Are you hitting the gym but still can't seem to lose weight? Have you been following a strict diet plan and still seeing no results? Losing weight is an uphill battle for many people. While most of us are aware that calories matter and willpower is essential, there could be something else beyond our control at play: leptin resistance and hypothyroidism. But what are these things, and why do they hinder your progress? Don't worry. We're here to explain.
In this article, we'll take a look at leptin and thyroid resistance – what they are, why they might be causing your weight loss woes, and how to combat them.
Leptin is a hormone produced by adipose tissue (body fat) that helps your body maintain a healthy weight. Also called the "satiety hormone" or the "starvation hormone," leptin sends signals to the area in your brain that controls hunger and eating behavior when you have enough fat stored. It tells your brain when it's time to stop eating and start burning calories at a normal rate.
While leptin has numerous other functions related to the regulation of the thyroid gland, reproductive system, and adrenal glands, its primary function is the long-term management of energy. This includes regulating how many calories you consume and expend, as well as how much fat your body store.
As an appetite suppressant, leptin has an important role in helping you maintain a healthy body weight by balancing your food intake with the amount of fat stored in your body. It's like having your own personal dietician, ensuring that you don't overeat and store too much fat - so you can stay at your ideal weight.
If you've been on a diet and trying to lose weight, you might notice that you get hungrier. This is because the levels of leptin in your blood are proportional to the amount of adipose tissue in your body. As one goes down, the other does too. Thus, your body automatically decreases its production of leptin as you lose body fat, signaling your body to think that it's starving. And when you have increased fat mass, your leptin levels will be higher as well.
Leptin resistance occurs when you have plenty of leptin and fat cells, but your brain doesn't respond to those leptin signals as it ordinarily would. Thus, you'll eat more despite the fact that your body already has more than enough fat stored. Moreover, leptin resistance will make your brain thinks that you are starving. In order to save energy, your brain lower energy levels and make you burn fewer calories while at rest.
That is why leptin resistance is thought to be one of the primary biochemical causes of obesity and additional weight gain.
There are various signs and symptoms of leptin resistance, but they can be different from person to person. Some of the common symptoms of leptin resistance are as follows:
Finding it hard to lose weight even with regular exercise and calorie deficit/restriction.
Cravings even after eating.
Feeling more sensitive to pain.
Having more belly fat instead of fat stores distributed evenly throughout the body.
Other hormone imbalances, such as hypothyroidism, low progesterone, low testosterone, estrogen dominance, or high cortisol.
Of course, these signs and symptoms don't always indicate leptin resistance. However, it's a good idea to see your doctor and get a serum leptin test for a proper diagnosis.
Hypothyroidism is one of the most common medical conditions associated with leptin resistance. This is because leptin levels can affect the conversion of T4 to T3 thyroid hormones.
In normal conditions, your body converts the inactive thyroid hormone, free T4 (FT4), into the active thyroid hormone, free T3 (FT3). But as the levels of leptin increase in your body and your metabolism are slowed down by your brain, FT4 will start to be converted into reverse T3 (RT3) instead. RT3 is basically the inactive version of FT3. While having a moderate amount of RT3 is important to reduce metabolism and preserve energy stores in your body, having lots of it will increase your risk of hypothyroidism and lead to weight gain.
Leptin resistance, excess body fat, and thyroid problems like hypothyroidism can cause all fuel each other, so treating them and losing weight can be difficult. Moreover, there's currently no medication that targets leptin resistance specifically.
You can, however, consider the following things to treat leptin resistance, as well as hypothyroidism and the weight gain that it causes.
Consider trying the leptin diet, which is based on the following five rules:
Eat a breakfast containing 20 to 30 grams of protein.
Don't eat anything after dinner, and avoid eating for at least three hours before bedtime.
Only eat three meals per day, with no snacks in between. Allow at least five to six hours between meals.
Reduce your carbohydrate intake, but don't eliminate carbohydrates completely.
Practice portion control at each meal and stop eating before you feel full.
In addition to following these rules, it is important to be mindful of the caloric content of the foods you eat and to choose fresh, organic foods without artificial additives or unfamiliar chemicals. You can include a variety of vegetables, fruits, and protein sources in your diet, such as fish, beef, chicken, and turkey. Instead of sugary sweets, consider having fruit as a dessert. Drinking plenty of water or taking fiber supplements may also be helpful in preventing you from gaining more body fat.
To effectively follow the leptin resistance diet and lose weight, it's important to regulate both what and when you eat. Creating a schedule that includes moderate activity and distracts you between meals can also be helpful in sticking to the diet.
Physical activity may help your efforts in reversing leptin resistance. A research indicates that engaging in regular physical activity can increase leptin sensitivity. However, it's important that you avoid high-intensity exercise, at least at first, because this will only be an additional stress on the body. In fact, overtraining can make it harder for you to lose weight.
The best thing to do is to start with a short workout, about 10 to 30 minutes once a week, and gradually increase the frequency and intensity of your workouts as you are able.
One way to reverse leptin resistance and weight gain is to get enough sleep. Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep per night. In addition to balancing your leptin levels, reversing leptin resistance, and maintaining a healthy weight, a restful night of sleep can potentially help regulate insulin and reduce blood sugar.
There are several simple strategies you can try to improve your sleep. For example, you can avoid screens before bed, establish a regular bedtime routine, and create a comfortable sleep environment.
If you're leptin resistant, getting enough protein at breakfast may help promote satiety while also giving your body the building blocks to produce hormones.
High levels of triglycerides, a type of fat found in your blood, can interfere with leptin signaling or the transportation of leptin from the blood to the brain, making it hard for you to lose and maintain a healthy weight.
Lowering your triglycerides can help improve leptin sensitivity, and you can do so by adjusting your thyroid medication dose.
Leptin resistance and insulin resistance often go hand in hand. That's why when you have leptin resistance, it's important to also consider and address insulin resistance. You can do this by avoiding a diet high in refined carbs and sugars.
Treating hypothyroidism with thyroid hormone replacement medications has been shown to reduce leptin levels and decrease the effects of leptin resistance.
Levothyroxine (the synthetic form of T4), like Synthroid, is the standard treatment for hypothyroidism. However, this medication might not be the best option for you if you are leptin resistant.
This is because, as explained above, leptin resistance can cause FT4 to RT3, causing you to have insufficient FT3. Therefore, adding more T4 to your body by taking medications like levothyroxine will only increase the levels of RT3 in your body.
Instead of T4-only medications like levothyroxine, it might be a good idea to add T3 into your thyroid medication regimen. You can do this by taking liothyronine or the synthetic version of T3. Alternatively, you may also get the natural form of T3 through natural desiccated thyroid (NDT), like Armour Thyroid and VitaliThy.
By adding T3, you can "force" your body to skip the FT4 to FT3 conversion process, so it won't be able to produce RT3. This eventually will lead to higher FT3 levels and lower RT3 levels.
What you need to keep in mind when taking NDT instead of liothyronine is that NDT still consists of T4. So in order to reduce RT3 levels in your body, you might need to take it in lower doses.
Both liothyronine and NDT, like Armour Thyroid, can be difficult to find. Fortunately, there are many alternatives you can consider. One of them is VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online. Like Armour Thyroid, it contains Thyroid (USP). This means that it contains both T4 and T3 thyroid hormones that'll help you treat hypothyroidism if you have leptin resistance.
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