Is a hormone malfunction making you tired? If you’re constantly battling exhaustion and experience two or more of the following symptoms, you may have too much leptin:
- Brain fog
- Trouble sleeping
- Energy flux
- Weight gain/difficulty losing weight
- Constant hunger
- Mood swings
- Morning grogginess
- High blood pressure
“Virtually all women have some degree of leptin resistance,” asserts metabolic medicine specialist Ron Rosedale, MD. The hormone tells the brain you’re full, controls energy, and plays a key role in regulating heart rate, stress response, metabolism and more. “It’s the body’s most powerful regulator,” he says.
But when you have too much, your body doesn’t hear its messages. The result? Leptin resistance. “It’s like a car alarm,” says neurologist Joseph Oommen, MD. “The first 10 seconds, everybody looks. But once you know there’s no burglar, you treat the signal like noise. That’s what the body does when a hormone is elevated for a long period.”
A high-sugar/high-carb diet raises leptin levels, says Dr. Oommen. But most doctors won’t link the vague symptoms (fatigue, fog, headaches) to impaired signaling, says Dr. Rosedale.
What’s the link between high leptin and diabetes?
A growing body of research suggests that high levels of this hormone may trigger diabetes. The reason, say Harvard scientists: Excess leptin shuts down receptors in the brain needed to signal insulin. This communication breakdown interferes with insulin’s ability to keep blood-sugar levels steady. “High leptin levels cause metabolic corruption that increases the risk for diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disease, even cancer,” says Rosedale.
The good news? When the Harvard researchers restored leptin signaling in diabetic mice, their blood-sugar levels returned to normal within eight weeks.
A blood test can measure this hormone, but the results can be tough to interpret, says Dr. Rosedale. If you have excess belly fat and carb cravings, you likely have high leptin, and the steps below can help.
What diet tweaks can you try to lower leptin levels?
Limiting protein to 50 to 60 grams a day and eating healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, eggs, grass-fed meat, and wild-caught fish) can help, says Dr. Rosedale. “Besides water, fats are the only thing we consume that don’t raise leptin.” Also key is cutting sugar and starchy carbs that turn to sugar, like potatoes and pasta, for three weeks, then adding them back slowly if doing so doesn’t cause cravings.
What other natural remedies can help?
Adding lavender essential oil to a bedtime bath calms the central nervous system to fight stress and sleeplessness, both of which increase this hormone (Buy on Amazon, $7.99). What’s more, studies show that when skin absorbs the oil, its active compounds reduce leptin-raising oxidative stress in the body.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.