Gatekeeper Hormone Can Make or Break Health and Weight - Here's How to Balance the Odds

Have you heard of leptin? It just happens to be a master hormone that influences weight, energy and cardiovascular health. When this hormone is imbalanced, a cascade of health issues are provoked - creating a path of general ill health. If you feel fatigued, fat or unwell, proper leptin metabolism might be the answer.

Guardian of the appetite

Unclear about the function of leptin? It's called the "gatekeeper of fat metabolism" for good reason. Mark's Daily Apple offers a brief introduction to the hormone:

"Leptin is secreted by fat cells and is received by receptors in the hypothalamus. If leptin is absent, feeding is uncontrolled and relentless. In normally healthy people, if leptin is present and receptors are sensitive, feeding is inhibited. More body fat means less food is required, and so leptin is secreted to inhibit feeding and the accumulation of excess adipose tissue. Overweight people generally have higher circulating leptin, while leaner people have lower leptin levels. Leptin also responds to short-term energy balance. A severe caloric deficit will result in reduced leptin secretion - this is your body's way of getting you to eat when you need energy. It's the hunger hormone. Overfeeding temporarily boosts leptin, reducing hunger."

Just like insulin resistance, we can grow immune to leptin as well. When this happens, the hypothalamus becomes confused and believes the body is starving even though the person may be severely overweight and consuming large amounts of food. Once an individual has reached the point of leptin resistance, it doesn't make any difference the amount of hormone circulating - the body simply won't register substantial enough quantities. And a vicious cycle ensues.

High levels of leptin not only impact our weight, but are also linked with heart disease and stroke, fatigue, infertility and blood sugar problems. Needless to say, getting a handle on this hormone should be top priority if we appreciate sound health.

Health crushing factors

Several scenarios create leptin imbalance, including:

Fructose consumption - Fructose can silence lectin receptors in the brain, desensitizing the hypothalamus. Additionally, it's connected with high blood triglycerides which block the flow of leptin, further encouraging a poor response to the hormone.

Cereal grain lectins - Dr. Staffan Lindeberg believes lectins from rye, wheat and barley actually plug into leptin receptors, thereby preventing leptin from binding and creating resistance.

Inadequate rest - When the body is deprived of sleep, leptin balance is severely compromised.

Likewise, high stress lifestyles, overeating (especially with simple carbs) and, surprisingly, exercising vigorously also negatively impact leptin levels.

Harmonize with food and lifestyle

As a nutritionist, Katie of Wellness Mama recommends the following protocol to heal leptin issues:

- Avoid simple starches, refined foods, sugar and fructose.

- First thing in the morning, enjoy a protein rich meal with plenty of healthy fats.

- Get enough sleep.

- Don't snack, as it stresses the hormonal system and liver. Space each meal at least four hours apart and leave the same amount of time between eating and going to bed.

- In the beginning, forgo workouts. Once the body is on the path to recovery, gentle exercise can be resumed.

- Consume ample omega-3s found in foods like fish, chia seeds and grassfed meats. Steer clear of omega-6 fats in commercial vegetable oils, conventional meats and grains.

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