Leptin and Ghrelin are the two hormones that have a major influences on appetite control, energy balance and weight management. Ideally, we want to increase Leptin and decrease levels of ghrelin.
Leptin, is the long term mediator for suppressing our appetite and increasing our metabolism; providing the energy needed to start burning up calories. Leptin is considered a weight loss hormone and is secreted by fat cells, normally produced in abundance at night. The more leptin your body produces, the quicker you feel satiated after a meal, and the more effective your metabolism becomes.
In contrast, Ghrelin slows down your metabolism and stores fat, while telling your brain you’re hungry.
The two major influences on healthy levels of leptin is dependent on sleep duration and the quality of carbohydrates we eat. Dozens of clinical studies have confirmed that sleep deprivation alters the secretion of both leptin and ghrelin.
Getting adequate sleep night after night is the single most important guarantee of adequate leptin production. The more we sleep on any particular night, the higher our levels become.
Leptin and Insulin.
If we look at Leptin and insulin, they both work opposite to each other. Insulin stores fat and leptin burns it. With shortened or interrupted sleep, the increase in ghrelin increases our urge to reach for those high-calorie dense foods-- typically high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and saturated fats. These foods include things like pizza, cookies, donuts, pancakes and the like. Over time, refined carbohydrates contribute to impaired glucose tolerance, increasing the odds of developing diabetes and heart disease.
One study noted, just one night of insufficient sleep caused an increase in blood glucose levels and the decrease of leptin levels by 19%. But, when the same subjects got nine hours of sleep, their glucose levels returned to normal, as did their leptin levels. In other studies, chronic sleep deprivation also contributed to deregulated cortisol levels and lower thyroid function. A important issue considering every cell in the body is dependent on your thyroid for regulation of the metabolism. Cortisol, the hormone most associated with stress, is often the culprit of disrupted sleep cycles. And as we age, elevated cortisol levels contribute to an accumulation of belly fat as well as impaired glucose tolerance.
Options to naturally increase leptin:
Since leptin levels are dependent on the amount of sleep you get, try getting to bed one hour earlier. If you’re having issues falling or staying asleep, addressing it with herbs and acupuncture can be extremely helpful.
Since leptin and insulin work together, eliminating simple starches like white flour, potatoes, high sugar, fructose, corn syrup and processed food becomes essential. If you’ve missed some zzz’s on any particular morning, jump start your carb cravings for the day by making sure you eat the right kind of protein, fats and comple carbohydrates. Follow up with the same kinds of choices for snacks and additional meals that day.
Some foods that will increase your leptin levels: foods high in zinc, such as pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, seafood, beef, lamb & spinach.
All these modifications will eventually add up to a deeper and extended sleep cycle along with healthy weight management.