How to Fix Leptin Resistance to Control Weight, Cravings & More

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Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » How to Fix Leptin Resistance to Control Weight, Cravings & More

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)
  • Overeating
  • 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.

Additional Reading

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:

Do you have any of these issues? Think leptin is a struggle for you? Try this and let me know how it goes!

Can't lose weight and crave foods? Your Leptin could be off! This master hormone affects other hormone balance and overall health.

Sources
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

215 responses to “How to Fix Leptin Resistance to Control Weight, Cravings & More”

  1. Anna Jay Avatar

    I simply LOVE your blog! Thank you so much for devoting your time to share your knowledge.

  2. Heather Avatar

    What do you do about low leptin levels? Mine were tested and we’re 2. I am always hungry no matter what I eat. I eat a clean diet with plenty of organic grass fed protein, fats and good carbs. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  3. Diane Avatar

    I must say I knew a lot of this information, BUT this was explained in an easy way to pick up more of the information so vital for weight loss.

  4. Carrie Avatar

    No excuses doesn’t work when you have an ill baby. I’m lucky to get 4-5 hours of sleep a night and it’s broken up into an hour here, 30 min here, etc… There is no way for me to fix this. My hubby works and I am a stay at home mom who gets the baby at night. I’m hoping by fixing the other issues I can get by and my levels will level out despite my lack of sleep.

  5. Cynthia Avatar

    My main problem, for sometime, is not getting enough SLEEP! I take Unisom nightly, have tried herbal tea, soothing music, warm baths & showers, ears plugs, sleep mask, prayer, some work for a week or 3 then back to no sleep. Purchased Magnesium Oil Spray 6-days ago also taking liquid. Last night my sleep was @ a 6.5. I am a dreamer, I have nightly dreams and some are intense with actions a lots of colors. sometimes I wish I could go to a hotel and rest without any disruption but it will take more than 2-nights to lose 30 lbs.

    1. Melisa Avatar
      Melisa

      Consider having your testosterone levels checked. It sounds crazy, but it acts as a sleep hormones regardless of gender (obviously women need less than men, but we still need it.) It is impossible to reach a deep sleep state without proper amounts. Another thing that might be affecting your sleep is estrogen levels. Low estrogen causes poor sleeps as well. Just some thoughts, Good luck with your sleep!

  6. George Avatar

    Hi, Great article, thank you. I noticed that the link at the bottom of the article about micro-fiber clothes leads to the norwex site. I would be careful using norwex on your skin because of the silver in the cloth. We found that it caused a bad rash after only a few uses. Some people might not have an issue using it on their skin, but we did.

  7. Sheila Avatar

    I never eat breakfast, which suits me just fine. I eat later in the day, when I’m hungry. And never ‘meat’.

    About to embark on a proper weights regime so wish me luck 🙂

  8. Kimberly Neal Avatar
    Kimberly Neal

    You may have just single-handedly saved my sanity! A thousand thank yous…I’ve just eaten a carrot, chia seeds, coconut oil, and water and I swear on my honor I already feel better.

  9. Sierra Avatar

    I need to cut back on caffeine and intense exercise 🙁 I think I have a messed up thyroid and adrenals to the point that my hair is falling out.

    1. Rena Avatar

      I feel the same way. I did intense running all of last month but never really noticed a change in weight. My nutrition needs revamping. I’m sure my skin and hair will look and feel better if I followed these tips.

  10. Deborah Avatar
    Deborah

    You mention using microfiber cloths in this article. I’m using green, chemical free soaps, but is your suggestion to use only the microfiber with water, and no soap? Thanks so much!

  11. melissa Avatar
    melissa

    This is great information! I work out in the morning and am going to try moving it to the evening after reading this. Is there a time that’s optimal? Is it too early to start late afternoon (3:00)? or is it best to wait until later? I may have to wait until 7 if I don’t do it early afternoon and I’m not sure if that’s too late.
    Thank you for the advice.

  12. karen Avatar

    Thank you for the informative article. Really enjoyed the video, too.. At 60 years of age, having gone through menopause a couple of years ago, a lot of what you have written here makes sense… I have hot flashes, which prevent me from ever getting a full nights rest. I’ve been trying to control them naturally because I won’t take prescription drugs, but they are causing havoc in my life, for sure.. I already do most of the other things you have listed here, but since these hot flashes started (about 3 years ago) I have gained a lot of weight, despite eating correctly.. My husband is a type 2 diabetic so things like Coconut oil is a mainstay in our house. We use Stevia for a sweetner, only use real butter, eat a lot of vegtables, never eat processed food, check labels, etc.. But this weight just isn’t giving up, which is really depressing at my age. I hadn’t heard of Leptin till I found your blog, so thank you very much. I think this may be what’s going on (because of the lack of sleep) and it’s worth getting some of the books you recommended and also watching more of Underground Wellness videos (that guy is great!)… Have a blessed day, and thank you again for your great blog.

    1. Cynthia Avatar

      I just posted that I do not get enough sleep too. Since your post in July 2015, have you had success in losing weight? If so what did you change in your diet and how soon did you see results?

  13. Alanis Avatar

    This does not work i actually gained ten pounds from this and i followed it EXACTLY now i am worse than i was before

  14. josephine mateo Avatar
    josephine mateo

    i want to know more about LEPTIN. My metabolism is not working well, i’m in my 50’s

  15. Deb Avatar

    Great post! I have been struggling to lose weight for so long. Your post sounds like a LOT of the things I struggle with – it is a very bad cycle. I’ve just signed up to receive your info and bookmarked your site. I’m looking forward to reading more. Thank you!

  16. Wyare Avatar

    Awesome. I’ve been walking this struggle, learning about it for years. And I can honestly say, this short video is one of the best, easy to understand, and honest explanations of this concept. Thanks. Will definitely get the book!

  17. Celia Avatar

    Great article but just wondering if you can re-check this statement..
    “Leptin is secreted by adipose (fat) tissue, so the more overweight a person is, typically, the higher his leptin levels”.
    I am pretty sure that overweight people have LOWER leptin levels?
    Thanks.

    1. Cate Avatar

      Nup. They have excessive leptin, and so the brain becomes resistant to its effects.

  18. Sara Avatar

    Hi Katie, I have both severe adrenal fatigue AND wacked-out leptin. I was instructed to eat small regular meals (every 2 – 3 hours) because of my AFS. How can I fix leptin if I have to eat that frequently?
    Thanks for your time!

  19. Di Avatar

    I love this site! I’m excited to start my journey. I’ve had 7 Children and I never had a weight problem before or after having them. I’m 168cms and my weight after my seventh Child was 51kg. I am 50 now and menopausal and I am now 68kg. I would like to lose at least 10kg. I used to be able to eat whatever I felt like and I enjoy social drinking. People used to say I had an amazing metabolism, sadly, not anymore. I truly believe I am Leptin resistant. Thank you so much for your very valuable information. I look forward to posting my success story in the near future.

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