Tag Archives: leptin

Regaining Balance Means Healthy Metabolism and Healthy Weight (series part 6)

This article is part of a multi-part series on weight loss, metabolism and general health.    Part 1 –    Part 2 –    Part 3  Part 4    Part 5

The previous article  gave a look at many of the health issues that can cause our bodies to lose homeostasis or balance.  Low-calorie dieting, unrecognized hormonal issues, unidentified food allergies, yeast overgrowth, and vitamin deficiencies caused by low-fat diets are major reasons why we lost homeostasis and gain unwanted weight.  I have said before, but it bears repeating, that being overweight is a symptom of an unhealthy body and NOT the primary problem. If you didn’t have any health issues your metabolism would be keeping you at the right weight for your body. So how can we regain our balance?

Begin by addressing your leptin resistance. Recall that leptin is one of those major hormones that keeps everything else in line. When leptin is out of whack everything else begins to fall over like a long line of dominoes. In Byron & Mary Richards’ book, Mastering Leptin  they give five steps to follow to regain leptin’s correct function.

5 Rules to Overcome Leptin Resistance


1. Never eat after dinner. Finishing eating dinner at least three hours before bed.

2. Eat three meals a day. Allow 5-6 hours between meals. Do not snack!

3. Do not eat large meals. Eat slowly, chew well. Finish a meal when slightly less than full.

4. Eat a high protein breakfast. Aim for 25g or more of protein.

5. Reduce the amount of carbs you eat. Don’t eliminate carbs, just cut back. (Especially cut back on processed carbs like soda, bread, chips, etc.)

What often happens when people begin following these five rules is they find they begin to sleep better, they are not hungry all the time, their cravings begin to diminish, and they begin to lose a few pounds without really trying. The longer you continue with these five rules the easier they will be to follow.

“But I thought we were supposed to eat lots of ‘mini-meals’ throughout the day!” I can hear you thinking this. Truthfully, this only works if you’re younger than 30, or an Olympic athlete, or have trouble controlling your blood sugar.  For us older, non-Olympians it is better for our bodies to have rest cycles of non-eating to allow all of the other body functions time to deal with each meal, rest and get ready for the next one. Constantly eating means no rest for the pancreas, liver and other digestion-related organs. Without rest they can’t operate in peak condition. Things start to falter, and then here we go – we’re out of balance!  If your blood sugar is so out of control that you must eat constantly then you have more serious metabolic issues than can be fixed by the 5 Rules. You are not without hope! You just have more work to do.

Ok, so Five Rules. CHECK! What next?……..Part Seven here.

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How Did We Lose Our Balance? (Weight Loss Series Part 5)

Part 1 –    Part 2 –    Part 3  Part 4

During the last blog in this series we introduced leptin. Leptin is a major player in the hormone family; it is kind of like the President of hormones. Leptin-related problems start happening when communication breaks Lee, Amy, President Lincoln 1976down between the President Leptin and the cabinet Hypothalamus brain and the congress made up of the rest of the hormones plus the body’s hormone receptor sites. A great majority of overweight people have too much leptin.  The hypothalamus in our brain is the main target for leptin messages.  Too much leptin causes imbalances like insulin and adrenaline resistance.  Our liver, pancreas, adrenals and thyroid start blasting out mega-doses of hormones in an attempt to break through the communications block. Consequently we burn out these organs and fall prey to fatigue, disease and more.

Reed Davis, founder of Functional Diagnostic Nutrition uses the acronym HIDDEN to teach us how we got out of balance in the first place.  HIDDEN stands for Hormones, Immune system, Digestion disorders, Detoxification systems, Elimination, and Neurotransmitter systems.  Julia Ross covers very similar topics in her book The Diet Cure. Ms Ross’ list includes depleted brain chemistry, malnutrition, unstable blood sugar, unrecognized low thyroid function, food addictions and allergies, hormonal issues, yeast overgrowth, and fatty acid deficiencies.

Neurotransmitter depletion – meaning you are missing key neurotransmitters – happens due to prolonged stress; consuming refined sugars, white flours or alcohol; or eating insufficient protein. Neurotransmitters are substances such as tyrosine, glutamine, serotonin, epinephrine, glucagon and endorphins. Without ample neurotransmitters you get insomnia, depression, tendency toward drug addiction and more.

Malnutrition can happen even when we have plenty to eat. For dieters, however, malnutrition often comes as a result of extreme low calorie dieting. The subject of calories deserves a blog post all on its own. For now you just need to realize that low-calorie dieting is the same thing as creating our own personal famine.  Yes FAMINE! Your body, your brain and hypothalamus, sees no difference between voluntarily eating Jenny Craig meals and being involuntarily held in a concentration camp. 900 calories/day = famine whether you pay someone for the privilege of starving yourself or you are held prisoner against your will.

Refined and processed carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, white rice) lack vitamins, protein, fat and fiber. Soon you get stuck in a carbs-body fat-insulin cycle that can lead to diabetes; or you might burn out your adrenals. Symptoms of hypoglycemia are similar to symptoms of adrenal exhaustion. Both are dangerous.

Thyroid problems also deserve their own blog post. Some causes of thyroid malfunction are genetics, low calorie dieting (there it is again!), vegetarian diets, anorexia, soy (yes, soy!), a physical injury to the gland, a severe illness, unidentified gluten intolerance, certain prescription drugs such as the pill/antibiotics/estrogen/lithium, iodized salt, chemicals in your dental fillings, or change-of-life events such as puberty or menopause.

Food allergies can be obvious, they can also be sneaky. Casein and gluten are especially tricky as they behave like opiates by triggering exorphins which flood opiate receptors in our brain with comfort and pleasure. When this happens you get food addictions. Some symptoms of food allergies seem unrelated to food: joint pain, headaches, earache, postnasal drip, ADHD to name a few. Sometimes it is necessary to go on an elimination diet to discover exactly what foods are causing your problem.

American women are frequent targets for hormonal issues. We have more trouble with PMS, infertility and menopause than most women in less developed countries. According to Julia Ross Women in third world countries don’t have hot flashes and don’t dread menopause. Low-fat dieting, sugar, soy, tobacco, artificial hormones in our meat and dairy, birth control pills, skipping meals and adrenal stress all contribute to hormonal issues in American women. Men get it too, male menopause, from poor diet and stress.

Yeast overgrowth in the gut (imbalanced gut flora – see my blog on digestive disorders and gut flora here http://blog.wellfedfamily.net/2010/06/04/digestive-disorders-part-two.aspx) can take over the body-to-brain connection. Yeast needs sugar to grow so you get cravings for sugar and carbs. Side effects of yeast overgrowth are depression, bloating, PMS, painful joints, eczema, sore throat, impaired digestion, urinary problems, shortness of breath, chest pains, sinus infection and ear infections. Yeast can overgrow your digestive system and spill into your bloodstream!

Lastly we get to fatty acid deficiency.  We must eat the right kinds of fats in order to have hormone production, cell protection, healthy skin and hair, mental stability and concentration, regularity and to prevent abnormal cravings. Safe, nourishing fats are those highly valued and eaten regularly by the traditional people Weston Price studied who possessed the true definition of health. Those fats are butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, animal fats from free range and wild caught animals and fish, extra virgin olive oil, and nut/seed/avocado oil from cold-pressed sources never heated. Healthy fats contain vitamins like A, D, & E, CLA, MCT, cholesterol, precursors for hormone production and most importantly omega-3 fatty acids. Balanced omega-3:omega-6 ratios will helpDSC01406 bring balance back to the entire body. Certain people have genetically greater needs for omega-3 fats. If you are descended from Scandinavian, Native American, Native Celtic, Irish, Scottish or Welsh you might not be able to metabolize omega-3 from plants (like flaxseed or chia) and you must get omega-3 from cold water fish, grassfed beef and wild game or fish oil supplements. Depression and alcohol cravings are often signs of omega-3 deficiency.

And there you have it – a lengthy list of how we lose our balance, how we get out of homeostasis, how we run into leptin resistance and become overweight in the first place. Now that you know how imbalance happens you can begin to take steps to correct it. Coming up next are some strategies for restoring balance and regaining a healthy metabolism. Read Part Six here.

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Leptin – what is it and how does it work? (weight loss series part 4)

This is part four of a continuing series looking at weight loss. To read Part 1 –    Part 2 –    Part 3

We used to think our fat cells were just a place to store extra calories. I would guess that the majority of people still think that fat, also called adipose tissue, is just a big blob of worthless stuff causing us a lot of grief.  In 1994 scientists discovered that in fact our fat cells are very busy, working all the time, AND they even produce a special hormone.  This hormone, called leptin, is one of the most powerful hormones we make!

One of the best layman’s explanations of leptin comes from Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness.  His video, “Fat Loss for Smart People” is worth a look.

Leptin is like the CEO of hormones. Produced in our adipose tissue (fat), it has a direct influence on metabolism.  It is essential for survival.

Leptin works together with two other important hormones, insulin and adrenaline.  Leptin, insulin and adrenaline report to and are directed by the hypothalamus, an area in our brain.  So we have our hypothalamus (in the brain) listening to messages from our leptin (in our fat), insulin (made in the pancreas) and adrenaline (made in the adrenal glands); and making critical decisions on our health status based on these messages.  The hypothalamus revs our metabolism up, or slows it down depending on the messages it is receiving.  A body in balance has good communication between all of these areas. This is one of the key ways we maintain a healthy weight – good communication!

steam engine and diesel AmtrakThe hypothalamus region of our brain is mostly interested in staying alive, really that’s all it cares about, staying alive at all costs. Like the engineer of a big train it says, “How much energy is being used? How long will this last? Do we have enough in reserve to keep this up? I need answers people!!”


Leptin sends out messages at regular intervals keeping the hypothalamus informed. “Everything’s good here. We have plenty of food coming in, we’re setting aside exactly what we need. No worries here, things are fine.”  Leptin also sends messages to the pancreas and the adrenals letting them know what is needed.

The boss Hypothalamus stays calm when these messages come in on schedule. “Roger that! Metabolism will remain at optimum energy production. Appetite, you don’t need to be high. Pancreas, thyroid and adrenals you’re doing fine, keep up the good work. Good teamwork everyone!”

If we are ever in a famine we are forced to burn our fat stores because food is scarce.  The fat stores get smaller and smaller and nothing is coming in to replace them. Leptin sends an emergency message, “Hey, stores are running out. We will soon be burning muscle tissue, there’s not enough food!”

The hypothalamus jumps to action. “Thyroid, slow things down! We’re burning up energy too fast! Appetite, I order you to find us more fuel STAT!”  This way we are able to conserve energy through slower metabolism while becoming hungrier and hungrier and thus even more motivated to find food. This is what happens when our bodies encounter starvation or famine.

The trouble is our hypothalamus never looks in the mirror. Our hypothalamus does not care one bit what we look like. It only cares whether or not we are going to die from lack of food. Someone in a war-torn third world country who is truly suffering from a dangerous famine will have this scenario going on in his body.  Someone else (like us) in a wealthy western country with plenty of grocery and convenience stores as well as extra pounds on our hips, may decide to go on Medifast 800 calorie/day diet and our bodies will have the exact same reaction as the person in the famine-plagued country. The moment we are no longer in starvation mode our body works as quickly as possible to return to the pre-famine state.  If that pre-famine state was a healthy one that’s not a bad thing. But if that pre-famine state was already overweight this means we gain back all of the weight that was lost by starving ourselves on purpose. (self-induced famine)  The more often we put ourselves through starvation mode the less our body will trust us for survival. Instead of gaining back only to the original amount we will now gain a little extra “just in case you do something stupid and try to starve us again!” says the hypothalamus.

So how does leptin, insulin, adrenaline and the hypothalamus let us get overweight in the first place?

It all goes back to that balance we talked about in the very first article of this series. Something in out-of-balanceour lifestyle pushes us out of balance. When that happens the leptin tries to send messages to the hypothalamus but the lines of communication are down and the message doesn’t go through. This is called leptin resistance. The hypothalamus sends out the alarm, “Oh no! Starvation mode!” Metabolism slows down to conserve energy, appetite increases and fat stores get larger and larger. This gives us even more leptin-producing tissue which puts it out of balance with insulin. We have set the stage for serious health issues. These issues include erratic behavior and strong cravings, mental problems, bone loss, heart disease and cancer. We have also lost the ability to maintain a healthy body weight.  This is all because leptin regulates the other hormones including thyroid, adrenal, pancreatic and the sex hormones.

The brain is not the only site that receives messages from leptin. There can be a breakdown in communication between leptin and all the other body receptor sites. We can burn out our livers, pancreas, adrenals and thyroid when our body tries to fight off what is perceived as starvation or famine.  The older we get the more likely this is to happen. It happens even faster when we are overstressed.

How do we know if we are leptin resistant? According to the book Mastering Leptin by Byron and Mary Richards   there are several signs that indicate leptin resistance:

15 or more pounds overweight, low energy, poor immune response, fatigue, not refreshed by exercise, anorexia, significantly overweight in spite of near-starvation levels of calories.

So how did we get out of balance in the first place?     ……..to be continued!…………Part Five here.

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