Sometimes we struggle to manage our body composition even though we feel we are doing all of the right things. If this is you; it might be that the interplay of hormones which work to regulate our hunger signals and other signals might be having an impact. If you feel that this is true of you, you might need to seek further help from a clinician, as other than the suggestions mentioned here, a full 'diagnosis' is beyond our remit.
Excess body fat can cause problems with weight and hormonal issues. Leptin is one of the hormones directly connected to body fat and obesity.
Leptin, a hormone that is produced by your body’s fat cells, it sends signals to the hypothalamus in the brain. This particular hormone helps regulate and alter long-term food intake and energy expenditure, it’s supposed to tell the body it has enough fat stored. The primary design of leptin is to help the body maintain its weight.
Because it comes from fat cells, leptin amounts are directly connected to an individual’s amount of body fat. If the individual adds body fat, leptin levels will increase. If an individual lowers body fat percentages, the leptin will decrease as well.
Leptin is sometimes called the satiety hormone. It helps inhibit hunger and regulate energy balance, so the body does not trigger hunger responses when it does not need energy. However, when levels of the hormone fall, which happens when an individual loses weight, the lower levels can trigger huge increases in appetite and food cravings. This, in turn, can make weight loss more difficult.
Avoid fad diets that promise quick weight loss, they’re more likely to lead you to regain the pounds and weight gain leads to leptin resistance. Make sure you get plenty of Zinc, low levels have been linked with decreased leptin output. Zinc rich foods include cashew nuts, beans and beef. Zinc is involved in leptin production and carriage. Zinc can also aid glucose and fat metabolism. Eat slowly! Being mindful of what you’re eating.
Other hints and tips are:
Avoid processed food: Highly processed foods may compromise the integrity of your gut and drive inflammation.
Eat soluble fibre: Eating soluble fibre can help improve your gut health and may protect against obesity
Exercise: Physical activity may help reverse leptin resistance.
Sleep: Poor sleep is implicated in problems with leptin.
Lower your triglycerides: Having high triglycerides can prevent the transport of leptin from your blood to your brain. The best way to lower triglycerides is to reduce your carb intake.
Eat protein: Eating plenty of protein can cause automatic weight loss, which may result from an improvement in leptin sensitivity.
Found in the ovaries and adrenal glands in us ladies!
Renowned for helping you ‘pump’ your muscles, your energy and your sex drive. Men naturally have higher levels than women, which gives them facial hair, a deeper voice and extra strength. But we women need a certain amount too.
Testosterone, together with Oestrogen and Progesterone play a role in female reproductive tissue growth and maintenance and bone mass.
Testosterone declines with age, primarily because it is produced in the ovaries. Without enough testosterone and oestrogen, metabolism reduces, which can lead to weight gain.
To combat this; exercise is key! Resistance training for 30 minutes, 3 times a week will increase your testosterone production. Reducing sugar may also help testosterone thrive.
A 2016 study found that eating 75g of sugar caused testosterone levels to drop by a quarter for 2 hours. Another study found that sugar can turn off the gene that regulates the levels of active testosterone in our bodies. A great reason to reduce the sugar in our diets if we can.
What can we do to ensure our Testosterone levels stay at a healthy level?
Exercise and Lift Weights.
Eat Protein, Fat and Carbs.
Minimize Stress and Cortisol Levels
Get Some Sun or Take a Vitamin D Supplement.
Take Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.
Get Plenty of Restful, High-Quality Sleep.
Take a natural Testosterone booster; Ginger!
Follow a healthy lifestyle
This resides in the gut. Working in tandem with leptin, this hormone regulates your appetite.
Ghrelin has also been shown to act on regions of the brain involved in reward processing. Ghrelin also stimulates the release of growth hormone from the pituitary gland, which, unlike ghrelin itself, breaks down fat tissue and causes the build-up of muscle.
Ghrelin also has protective effects on the cardiovascular system and plays a role in the control of insulin release.
Ghrelin levels are primarily regulated by food intake. Levels of ghrelin in the blood rise just before eating and when fasting, with the timing of these rises being affected by our normal meal routine. Hence, ghrelin is thought to play a role in mealtime ‘hunger pangs’ and the need to begin meals. Levels of ghrelin increase when fasting (in line with increased hunger) and are lower in individuals with a higher body weight compared with lean individuals, which suggests ghrelin could be involved in the long-term regulation of body weight.
Eating reduces concentrations of ghrelin. Different nutrients slow down ghrelin release to varying degrees; carbohydrates and proteins restrict the production and release of ghrelin to a greater extent than fats.
When your stomach is nearing empty it sends signals to your brain to say it’s time to eat. When you’ve had something to eat, this hormone stays quiet until it’s next time to eat, usually about 3 hours. When you’re losing weight your body thinks it’s starving (it doesn’t know you’re doing this on purpose) so it ramps up ghrelin production, thereby increasing hunger and encouraging us to eat so that we put weight on. One study found that overweight adults who lost an average of 13kg had 20% higher levels of ghrelin in their systems than they did before they started their weight loss journey.
A full tummy will send Ghrelin packing, so best load up on bulky foods, low in calories such as broth like soups or popcorn. Get an early night too, sleep deprivation can increase your levels of ghrelin, which could lead to you storing more fat.
Found in the ovaries in females.
Together with her sister hormone; progesterone, she is responsible for the rollercoaster of cravings around your menstrual cycle. We all know all about this!
Oestrogen is a female sex hormone that has many roles in the body, from controlling puberty to strengthening bones. Having too much or too little oestrogen can cause a range of different medical conditions.
Your oestrogen levels change according to where you are in your menstrual cycle, and also your stage of life. Oestrogen levels are highest in the middle of your cycle, and lowest during your period. At menopause, your oestrogen levels begin to fall.
Oestrogen affects many parts of the body, and can cause problems when it is off balance.
Having too much oestrogen can lead to minor problems such as acne and constipation, or more serious conditions such as breast cancer. Having too little oestrogen can cause problems such as poor bone growth and menopausal symptoms.
Back to those fluctuations of oestrogen and progesterone; oestrogen falls just before your period starts and progesterone rises. These fluctuations cause the neurotransmitters in your brain (the chemicals in your brain) to trigger a lower mood, which means you’ll be more likely to reach for certain food; typically, chocolate! Foods that your body knows will give you a serotonin spike, which makes you happy!
Oestrogen levels can rise temporarily on peri menopause. After the menopause they are low and continue to remain low unless a hormone replacement is taken. Women can gain weight after menopause because of this lack of oestrogen, and oestrogen has been found to be key to helping regulate metabolism.
In order to mitigate these hormone fluctuations, make sure you get enough fibre which binds to oestrogen and moves it out through your bowels (without this, it can go back into circulation). Aim for 450g of green veggies. If that seems difficult to achieve, add a green smoothie, a salad, broccoli and pepper stir fry and so on!
Produced by the adrenal glands which are located on top of your kidneys.
This hormone can go feral in the presence of stress, or when you feel threatened. Even if that translates to sending your boss or work colleague a sharp email.
Cortisol works by increasing your sugar availability, providing a burst of energy so you can react. Then, once the danger or threat has passed, your appetite is ramped up so you have to replenish the energy you just expended (even if physically it wasn’t actually that much at all). Resulting in a weight gain, especially around your middle.
How to reduce this spike in Cortisol? Reduce those things that can trigger this hormone; such as caffeine intake, or other exposure to stress if possible. Watch that funny video, share a joke with someone, even the anticipation of a grin can reduce cortisol levels by as much as 39%
So there you have it, the combination and interplay of those hormones could be hindering your health goals. It’s worth taking on board some of those hints and tips if you are experiencing this, as this could make a difference for you!