In my last post I talked about 3 hormones that will affect your weight when they’re out of balance. They were insulin, cortisol and estrogen. Today I’ll tell you about 3 more hormones that affect your weight and what you can do to get them back in balance.
Leptin is produced by your fat cells and it’s the hormone that tells you when you’re full. It tells your brain that you have enough fat in storage so you don’t need to eat anymore.
Interestingly, overweight and obese people actually have a lot of leptin circulating in their blood stream – up to 4 times as much! You’d think then that when these levels become high it would signal these individuals to eat less and they’d lose weight. Unfortunately, what’s happened is the cells have become leptin resistant. The brain doesn’t get the signal that the body no longer needs to store more fat so it drives the person to eat more. One potential cause of leptin resistance is chronically elevated levels of insulin.
Here’s another side of it. When you do lose weight, leptin levels drop off which means your brain isn’t getting the signal when you’ve eaten enough which is why it can be hard to keep weight off long term. Not impossible, just a bit challenging.
What to do:
Avoid inflammatory foods and eat more anti-inflammatory foods.
Inflammatory foods include anything with sugar, anything processed and all junk food. Anti-inflammatory foods include fatty fish, vegetables and fruits.
Even just moderate activity can help improve leptin sensitivity.
Get the sleep you need.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re tired you tend to crave food and it’s usually junk food? When you don’t get enough sleep (7-9 hours) leptin levels drop off and your appetite increases.
When your stomach is empty it releases ghrelin which sends the message to your brain that it’s time to eat. Ghrelin levels are at their highest when your stomach is empty and at their lowest about an hour after eating.
Studies have shown that in overweight and obese people ghrelin only decreases a small amount after they’ve eaten. This means that the brain is still getting signals to keep eating even when the person has had enough food, which will lead to overeating.
What to do:
Cut the sugar!
Sugar and high fructose corn syrup can impair ghrelin response after eating.
Eat more protein!
Be sure to have protein with every meal, especially breakfast. Protein reduces ghrelin levels so your brain gets the signal that you’ve eaten enough and can stop.
Neuropeptide Y (NPY)
Neuropeptide Y, or NPY is produced by cells in your brain and nervous system and it stimulates appetite particularly for carbs. NPY levels are highest during periods of food deprivation or fasting which is why you get such strong cravings for carbs when you’re trying to follow a super low-calorie diet. NPY is also elevated during times of stress.
What to do:
Avoid crash diets and if you’re going to fast don’t do it for too long.
Those super low-calorie diets never work long term so don’t waste your time with them. As for fasting, animal studies have shown that fasting for more than 24 hours can dramatically increase NPY levels
Eat the appropriate amount of protein.
Eating too little protein has been shown to increase NPY levels leading to hunger and increased food intake.
Take care of the good bacteria in your gut.
Be sure to include a high quality pro-biotic in your diet and eat plenty of soluble fibre to keep the good bacteria in your gut happy. You can buy probiotics in capsule form or drink a high quality shake such as Shakeology which contains both pre and probiotics.
In part 3 of this series I’ll be talking about glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), cholecystokinin (CCK) and peptide YY (PYY).