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Understanding leptin, your body’s signal for full stomach

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Posted: Friday, February 14, 2014 6:47 am

Dear Pharmacist: I’m frustrated and happy at the same time because recently you taught me about a blood test called “leptin” and how it relates to obesity. I’ve been the same weight for five years and can’t lose anything, yet I eat very little. Please share more. – A.S., Gainesville, Florida

Leptin and leptin resistance may explain why you eat nothing and hold on to weight. I want to make this a household term and educate you so you can get tested correctly.

Leptin is your stop sign at the dinner table. This hormone is released while you’re eating. Special fat cells in your body secrete the leptin which sends a powerful message to your brain saying, “Stop eating, you’re full now!”

Erratic fluctuations of leptin (and the hormone ghrelin which makes you feel hungry) complicate your ability to lose weight and trigger intense hunger. The imbalanced leptin hormone can impede weight loss even in the presence of proper levels of estrogen, progesterone and thyroid. Some of you have adequate leptin, but your body doesn’t care. It is desensitized to the hormone and resistant to leptin. This is called leptin resistance, and unfortunately for your waistline, there’s no stop sign at the dinner table anymore! You’ll eat more than you should and more frequently than others. You’re hovering over the fridge at all hours of the day. Yo-yo dieting creates the problem and makes it much worse.

This begs the question, “Why have I become leptin resistant?” There are many causes. A common one is because, long ago, you followed your taste buds too long because the food was so yummy. Perhaps your portions were too big and ate until your stomach hurt. There’s no blame here. The typical diet of processed, fast foods contains ingredients that are delicious, if not addictive, so there’s a strong craving for these meals.

Some of you wolf down your food down. It takes 10 to 15 minutes for your brain to get the leptin “stop” sign, so if you eat too fast, then you’ll eat too much! Slow down when you eat to allow the leptin signal to be heard.

How can you tell if you’re leptin resistant? The hallmark sign is that you can virtually starve yourself and still not lose weight!

That’s a sign that leptin resistance has been going on a long time. Diet pills won’t help you, but exercise will. You can have a blood test done to determine leptin levels.

If you can normalize it, your body will start burning fat. It helps if your thyroid hormone is optimized. Leptin resistance occurs years before insulin resistance and full-blown diabetes.

I wrote the book on that, entitled “Diabetes Without Drugs,” and offer solutions there. I’ve also posted a longer version of this article at my website which offers tips on how to improve leptin resistance.

I’ll post that soon, but for now, slow down when you eat, and avoid going to bed on a full stomach.

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