No, you shouldn’t simply increase leptin unless you have congenital leptin deficiency. Remember, if you have too much leptin in your system, it can cause leptin resistance, wearing down your body’s ability to tell you you’re full!
Managing leptin for weight loss is about balance. With healthy leptin levels, you can control your cravings and you won’t have to worry about your body building resistance from taking too much.
Three Natural Ways to Help Balance Leptin Levels
Balancing your leptin levels naturally is easy; all it takes is watching your sugar, increasing polyphenols, and some exercise! If you incorporate these three strategies into your daily routines, you’ll have healthy leptin levels.
Watch Your Sugar Intake
If you eat food with lots of added sweeteners like sugar or corn syrup, you may run the risk of inducing leptin resistance, and we don’t want that! And yes, you have to balance your natural sugars from fruit too, if you don’t want to develop leptin resistance.
One solution I recommend is to add a healthy, nutrient-dense mixture of fruits and veggies to your diet and limit foods with added sweeteners. Try these highly nutritional fruits and vegetables:
- Swiss chard
- Red cabbage
- Young green onions
- Pink and red grapefruit
- Sour red cherries
- Red and green tomatoes
If you’re too busy to try and incorporate more of these foods into your diet, check out my Just Add Water™ line for balanced fruits, veggies, and more on the go!
Increase Polyphenols in Your Diet
Polyphenols are natural chemicals that come from plants. They’re full of antioxidants and may contribute to a lower risk of heart disease. The less processed your food is, the more polyphenols you will receive when you eat them. That’s why I lean more towards a whole food diet.
So which foods and drinks contain polyphenols?
- Fruits like apples, blueberries, pomegranates, and strawberries
- Vegetables like onions, carrots, and spinach
- Seeds, nuts, and legumes such as black beans, almonds, and flaxseed
- Spices and seasonings such as cumin, basil, curry powder, and saffron
- Drinks such as red wine, coffee, and tea
There are a lot of great polyphenol options and probably many items you consume already!
When you increase polyphenol levels, it helps reduce your inflammation of the hypothalamus, the part of your brain that controls your diet. This reduction in inflammation will increase your leptin sensitivity, meaning a more controlled diet.
When you take a jog or practice yoga, inflammation in your body can decrease and this equals more sensitivity to leptin. I like to exercise at least a few times a week to help balance my leptin levels.
Hopefully, you learned enough about the effects your leptin levels have on your diet and appetite to start balancing them naturally! Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions.
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XO – Serena