Our hormones affect pretty much everything in our body, from metabolism and weight loss, to fertility, blood pressure, sleep and more. Leptin is a hormone that helps to regulate body weight and energy balance by inhibiting hunger. Its main role is to regulate fat storage and how many calories you eat and burn. If your body becomes resistant to leptin, it stops receiving and responding to its signals. Leptin resistance is thought to be one of the main causes of weight gain today. We’ve rounded up some advice on how to reverse leptin resistance for weight loss, so you can live a healthier life.
What is Leptin and Why Is It Important?
Leptin is a hormone produced by the fat cells in your body that helps you maintain your normal weight on a long-term basis. It does this by regulating hunger by providing the sensation of satiety (feeling full). It helps prevent hunger and regulate energy balance so that your body doesn’t trigger a hunger response when it doesn’t need energy.
Leptin primarily targets the brain, particularly the hypothalamus. When you have enough fat stored, it’s supposed to tell your brain that you don’t need to eat and you can burn calories at a normal rate. High levels of leptin tell your brain you have plenty of fat stored, while low levels tell your brain that fat stores are low and you need to eat.
What is Leptin Resistance?
Leptin resistance is when your body does not respond to leptin, and it’s believed to be one of the leading causes of fat gain. Since the amount of leptin in your blood is directly proportional to the amount of body fat, obesity results in high levels of leptin. This can cause a lack of sensitivity to leptin, which can lead to you being leptin resistant.
Leptin signals your brain to stop eating once you’ve replenished your energy stores, but only when the signalling mechanism is working right. Things break down if your brain stops receiving leptin’s signals and responding to them accordingly. Your brain struggles to recognize the hormone signalling, so you end up feeling hungry all the time, even when you eat more than enough food to fuel your body.
What Are the Signs of Leptin Resistance?
1. Obesity and belly fat
2. Trouble losing weight no matter how much you exercise
3. Constant weight gain even with no change in diet or exercise
4. Constant fatigue and low energy
5. Chronic pain disorders, such as fibromyalgia
6. Constant food cravings, even after a big meal
7. Cravings for junk food
8. Feeling stressed out
9. Feeling sleep deprived
What Are the Causes of Leptin Resistance?
The Western diet in particular is high in sugar and processed foods, which is one of the biggest causes of obesity and can lead to leptin resistance. Other than diet, there are a few other things that can contribute to leptin resistance:
2. Inadequate sleep
3. High stress (and resulting high cortisol) levels
4. High insulin levels
5. Too little or too much exercise
6. Excessive snacking, especially at night
How to Reverse Leptin Resistance
1. Limit Sugars and Processed Foods
The typical modern day diet is filled with sugar, refined carbs, preservatives and chemicals. Eating these kinds of foods consistently can ruin your body’s leptin response. Sugary foods flood your body with a temporary burst of energy, but lead to crashes and you’ll find yourself hungry soon after. Surges of leptin force your body to adapt by making your body resistant to the hormone. Replace these foods with nutrient-dense, slow-burn energy foods to avoid leptin spikes. Focus on vegetables, leafy greens, grass-fed meats and healthy fats like nuts and avocados.
2. Eat More Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like salmon, flax seeds, walnuts and avocados are essential for your health and will help balance leptin. Most people are consuming too many omega-6s from processed foods, vegetable oil and factory-farmed meat. Omega-3s are essential for brain health and they also support other functions like digestion and immunity.
3. Increase Your Fibre and Protein
Eating lots of protein and fibre can lead to weight loss since they help to fill you up and keep you satisfied. Protein is also great because it will help you avoid energy slumps, food cravings and blood sugar spikes. Focus on eating foods like eggs, fish, lean meats, whole grains, legumes, greens, nuts and healthy oils.
4. Get Enough Exercise
Physical activity can help reverse leptin resistance. It’s so important to get your heart rate up, whether it’s with walking, jogging, cycling or Pilates. Strength training specifically is beneficial for leptin resistance as lifting weights can help increase leptin sensitivity, making it easier for your body to tell your brain when it’s full and help you lose weight.
5. Manage Your Stress
Find ways to keep your stress levels under control, especially in taxing times. High stress can skyrocket your cortisol levels, negatively affecting your body’s response to leptin. Try your best to keep your cortisol levels in check by practicing yoga, taking daily walks, doing meditation, exercising and eating well. Properly managing your stress will help you sleep better, boost your mood and control your weight.
6. Get Adequate Sleep
Poor sleep can lead to problems with leptin, so focus on getting a good night’s rest. Avoid large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bed, remove electronic devices such as laptops and phones from your bedroom and create a dark, comfortable atmosphere in your bedroom. Try to keep a consistent sleep/wake cycle and focus on clearing your mind as much as possible in the evening. Read a book, take a bath or try some bedtime meditation.
7. Reduce Toxins
Toxins can wreak havoc on your hormones, including leptin. Toxins live in everything from plastics to processed foods, detergents, dryer sheets, deodorants and cosmetics. Start reducing the toxins in your life by investing in high quality, all-natural products. Shop for detergents and personal care products that are “fragrance-free” and read labels to avoid ingredients like parabens, sodium laureth sulfate and oxybenzone.
If you think you may have leptin resistance talk to your doctor and try implementing these health and diet tips for weight loss and maintenance.
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