When it comes to weight loss, it’s only natural to wish that there was some magic bullet that could take all the extra pounds off for us. It’s always best to avoid popping pills and sketchy supplements when there are proven natural ways to achieve the same result. The good news is that your body naturally produces two hormones that can help you control your hunger and lose weight. Let’s take a look at two of these vital hormones and some essential tips to help ensure they stay naturally balanced.
Leptin: The Satiety Hormone
Leptin is produced by your fat cells. It’s considered a ‘satiety hormone’ that reduces appetite and makes you feel full. The satiety hormone supports efficient metabolism by traveling through your blood to the appetite center of your brain. There, it binds to receptors that are responsible for making you feel hungry. The brain then relays the message to your body, saying ‘you’re full,’ which curbs your appetite and causes you to stop eating. Leptin also travels through your nervous system, stimulating fatty tissue to burn off fat and calories.
One of the main reasons you feel full or not is determined by the amount of leptin in your system. When it’s low, you’ll feel hungry, and when it’s plentiful, you won’t.
Ghrelin: The Hunger Hormone
Ghrelin is a hormone produced in the gut. Think of ghrelin as playing the opposite role of leptin. It is often termed the hunger hormone and sometimes called lenomorelin. Ghrelin makes you want to eat (even when you should feel full), take in more calories, and store fat.
When your stomach is empty, it releases ghrelin, which sends a message to the brain telling you to eat. Typically, ghrelin levels are highest before eating, and the lowest about an hour after you’ve had a meal.
When your body has a healthy balance of the two hormones, leptin and ghrelin comprise a sort of Ying and Yang equilibrium that helps control your hunger. When there is insufficient leptin in the bloodstream and increased levels of ghrelin, you will feel more compelled to overeat.
Leptin Resistance: Feeling Hungry All The Time
If you’re feeling hungry all the time, it may not be your fault. The reason for your new struggles could be because your body has become resistant to leptin.
Because leptin is produced primarily by fat cells, its levels are directly connected to the amount of body fat you have. When your body is functioning correctly, fat cells will produce leptin, which will trigger the brain to decrease your appetite. However, when you gain weight, your body becomes less sensitive to leptin levels, and you develop a resistance to leptin.
Leptin resistance impedes leptin’s natural function in regulating calories and making you feel full. The brain isn’t getting the signal to tell you to stop eating—which results in over-eating and weight gain that can be difficult to lose.
The good news is that reversing leptin resistance IS possible! However, doing so involves important diet and lifestyle changes.
5 lifestyle changes to help balance your hunger hormones:
- Avoid weight extremes: Sudden fluctuations is weight affect leptin and ghrelin. Quick weight gain can cause leptin resistance and increased levels of ghrelin. If you are constantly putting yourself into a calorie deficit, for example, when eating a strict low-calorie diet, you will lower your leptin levels and slow your metabolic rate. This slowing down of your metabolism is what makes it difficult to lose body fat.
- Prioritize Sleep: If you don’t get enough sleep, your body will produce less leptin (the hormone that tells you to stop eating) and more ghrelin (the hormone that tells you to eat more). A recent study showed those who didn’t get a good night’s rest had a 15% lower leptin level than those who got enough sleep since leptin levels typically rise during the sleep cycle. If you’ve ever felt hungrier the day after a miserable night’s sleep, this is because your leptin levels have dropped and are telling your brain that you need to eat.
- Lifting Weights & HIIT: Resistance training is a great way to balance your hormones. Perform short duration, HIIE (high-intensity exercise) to stimulate growth hormone, which boosts fat-burning and helps regulate leptin levels. Studies have shown that exercise may help reverse leptin resistance. Improvements in muscle mass have been shown to reduce levels of ghrelin and help control excessive hunger cravings.
- Eat More Protein: Eating plenty of protein can improve leptin sensitivity. Protein will not only fuel your body and make you feel full, but it will also kick-start your leptin levels. Try eating egg whites with a fruit or vegetable for breakfast and avoid cereals. Breakfast cereals are typically high-carb. They contain lectin and bind to your leptin receptors, thereby hampering leptin’s ability to do its job.
- Take Omega-3: Increase your omega-3 essential fatty acid consumption by eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon. Omega-3 can help increase leptin levels by supporting a healthy inflammatory response. It also increases your body’s sensitivity to leptin, making it more receptive.
Now that you know how leptin and ghrelin work, you can use this information to control your hunger cravings and take one step closer toward your weight loss goals. Take control of your health. You deserve to feel and to be your best.