Leptin and Ghrelin: What They Are and How They Impact Health and Weight
by Michael Capria, D.C.
Remembering the task of these little “chemical messengers” is important because your body must obey their every command! Leptin Lowers appetite while Ghrelin Grows appetite!
Leptin, the protein hormone, was first discovered in 1994. It is produced by fat cells, and it signals the brain to tell you when to stop eating. It also instructs the body to crank up its metabolism. Hormones aren’t perfect, however, and their chemical signals can go awry - causing a myriad of problems. One condition called “leptin resistance” can make you feel hungry all the time.
Other conditions can be the root cause of leptin resistance as well: dehydration, excessive carbohydrate consumption, emotional depression, stress, and even visual cues. All of these things can alter your brains sensitivity to leptin. Just as the brain needs good thoughts to refresh, it needs good fuel for power and function. Excessive amounts of cortisol (your adrenal hormone) may also cause leptin resistance. So, if you are frequently stressed out or are constantly dwelling on the source of your stress, you could have abnormally high levels of cortisol which in turn causes high levels of leptin. The result? Leptin resistance and increasing fat mass.
Here’s the good news, you already have many of the tools needed to create better leptin sensitivity! Take action with these steps:
- Drink plenty of purified water (experts recommend a minimum of 64oz per day)
- Reduce your carbohydrate intake
- Think and say positive affirmations to reset the mind (verbal are especially effective)
- Give professional hypnosis a try, it’ll help you to create and maintain a positive mindset
- Attend “Stress Management” classes or watch videos on the topic. Pro Tip: Ted Talks are a great place to start
- Remind yourself that it’s okay to say “No” to invitations. Be less busy!
- Avoid visual food cues by leaving the room during television commercials
- Eat at least 20 grams of protein for breakfast (your Metabolic Menu’s got this covered)
- Don’t snack after dinner (unless it’s your MRC High Nutrient Supplement; the ratio of protein-to-carbs will ensure satiety, metabolism, and uninterrupted fat loss)
- Eat three meals a day without snacking (you really won’t want to snack when your meals are composed with the right protein-carbs-fat ratios)
- Find a healthy alternative to snacking...such as exercise.
- Let five to six hours pass between each meal
- Practice portion control (your MRC menu is designed ideal for healthy portion control)
- Be okay with “not feeling full” (it feels so good to not overeat)
- Eat fresh, organic foods when possible
- Avoid processed foods with ingredients that you can’t pronounce
- Eat fiber-rich whole foods (see our list of suggestions below)
- Eliminate sugary desserts
Ghrelin does the opposite of leptin. It is a peptide hormone and what it does, is said in its name... grrrrrr-elin! It stimulates the appetite! An empty stomach causes ghrelin secretion while a stretched stomach (one that is full) stops it.
So, what is the ghrelin-obesity connection? It’s in the brain. Hedonic eating (eating for pleasure alone) increases both ghrelin and another hormone called endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol, or (2-AG). Together these work to increase food intake and body mass...uh-oh! So, if you’re habitually overeating, the stomach stays stretched and your reality of “empty” and “full” resets in the brain to abnormal levels. For some of us, this results in an inability to distinguish between real and perceived hunger! The cure can involve a painless 12 to 24 hour “cease and desist” for the stomach and vagus nerve so that they can reprogram and reset. Though fasting is the natural way of resetting the body’s metabolic program, certain health conditions may determine that fasting during waking hours is not the right approach for you. Please check with your healthcare professional before beginning any fasting routine. Most of us get a 12 hour overnight fast while we sleep, and then we break the fast by eating “break-fast”. Healthy sleep hygiene stops ghrelin secretion, too. And not being hungry while you’re trying to sleep is a very good thing! So, get your sleep on! At least 7-9 hours every night!
When gut health goes awry, leptin and ghrelin levels follow suit. Remember, ghrelin stops with a stretched stomach, but the types of food(s) you’re stretching (or filling it up) with is equally important. Probiotics make a big difference! A diet rich with high-fiber foods is the best way to healthily stretch your stomach.
HIGH FIBER FOODS*:
*Note to our readers who are currently following an MRC Weight Loss Menu - while all of the foods mentioned below are good options for fiber, they may not all be featured on your weight loss menu. Be sure that your high fiber options are plan-friendly by consulting with your menu or a Weight Loss Specialist.
Fruits: Apples (be sure to eat the peel), bananas, oranges, strawberries (all have around 3 to 4 grams of fiber). Raspberries win the fiber race at 8 grams per cup. Exotic fruits are also good sources of fiber: A mango has 5 grams, a persimmon has 6, and 1 cup of guava has about 9.
Vegetables: In general, the darker the color, the higher the fiber content. Beets, and broccoli are fiber-rich. Collard greens and Swiss chard have 4 grams of fiber per cup. Artichokes are among the highest-fiber veggies, at 10 grams for a medium-sized one. Potatoes (russet, red, and sweet) all have at least 3 grams of fiber in a medium-sized spud (if you eat the skin and all).
Dry and Canned Goods: Stock up on beans. Navy and white beans are the most fiber-rich, but all beans are fiber-packed. Any of these are a good choice for your shopping cart: garbanzo, kidney, lima, or pinto. They make great soups and chilis, and are a flavorful addition to salads. Beans are also high in protein, so if you’re cutting back on red meat, they’re a healthy and filling substitute. Include other legumes: peas, soybeans (edamame), and lentils are also high in fiber.
Bread and Grains: Most cereals have at least some fiber content, but they’re not all created equal in terms of nutritional value. Check cereal labels and look for those with 5 or more grams per serving. Whole-grain breads are great too. Try seven-grain, dark rye, cracked wheat, and pumpernickel. Because white rice doesn’t offer much in the way of nutrition, look for tasty substitutes like bulgur wheat, brown rice, wild rice, and barley!
The Snack Aisle: Nuts and seeds are so good! An ounce of sunflower or pumpkin seeds, pistachios, or almonds gives you at least 3 grams of fiber. They’re also high in fat calories; so be sure to make a little go a long way.
Probiotics: We briefly mentioned probiotics, what’s the deal on them? It sounds gross, but it’s true; we all have about five pounds of gut bacteria. These microbes actually drive our food choices via the signals they send to our brain. When you feed your gut bacteria, their growth is encouraged, and they, in turn, help to keep you healthy. Your immune system is everything in terms of your ability to ward off sickness, so get your needed probiotics and your immune system will benefit! If you’re a little finicky when it comes to veggies and you haven’t already tried MRC’s “Super Fruit and Veggie” drink, what are you waiting for? It tastes great and provides you with the healthy probiotics your gut craves and needs!
Now that you have the 4-1-1 on leptin and ghrelin, it’s time to take action! We want to be a part of that plan. So if you’re in the market for weight loss or just wanting to learn more about sound nutrition, we want to be a part of that journey too! Here’s to you and your health!
“When it comes to stress we often cannot control the external stressor event itself, but we can control our reaction to it. Breathe in, breathe out. Think of solutions and less about the problem. Let creative ideas flow. Be an agent for life and affirm a loving view over life to enhance your regenerative abilities. Yes we all have stem cells just waiting to activate on command. Speak life to yourself and those around you. While apples, oatmeal, green tea, almonds, broccoli, eggs, blueberries and peppers can all help promote a healthy gut and body nutrition, in the final analysis our mind focused on positive life affirmations will do more to help our health.”
- Michael Capria, D.C.
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