Did you know that your weight is largely controlled by your hormones? Well you might be interested to know that your hormones actually influence your appetite as well as how much fat you store. We have provided you with 5 ways to “fix” the hormones that control your weight:

1. Insulin

Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the beta cells of your pancreas. It’s secreted in small amounts throughout the day and in larger amounts after meals. Insulin allows your cells to take in blood sugar for energy or storage, depending on what is needed at the time.

Insulin is also the main fat storage hormone in the body. This tells fat cells to store fat, and prevents stored fat from being broken down. When cells are insulin resistant (very common), both blood sugar and insulin levels go up significantly. Chronically elevated insulin levels can lead to many health problems, including obesity and metabolic syndrome

If you are overeating (especially sugar, refined carbohydrates, and fast foods) then this can drive insulin resistance and increases insulin levels

Here are some tips to normalize insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity:

  • Exercise regularly: Overweight women who walked briskly or jogged had an improvement in insulin sensitivity after 14 weeks in one study
  • Drink green tea: Green tea can lower blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Avoid or try to minimize sugar: High amounts of fructose and sucrose promote insulin resistance and raise insulin levels
  • Fill up on protein: Protein actually raises insulin in the short-term. However, it should lead to long-term reductions in insulin resistance by helping you lose belly fat
  • Reduce carbohydrates: A low-carb diet can cause an immediate drop in insulin levels
  • Include plenty of healthy fats: Omega-3 fats found in fatty fish can help lower fasting insulin levels
  • Get enough magnesium: Insulin resistant people are often low in magnesium, and magnesium supplements can improve insulin sensitivity

Insulin is the main fat storage hormone in the body. Reducing sugar intake, cutting carbs and exercise are the best ways to lower insulin levels.

2. Ghrelin

Ghrelin is actually known as a “hunger hormone.” When your stomach is empty, it releases ghrelin, which sends a message to the hypothalamus telling you to eat. Normally, ghrelin levels are highest before eating and lowest about an hour after you’ve had a meal. However, in overweight and obese people, fasting ghrelin levels are often lower than in people of normal weight.

Here are a few tips to improve the function of ghrelin:

  • Sugar: Avoid high-fructose corn syrup and sugar-sweetened drinks, which can impair ghrelin response after meals.
  • Protein: Eating protein at every meal, especially breakfast, can reduce ghrelin levels and promote satiety.

Eating plenty of protein and avoiding foods and beverages high in sugar can help optimize ghrelin levels.

3. Leptin

Leptin is produced by your fat cells. It’s considered a “satiety hormone” that reduces appetite and makes you feel full. As a signaling hormone, its role is to communicate with the hypothalamus, the portion of your brain that regulates appetite and food intake. Leptin tells the brain that there’s enough fat in storage and no more is needed, which helps prevent overeating.

People who are overweight or obese usually have very high levels of leptin in their blood. In fact, one study found that leptin levels in obese people were 4 times higher than in people of normal weight.

When leptin signaling is impaired, the message to stop eating doesn’t get through to the brain, so it doesn’t realize you have enough energy stored. In essence, your brain thinks it is starving, so you’re driven to eat. Leptin levels are also reduced when you lose weight, which is one of the main reasons it is so hard to maintain weight loss in the long-term. The brain thinks you are starving, and pushes you to eat more.

Two potential causes of leptin resistance:

  1. chronically elevated insulin levels
  2. inflammation in the hypothalamus

Here are a few suggestions for improving leptin sensitivity:

  • Get enough sleep: Studies have shown that insufficient sleep leads to a drop in leptin levels and increased appetite.
  • Avoid inflammatory foods: Limit foods that cause inflammation, especially sugary drinks and trans fats.
  • Eat certain foods: Eat more anti-inflammatory foods, such as fatty fish.
  • Exercise regularly: Moderate activity can improve leptin sensitivity.

Consuming anti-inflammatory foods, exercising and getting enough sleep may improve leptin sensitivity.

4. Estrogen

Estrogen is the most important female sex hormone. It is mainly produced by the ovaries, and is involved in regulating the female reproductive system. Both very high and low levels of estrogen can lead to weight gain. This depends on age, action of other hormones, and overall state of health.

To maintain fertility during the reproductive years, estrogen starts promoting fat storage at puberty. Additionally, it may stimulate fat gain in the first half of pregnancy. Obese women tend to have higher estrogen levels than normal weight women, and some researchers believe this is due to environmental influences.

During menopause, when estrogen levels drop because less is produced in the ovaries, the site for fat storage shifts from the hips and thighs to visceral fat in the abdomen. This promotes insulin resistance and increases disease risk.

These nutrition and lifestyle strategies can help manage estrogen:

  • Exercise: Physical activity can help normalize estrogen levels in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women
  • Flax seeds: Although the phytoestrogens in them are controversial, flax seeds appear to have beneficial effects on estrogen in most women
  • Fiber: Eat plenty of fiber if you want to reduce estrogen levels
  • Cruciferous vegetables: Eating cruciferous vegetables may have beneficial effects on estrogen

5. Cortisol

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It’s known as a “stress hormone” because it’s released when your body senses stress. Like other hormones, it’s vital to survival. However, chronically elevated levels of cortisol can lead to overeating and weight gain. Women who carry excess weight around the middle respond to stress with a greater increase in cortisol.

However, a strict diet can also raise cortisol. In one study, women who consumed a low-calorie diet had higher cortisol levels and reported feeling more stressed than women who ate a normal diet.

These strategies can reduce cortisol levels:

  • Balanced diet: Follow a balanced, real food-based diet. Don’t cut calories to extremely low levels.
  • Meditate: Practicing meditation can significantly reduce cortisol production.
  • Sleep more: One study found that when pilots lost 15 hours of sleep over the course of a week, their cortisol levels increased by 50-80%.

Have questions or concerns? Call Bluestone Health Group. Contact us to schedule an appointment by clicking this link or calling (203) 220-6488