Node Smith, ND
Leptin Lets the Brain Know How Much to Eat
Most people are not familiar with the hormone, leptin. Cortisol, thyroid, and insulin are very well known in the health world, especially the weight loss world, however, leptin is the hormone which regulates how hungry you are. Leptin is the hormone which is released from fat cells and signals the brain that you’ve had your fill and it’s time to stop eating. It also signals the sympathetic nervous system and regulates the breakdown of fat by speeding up the metabolism – in this way it does interact with thyroid hormones, and affects energy levels. Its main role is to signal the brain to eat less, or more.
Are you Low on Leptin?
When leptin is not functioning properly, people tend to overeat, and gain weight. Of course this isn’t the only process at work in most cases, but it is a crucial one. When cells don’t respond to leptin, they don’t know that they’re satiated, and hunger persists. If leptin is high for a long time – for instance, with chronic overeating – then the brain may lose sensitivity to it and the brain will stop obeying its signals to stop eating and increase metabolism.
The most common signs of an altered, or slow leptin response (leptin resistance) are:
- weight gain
- stress eating
- cravings that cannot be controlled
- late night eating
- inability to lose weight
- sugar cravings
- urges for snacks after meals
- fatigue after eating
How to Reverse Leptin
The best way to reverse leptin (and insulin) resistance is to stop eating foods high in processed carbohydrates, sugars and processed fats/oils. Also, fructose corn syrup is detrimental to these regulatory pathways.
Incorporate by Integrating More Organic Whole Foods into the Mix
The easiest way to stop eating the foods above is to incorporate more and more organic and whole foods into the diet. Eat more monounsaturated and healthy saturated fats (coconut, avocado, butter, nuts and animal fats). Increasing fiber (vegetable matter) also helps rid the body of toxic build up by regulating bowel health and gut microbiota.
Sleep, and regular exercise, are also incredibly important to resetting any hormonal upset in the body, and work hand-in-hand with dietary changes.
These changes can be very difficult to manage on one’s own, and a consultation with a naturopathic physician is a great start to this process. They will be able to assess the likelihood of not only a leptin dysregulation but also other hormonal imbalances, and explain how they work together and will change together with a given treatment plan.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.