The Other Hunger Hormone You Need To Know
I have made it a part of my mission to help women break free from food anxiety, dieting, and calorie counting. To truly do this, one must understand what happens inside our bodies when we metabolize food.
Your endocrine system is a delicate dance of chemical messengers sending various signals to your body to undergo certain processes. Hormones play a particular role in dictating what we do with the fuel that we consume. Feelings of hunger and satiety? It has less to do with the volume of food in your stomach and everything to do with hormones.
In my coaching practice, I talk a lot about insulin, but one hormone that many people haven't even heard of is leptin. In fact, it wasn't even discovered until 1994. Leptin is our satiety hormone and sends a signal to your brain saying "I'm full." As a result, your body gets the memo to stop eating.
There is an evolutionary reason behind this. Interestingly, leptin is secreted by our adipose tissue (a fancy name for fat cells) and it's responsibility is to keep you from storing too much fat. Our bodies are very smart and efficient, always trying to find homeostasis and balance. So when you have enough fat on your body, leptin is secreted to let the body know that there is enough stored fuel. Then assuming everything else is working correctly, other hormones release their signals to down-regulate hunger and increase metabolism. This works the other way as well: if body fat is too low, hunger will increase, metabolism will slow, and more fat will be stored.
In a sense, not only is leptin regarded as the most important hormone for metabolism, but the most important hormone period, as it is paramount for certain biological processes necessary for survival. And nutrition has been the only thing proven to ensure it's working properly.
These hormonal mechanisms and signals can become “broken” through diet, lifestyle choices and even stress (and another reason why the holistic approach to health can be so successful). The human body can actually become leptin resistant, which means it is "desensitized" to leptin's message. One way this occurs? A diet high in starch, sugar, and of course refined carbohydrates. Insulin isn't the only hormone to hone in on through blood sugar balance. If you are struggling with a lack of satiety and constant cravings, leptin resistance may be to blame.