Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hormone Primer: A Brief Introduction to Insulin and Leptin

Insulin is a hormone that regulates Energy and Glycogen storage. Theres the major key.
To my knowledge, we have no hormones specifically setup to sabotage our bodies. Yet Insulin gets a bad rep. Improperly managed Insulin is linked to many health issues,, Diabetes and High Blood Pressue, High Cholesterol, Heart Disease and Weight Gain.I will limit my information to Insulin as it relates to Weight Loss for the purpose of this discussion, if there is enough interest, I will talk about the rest.

Leptin is another hormone that Regulates Energy and Metabolism, as well as hunger. You can imagine why this would be of extreme interest to anyone interested in weight loss.
Leptin is released by Fat Cells. It tells the body, "I'm Full" and lets the Fat Cells begin to release energy.
Increased amount of Body Fat means Increased Leptin, more Leptin, more Feelings of Satiety and more energy released, keeping us at a "set point" a healthy weight ... ideally.

image courtesy of zakgarcia22

So the ideal system, our major hormonal players, take in Food, Insulin manages the Blood Sugar thru Liver Glycogen, Muscle Glycogen, usage, and finally Storing as Fat. Leptin increases as Fat increases, burning off excess Fat. Think of this as our backup battery, our emergency reserves. We aren't designed to be fat. Obesity is a failing of our hormones to communicate.

This breakdown of communication is why we don't burn the extra calories, and ultimately gain undesired weight. Our bodies respond to these hormones, until something interrupts their ability to communicate.
This is know as our sensitivity or resistance to that hormone.
Insulin Resistance leads to Diabetes(and other health issues) Leptin Resistance leads our bodies to raise the set point, as we are unable to determine when enough is enough and burn the fat.

Side note: this is why most diets fail, they fail to resolve the underlying issue causing the weight gain, they fail to lower your "set point"

Insulin Resistance is caused by Chronic Overstimulation of Insulin, too much too often, your body protects itself by creating a resistance, then unable to react as well to further glycogen, more insulin has to be produced to maintain communication. Its a vicious cycle that leaves your body unable to efficiently manage glycogen. Leptin Resistance leads to Insulin Resistance leads to more Leptin Resistance.

Leptin Resistance can be stimulated by Inflammation, Insulin Resistance or over eating. Leptin Resistance is Progressive, more fat = more leptin, more leptin = higher resistanance = more fat.
The higher your resistance the more fat you need to have before your body tells you to STOP EATING.
Understanding that makes it easy to see how falling a little off the bandwagon results in quick weight gain.

so if your goal is Health and Weight Loss, what to do?

Luckily, there are many ways to Increase your Sensitivity to Leptin and Insulin.
I will touch them briefly here, and go into more detail in separate posts when I have more time.

Eat Less Sugar/Carbs - Sugars and Carbohydrates cause a reaction that spikes Insulin.
Read up on Glycemic Index to see which carbs are worse. Avoid Sugar and Simple Carbs(Wheat/Grain/White Potatoes/Etc). to prevent insulin from being released and therefore giving your systems a break. Other than limited Fruit, Avoid Sugar Completely if you can.

Exercise. Move. Daily. Moving Muscles increases the Insulin Sensitivity of those muscles, meaning they can uptake the Glycogen Energy better, meaning you arent storing it as FAT. Resistance Exercise has been shown to be the most effective.

Reduce Inflammation. Less Stress is only part of that. A healthy Omega 3 - Omega 6 Ratio is very important. shoot for 1:1, Omega 6 is abundant in most of our Food today, take a Quality Omega-3 supplement that has no Omega 6, and a good amount of EPA/DHA in it.
Don't take NSAIDs.

Eat Adequate Quality Protein. Vegetarians will simply have to disagree with me, but I feel far more Carnivore than Herbivore. Quality Wild Meat, that means Wild caught fish, Grass fed/finished Beef, Free Range Chicken, Free Range(Omega 3) Eggs. All of these provide the Amino Acids vital for life that you cannot get easily via plants and when you eat the food that eats what its supposed to instead of a diet of grains/garbage, the omega 3 to omega 6 ratio is improved and therefore healthier.

Eat more non-starchy Vegetables. Not Potatoes, Not Grains, Not Legumes, Corn is NOT a Vegetable. Despite many menus, Mac N Cheese, Baked Beans, and French Fries are NOT Vegetables.
Non Starchy Vegetables also have loads of fiber which slow down your insulin response.

Avoid Cooking with Vegetable Oils other than Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Short Term Fasting - Under 24 Hours. Many health benefits to fasting, well worthy of a separate post or 3.

Drink Green Tea, most any Tea, but EGCG has been proven time and time again to be very potent for all kinds of health benefits. Daily and Often. I also enjoy Yerba Mate. perhaps a discussion on Tea in the future. Studies show Tea before meals can help lower insulin response, which helps lower sensitivity over time.

Sleep. 8 hours, uninterrupted, Quality sleep every night.

Stop Overeating. You get hungry for 2 main reasons, leptin resistance is causing a communication breakdown and isn't signaling you to STOP EATING. and Trained Response.
Its the same principle as sleep and jet lag, if you change the schedule, you still get tired at the same time.
If you change your eating schedule, you still get tired when you've trained your body that you're going to give it fuel. Suck it up and just like Jet Lag, your body will respond and stop asking for food at that time.

Food Allergies/Intolerances. Allergies are easy to identify, Lactose in Milk, Gluten in Wheat, Peanuts, etc. Allergies are an Immune response. Intolerances however are a digestive response. Many times this response is delayed, sometimes a day later you get the symptoms, this makes it Very Difficult to determine what triggers each response. I will discuss at a later date many of these foods and why you should avoid them even if you haven't experienced any direct symptoms that you have identified.

Thor Says: Relax! Chronic Stress is bad for you in every way.

None of this is Instant, but luckily we have the Potential to Live a Long time.

I plan on Living as long as Humanly Possible. Id love for you all to join me.

Please Leave Comments and Questions Below.


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