Do you struggle with weight and have trouble sticking to a diet? Crave (junk) foods, especially at night? Eat and never feel full?
A little something called leptin resistance may be to blame!
These are all indications that you could have some leptin issues. Leptin is a master hormone in the body that controls hunger and feelings of satiety. Leptin is secreted by adipose (fat) tissue, so the more overweight a person is, typically, the higher his or her leptin levels.
The Culprit: Leptin Resistance
According to Mark’s Daily Apple:
Leptin is the lookout hormone – the gatekeeper of fat metabolism, monitoring how much energy an organism takes in. It surveys and maintains the energy balance in the body, and it regulates hunger via three pathways:
- By counteracting the effects of neuropeptide Y, a potent feeding stimulant secreted by the hypothalamus and certain gut cells
- By counteracting the effects of anandamide, another feeding stimulant
- By promoting the production of a-MSH, an appetite suppressant
It is also directly tied to insulin levels. Many people these days are leptin resistant and there are many health problems tied to this problem. High leptin levels have been tied to high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease and stroke, as well as blood sugar related problems.
High levels of leptin and the accompanying leptin resistance can also decrease fertility, age you more quickly and contribute to obesity. If you’re trying to lose weight or improve a health problem, chances are you have leptin resistance. If you can’t seem to stick to health changes, chances are you have leptin resistance.
In other words, if you want to make lasting health changes or lose weight and keep it off, you have to fix your leptin. The good news is: if you’ve failed at diets or health changes in the past, it was likely because you failed to regulate your leptin levels and doing so can help you finally make lasting changes.
Leptin resistance and its related problems are a complex problem involving the endocrine system and reversing them requires more than simple calorie restriction or will power.
Leptin Stimulating Foods and Lifestyle Factors
As with all hormone issues, leptin resistance is a complex issue with no singular cause, but there are many factors that can negatively impact leptin levels including:
- Fructose consumption (especially in forms like high fructose corn syrup)
- High stress levels
- Consumption of a lot of simple carbs
- Lack of sleep
- High insulin levels (vicious cycle here)
- Exercising too much, especially if your hormones are already damaged
- Grain and lectin consumption
Leptin is the satiety hormone produced by fat cells, so it would seem logical that those with more fat cells would produce more leptin, which would signal the body to eat less food and weight would normalize. This over-simplified idea is great in theory but doesn’t always occur, especially in those with damaged metabolisms or endocrine problems (which includes most overweight people).
According to this article:
The problem is not in the production of leptin, but rather, studies show that the majority of overweight individuals who are having difficulty losing weight have a leptin resistance, where the leptin is unable to produce its normal effects to stimulate weight loss. This leptin resistance is sensed as starvation, so multiple mechanisms are activated to increase fat stores, rather than burn excess fat stores. Leptin resistance also stimulates the formation of reverse T3, which blocks the effects of thyroid hormone on metabolism (discussed below).
So, the person is eating excess food but the body thinks it is starving and tells the person to eat more. It’s easy to see how this cycle could contribute to weight gain!
How to Fix Leptin Resistance
As I said, this is a complex problem, but not an irreversible one. The good news is you feel better quickly once it’s under control.
In short, the (non-negotiable) factors that will help improve leptin response are:
- Say no to sugar. Eat little to no simple starches, refined foods, sugars, and fructose. Eat quality carbs from veggies instead.
- Get enough protein and fat. Consuming a large amount of protein and healthy fats first thing in the morning, as soon after waking as possible. This promotes satiety and gives the body the building blocks to make hormones. My go-to is a large scramble with 2-3 eggs, vegetables and left over meat from the night before cooked in coconut oil.
- Get regular sleep. This step may be more important than all the rest combined. (Yes, really!) Be in bed by 10 (no excuses) and optimize your sleep!
- Spend time in nature. Get outside during the day, preferably barefoot on the ground, in mid-day sun with some skin exposed. Here’s why.
- DON’T SNACK!!! When you are constantly eating, even small amounts, during the day it keeps your liver working and doesn’t give hormones a break. Try to space meals at least 4 hours apart and don’t eat for at least 4 hours before bed. This includes drinks with calories but herbal teas, water, coffee or tea without cream or sugar are fine. For creative ways to do this even as a busy mom, see this post.
- Don’t workout at first. If you are really leptin resistant, this will just be an additional stress on the body. Let your body heal a little first, then add in the exercise.
- Change how you exercise. When you do exercise, do only sprints and weight lifting. Walk or swim if you want to but don’t do cardio just for the sake of cardio. It’s just a stress on the body. High intensity workouts and weight lifting, on the other hand, give the hormone benefits of working out without the stress from excess cardio and are great after the first few weeks. Also, work out in the evening, not the morning, to support hormone levels.
- Detox. Remove toxins from your life as these are a stress on your body. Get rid of processed foods, commercial deodorants (make your own instead), and switch to natural cleaning products. How? I wrote a whole book on the topic with an easy-to-follow detox lifestyle plan and recipes.
- Increase omega-3, lower omega-6. Eat (or take) more omega-3s by eating fish, grass-fed meats, or chia seeds) and minimize your omega-6 consumption (vegetable oils, conventional meats, grains, etc,) to get lower inflammation and help support healthy leptin levels.
How the Leptin Hormone Works
If you want to know more, here’s a great video that explains more about the leptin hormone cascade and how it impacts your health. Also check out the additional resources at the end of the post.
Dr. Jack Kruse (a neurosurgeon) and Stephan Guyenet (an obesity researcher) have both written in depth about the causes of leptin imbalance and ways to reverse it. I highly recommend these resources for more information on their methods of correcting leptin resistance:
- Changing the Body’s Setpoint
- Factors That Affect Leptin
- Dr. Kruse’s Leptin Prescription
- The book Mastering Leptin also has a much more in-depth explanation and suggestions
Do you have any of these issues? Think leptin is a struggle for you? Try this and let me know how it goes!
Discussion (215 Comments)
I dont know if my problem is Leptin resistant or what it could be. I just know that I eat very well and recently developed diabetes, literally overnight. Had bloodwork done and the first result said 109 and 3 months later it said 346??? I am currently searching for a natural cure for Diabetes and to help me shed a pound or 60 lol. Seriously anything you might be able to suggest would be like gold 🙂 I am a LMT and believe in the bodys ability to heal itself when instructed the right way.
I have found an answer to regulating blood sugar naturally. I agree that our bodies are machines and are more than capably of healing themselves.
Please email me too.
my mother had lap band to help with diabetes but it did nothing for her! She’s since had it removed because it slipped. Inches away from her ribcage.
Please email me ways to regulate my blood sugar with out help it will not be long and my doctor witll want to put me on insulin. Thank you so much
My mom has finally got her Diabetes under control after living off meds for 30 years. This book Reversing Diabetes by Neal D. Barnard is what has really helped her.
I am very interested in how she did this as I too take Metformin, for type 2 diabetes. I am trying hard to get my medical condition under control with diet and possibly lose the rest of this weight.
I took Metformin which worked well for me. Then I started taing Turmeric/Curcumin and I had to reduce my Metformin. That stuff worked great on lowering my Blood Sugars. Good Luck!
Diabetes Type 2 – Newcastle University(UK) did a trial with a number of Type 2 patients – low calorie diet and allegedley they were cured of Type 2, though I believe all patients had only had the condition for 4 years or less? May be worth speaking to your GP?
I know some people have had success with the Schwarzbein Plan for eating. She has written a book and companion cookbook. If you google it you will find info. Good Luck!
Schwartzbein’s book helped me too. I was pre-diabetic and after reading the book I eliminated processed foods and grains and lost 40 lbs. I also began reading the blogs of Chris Kresser and Rob Wolf (there’s Mark Sisson, Paul Jaminet and many others that are worth reading, just pick one to start).
When my weight loss began to plateau, I found a great Integrative Health Physician who ran blood work on me and modified my diet some more. What I was eating was a good start, but she eliminated egg yolks (controversial), red meat, potatoes and fruit. I basically eat lots of vegetables, tomatoes, avocados, oil (avocado, grapeseed or olive oil only), fish, chicken and lean pork. I’ve lost another 40 lbs since then and all my health numbers are now in range. I feel much better, no blood sugar problems and more energy, but I need to keep the basic diet going or I begin to backslide. Totally worth it.
I noticed you mentioned grapeseed oil. I used it in the past, but my health advisor said it was not a healthy option. She said that grapeseed oil is chemically processed. Can anyone confirm that? Thanks
Are you counting your cabs?
My mom was diagnosed but now, at her one year anniversary of being diagnosed with diabetes, is off all medications. Her blood sugar was over 800 when she was diagnosed!! She takes three drops of basil essential oil and three drops of coriander essential oil daily in a capsule, eats 45 carbs per meal, no skipping meals, and two snacks (about 15 carbs each). Sometimes she misses the snacks. The meals are made of half veggies – not starchy ones, though – 1/4 protein source and 1/4 starch or well, basically the bulk of the carbs. She is so dedicated. It is encouraging because I don’t have the best diet but know it can totally be done! Her A1C is back to a normal, non-diabetic, range. Certainly she can have treats does occasionally eat out and deviate from this 45 carb diabetic diet but it is her mainstay. (FYI we were told 60 carbs is the goal range for men.) The essential oils were a big factor in getting off the meds and she had to work closely with providers on decreasing (then finally stopping) her meds since her blood sugar was actually way too low in the AM until she got off all the meds. Also, I’m sure you’re already thinking this way but I’ll throw it out there … it would be wise to explore possible reasons you became diabetic in the first place. If there is something else going on, it’d be good to know, right? All the best!
They say Cinnamon is one of the best natural diabetes fighters.
Because its a powder you’ll have to stir it into some liquid for easier uptake.
Every day a glass or 2 of Cinnamon milk should do the trick.
BRAGGS natural vinegar is also great to keep sugars level. there is a nurse here at the hospital that puts it in her water and keeps her blood sugar level all day. I don’t have diabetes, but used it to lower cholesterol. Had to stop taking it bc it lowers my blood pressure to much, great for that and many other things as well.
I too was an overnight diabetic, and have been for 15 yrs now. I have been searching foe a reason why and a clue on how to fix me myself as my Doctor only tells me to stop looking on the internet for answers. I think a lot of these Doctors out there don’t want us to find a cure or something that might help ourselves to be cured, because then there wouldn’t get paid. Anything that you find out or can suggest to me I would greatly appreciate. if you would email me anything that you find that might help. I’m open to any and all suggestions. Thank You.
Adell, it CAN be done. Get a new doctor .. Look for a “functional” doctor or “integrated” doctor – where do you live? Someone might had heard of one close by.
Or find a good naturopath. It’s not impossible to get off meds, but lifestyle change is needed.
Taking insulin is a high risk for obesity and a whole list of issues. If you can commit to the lifestyle change, your health and risk of disease will improve so much.
Dr Gabriel Cousins is quite masterful with diabetes. He has been know to get people off their insulin in 3 weeks. He has a program to deal with diabetes that you can do through his book. I think he may also have retreats for it too if its something you can afford.
Martin De Jesus Ponce
Greetings from Mexico!!!
Thanks for the tips! I’ve only just learned about leptin and its relationship to weight issues. You mention avoiding fructose. I get avoiding refined sugars, but fruit also contains fructose. Do you recommend avoiding fruit as well? Doesn’t the fiber present in fruit mitigate the fructose present in fruit? I’ve provided a link to Dr. Robert Lustig’s talk on sugar where he discusses the effect of fructose when consumed with fiber. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM
It does mitigate it some, and fruit is definitely a better choice than any processed food containing fructose. Depending on how severe a hormone imbalance is, it might be worth limiting fruit too for the short term, but some people do fine with fruit…
If fruit is problematic, should it be limited or eliminated altogether?
How does this work with people with fibromyalgia?
I too, have fibromyalgia. Have been faithfully sticking to paleo diet. Not losing weight I’m 53. Always have carried 10-15 lbs. Of extra weight. Help. :(. Low energy. Don’t sleep well. Leptin problem ? Jen
Thanks so much… Your posts have some of the most helpful information I have found. I have had almost all of these problems and It’s so frustrating not being able to lose weight no matter what I try. Even my doctor never has any suggestions of what to do. I have already been doing some of these things, but I will try the others too. I really hope it works this time!
No excuses for not being in bed by ten? You mean like…night shift? O.o
haha I was thinking the same thing. I work night shift and tend to sleep like 10 hr a day so…
very dark room might be the fix. fools mind into thinking it is night.
Actually night shifts are a nightmare for the body. Circadian Rhythm is recognised as a really important physiological need that if not followed can severely impact health.
I was thinking that too I do night shifts
How do you know if you’re leptin resistant? Is there a test one can take?
I’m also wondering what causes it? I’m glad for the links you posted but I’d love a short answer… 🙂
Typically, if you are overweight, it is pretty certain you are Leptin resistant, or if you have sleep troubles or fatigue in the afternoon. Thin people, especially those naturally very thin can also have leptin resistance though.
Thank you! Appreciate that you replied so soon!
Who tell me how thin people can have it o.o ( I’m very thin and I can’t get met on me I eat as much as I can but I can’t get fat 🙁 I’m thin as a pencil and always hungry but can’t get fat why is that?)
My mom is always hungry and very thin she was always overweight but now at 81 I am worried what should I do for her
Have your Mom’s thyroid levels checked. If she was overweight, and now she is thin, something has changed in her body. Hormones are the first place to look. Sometimes a good set of blood work is the best place to start.
I have been battling my weight all of my life. After 4 kids, gaining 60 pounds and losing it, for the most part. I have exercised for a year now and eating clean and no progress. I mean not even a pound that stayed off. I am ready to find a reason causing this beside my doctor saying its just me. I also added a natural thyroid, Armor in the last three months. No change!! But you probably new that. Any help would be great.
Thank you so much for your mention of tips for reversing leptin resistance. I hadn’t heard of it before stumbling across your site. Your note about not snacking has been a game changer for me. I am 39, roughly 130 pounds and have hormone imbalance- too high cortisol which seems to disallow my body to produce enough progesterone, therefore I’m estrogen dominant. I have always grazed throughout the day. This has led to me eating less-than-great food choices. Switching to a no-snack plan has made all the difference. I can’t thank you enough for explaining on this site how snacking prevents the liver from resting and affects hormone production. I never would’ve considered that! I’ll be coming back here often for more helpful info.
Yes, there is a blood test that can show the Leptin level and if it’s too high, like mine is. I just received my test results after my physical, showing the number. This was recently added to the blood test my doctor uses, Health Diagnostics Lab. My health coach told me this was a recently added test to the blood workup HDL uses. I like the results this lab gives, and explanations also. I also had a regular Executive Panel blood workup done at the same time, with faster results, but it didn’t test for Leptin. I’m thankful to know now that working on my Leptin level and Leptin resistance issues is going to make a difference for my health.
i’m just now reading this, even though i should have read it before. i think that this may be one of my problems. i recently have needed this. my stress levels are extremely high. i have been snacking more and having more slip ups with what ive been eating. i’m making sure i eat better, but still have been snacking (cherries are my downfall right now). i’m going to try these pointers!
Thanks for posting the great video! I may have to watch more of his as he makes complicated stuff easy to understand
Great post… this sounds a lot like me! I really have been trying to get more sleep, as I think this is a major issue for me. Power walking has always been my go-to exercise, and I would like to get more into weight training and higher intensity workouts, I just don’t really know what the heck I am doing…
Jennifer 'Byrnes' Bosley
I love weight training and have never really enjoyed cardio, so I enjoyed reading this! If you’d like to chat Stacie about ways to enjoy weight lifting, look me up on Facebook.
Love this! Would love to chat with you Jennifer about weightlifting!!
Jennifer-what do you suggest for me-I am 61 years old-have a fresh compression fracture due to severe osteoporosis-Dr. says if I sneeze in the wrong direction I can refracture-never had so much pain-turning out to be a painful healing process. I need to change my diet-makes sense but when one can not move much less weight lift-what is one to do?
Follow your doctors advice. once you heal swimming may be an option. what can support your weight and prevent stress to limbs and joints.
Most importantly: Follow your doctors advice.
Try EFT it is supposed to work wonders for anything.
I use EFT for so many things!!!! More people need to learn about it!
What is EFT? I have never heard of that before.
Please look into Emerita Progest Cream. By using it my mom totally reversed osteoporosis. Also read, Dr. Lee ” What your dr. Never told you about menopause” it discusses osteoporosis. Good luck
I just bought some EPC. I really hope it helps with mood, bloat and skin elasticity,
Thanks Kelley 🙂
Get some lanolin from a drugstore or Amazon and rub the lanolin on the sole of your good foot twice a day. Lanolin is full of vitamin D and vitamin K2, both of which help the body remineralize bones. It’s a bit sticky but will help to heal your fracture and strengthen your bones. Great stuff and it is very inexpensive.
I don’t have a thyroid, so how do I tackle weight loss? Don’t eat meat.
I would like to know more about weight training. I cannot do impact workouts due to a bum knee, have had thyroid disease for 30 years and chronic inflammation from IC. I am about 25lbs overweight and miss working our but just at a loss….I am thinking maybe floor excersise in addition to weight training? I’ve been eating clean for the past 18 months due to chronic inflammation but cannot seen to lose any weight…and thyroid levels are in normal range…suggestions? ?
Did you stop eating wheat as a part of your clean eating? If not, cutting wheat may be a very good thing to do. Especially since wheat is a major contributor to chronic inflammation as well as weight gain mainly in the stomach region along with a whole host of other problems it causes. Check out the book “Wheat Belly” it is a fascinating read.
More than likely you are thyroid “sick”, which the thyroid you have does not get to your cells. Check out the book Thyroid Healthy by Suzy Cohen. It’s a great book – she explains everything! You won’t be sorry!
Debra M. Harris
same as mine having lack of sleep, And “Interesting information, thanks for making these contributions.
Thank you very much!”