fix your leptin!

Posted on March 18th, 2015 by mountain girl  |  2 Comments »

The older man at the library stamped my book (yep, they still use a date stamp in this archaic county), handed Mastering Leptin back to me, leaned forward, and asked with a curious grin, “So what is leptin?”

“Oh,” I replied, “It’s a hormone.”  I started to tell him about leptin and just how amazing it is when I suddenly realized he was very uncomfortable. He sank back into his chair and looked around nervously for something else to talk about.  Ah, I realized–I said the H word. Hormone.

So, hey there! I’m coming up for air.

I’ve had my head in books and websites lately, learning about leptin.  Leptin is a hormone, often called the master hormone, since it is in charge of every other hormone in the body.  Before you (guys especially) zone out, let me just say that hormones are simply chemical messengers, going from your body to your brain and back again. No big deal, nothing weird.

(The man at the library probably would have been intrigued if I had told him, “Leptin?  Oh, it’s a chemical messenger–one that delivers important information to a master database from faraway, often war-torn lands.”  That would have piqued his interest, no doubt.)

So what is the big deal about leptin?  It was discovered only about 20 years ago, but since then, scientists have been amazed at what it actually does in the body.  It seems that it is the main deciding factor over weight, energy, sleep, cravings, reproductive system, bone health, menopausal symptoms, fibromyalgia, heart health, cancer, etc, etc.  Your health in general, really.  It also tells all your other hormones to behave (or not).  And leptin problems can be passed down to your kids–compromising their health.  It is huge.

Note: If you’re like me, you’ll probably want more info–you might even like to read a gigantic book like Mastering Leptin.  Or, if you’re like my husband, you’ll want just the facts, nothing but the facts, and probably not even the facts.  But for those of you who are a little bit interested, here are a few facts relating to leptin and metabolism.  Just a few.  And I’m still learning about leptin, so this will be anything but comprehensive, even if I wanted it to be.

Leptin: the facts.

People who have leptin problems can have too little leptin, too much leptin, or be leptin resistant.  No matter what the problem is, the results are similar: your brain is not getting the right signal.  Leptin is a survival hormone.  If food is scarce and you’re not getting enough calories, your brain gets the message to  s l o w  down your metabolism and burn as little energy as possible so you can survive.  Your brain doesn’t care if there is a shortage because you haven’t been able to catch a gazelle, or because you’re on a grapefruit diet to lose weight–the message is the same–store as much fat as you can!

*So really, the calories in/calories out approach to weight loss is overly simplistic.  You simply are not what you eat.  In fact, most of mainstream medical wisdom does not view the body as a synergistic whole, working together to create balance.  Your body really does have the ability to regulate your weight and give you energy–if it’s not being confused.

Back to the subject–calorie restriction, too little leptin, slowed down metabolism.  On the other hand, if leptin (which resides in your fat cells) multiplies too much, clogs the circuits and creates a barrier, your brain also reads that as not enough leptin getting through–and although–or because–you have waaaay more than enough to eat, the brain cries, “Shut ‘er down!  Slow the metabolism, reserve the energy, store the fat, and above all, INCREASE THE CRAVINGS!  We need more food!”  It’s a lose-lose situation–and for most of America, it’s a big problem.

So how does leptin get so out of whack in so many people?  The reasons are many–and widely varied!

Reasons for wacky leptin:

Calorie restriction–leading to yo-yo dieting.

Insulin issues (which come from polyunsaturated fats, lots of refined carbs, stress, excessive alcohol, not enough sleep, toxic substances like household cleaners).

Exercise!  As in too much cardio exercise–excessive treadmill walking, running, etc.  It wears down your body and stresses your hormones.

Overeating–causes leptin resistance.

Excessive high fructose corn syrup (read the ingredients–it’s probably there).

Wheat.

Triglycerides–increased due to refined carbs.

Stress.

So what is the solution?

Fix yer leptin.

Getting your leptin back on track is like getting your canoe off the sandbar.  You can sit there and paddle furiously all day long, or you can get up, push your boat into the water, and let it carry you.  Leptin is meant to carry you.  It’s a regulator–it tells your brain the perfect weight for your body (and keeps you there) and the energy it can spare for you to live and feel great.  But when it’s off track or dysfunctional, it won’t give the right message.

So how do you fix leptin issues?  How do you raise leptin, or lower it, or improve leptin sensitivity?  Here are a few things the leptin experts insist will make a world of leptin difference.

The World of Leptin would be a Better Place if…

You don’t snack.  Eating between meals doesn’t give your body time to rest, remove clogging triglycerides, or give your hormones a break–which they need.  Also avoid drinks with calories between meals.

Personal note: This was SO hard for me! I usually eat all. day. long. But they say low blood sugar can be a sign of a weak pancreas and liver–fatigued from eating too often!  As your system becomes healthier, you won’t have bouts of low blood sugar.  Not snacking is like working a muscle–it makes those organs stronger.  So quit yer stinkin’ snackin’.

Eat a breakfast with lots of protein.  It will help your metabolism stay alive through the day, and it creates a slow burn that helps you not to crash like a mostly-carb breakfast would.  A protein-rich diet works wonders for a flagging metabolism.

Don’t eat large meals.  Overeating confuses leptin signals and creates leptin resistance. Eat slowly so you can sense when you are full.

Don’t eat after dinner.  Make sure there are at least 3-4 hours between dinner and bed.  Leptin is highest at night, and several hours after dinner–while you sleep–is your prime fat burning time.  Eating close to bedtime completely stymies that.

Make sleep a priority.  Leptin helps you sleep, but sleep helps your leptin.  Taking calcium and/or magnesium before bed can help you sleep better.  Going to bed early and not falling asleep in front of a blue light (hint, hint) is good for yer hormones.

And if you’re really serious about it:

Exercise.  Short bursts of high intensity exercise like weight lifting and sprinting can improve leptin function.

Improve your digestion.  I’m not really sure what the experts mean by this, but I do know that when I was a vegetarian, my digestion was horrible.  I spent all my free time trying to figure it out, but when I started eating meat, voila.  All better.  So maybe don’t be a vegetarian.  Also probiotics and fermented foods/drinks help a lot.

Get rid of toxins. Use natural cleaners, don’t store food in plastics (gulp–we still use Saran wrap).  You should also probably move to the mountains.  Remember Heidi.

Eat real food.  Nutrient-rich foods like proteins and good fats instead of processed foods and refined carbs.  No Twinkies allowed, or Hostess cakes, or Dum Dums or whatever they’re called.  No Diet Coke.  Or regular Coke.

Some of these things might seem hard at first, but just remember, leptin controls cravings and your willpower.  As your leptin improves, you might find you don’t really need the things you thought you did.  When I started trying not to eat between meals about a week ago, I would get dizzy and lightheaded after only two hours.  Now I can stretch it to 4-6 hours between meals, which seems like a miracle for me.  Hang in there–if you want to fix your leptin, you can!

So that’s the simple version, but I hope it includes a few weapons for your arsenal.  I’d love to hear your leptin thoughts!  And leptin dreams. 🙂

2 Responses to “fix your leptin!”

  1. susan says on :

    What an excellent, insightful post, Mia. It all makes so much sense. Thanks for the heads up on Leptin.

  2. mountain girl says on :

    You’re welcome, Susan–glad you liked it!

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