Two Critical Hormones That Are Quietly Making Americans Sicker and Heavier Than Ever Before
Did you know that "nutrient transportation" in the body is handled almost exclusively by two hormones? (At least in relation to fat loss/fat gain.)
Yep -- just two hormones control the significant amount of commands and questions that your brain dishes out to the rest of your body.
1. Have the cells had enough food today?
2. What should we do if the cell can't handle any more of carbs?
3. Does the body need more insulin?
4. Has this person had enough to eat, or is he still hungry?
5. Should we send this food to build up lean muscle or should we store it as fat?
These two all-important hormones are insulin and leptin.
They are "mission critical" in that the body NEEDS them to function properly. Without them, nutrients can't move around internally to refuel your body AND the body can't give our "full" or "hungry" signals to your brain (causing uncontrollable eating).
On this note, these hormones can also run rampant and quickly spiral out of control, setting us up for the horror that we see today: over 70% of the population overweight and/or obese, and dying from various diseases.
Two of the main causes, in addition to chronic inflammation, are insulin resistance (a.k.a. Syndrome X/Metabolic Syndrome), and leptin resistance.
Let's start with insulin:
Insulin is our primary "movement" hormone, in that it moves/shuttles nutrients (like carbs) from our bloodstream into our individual cells. The cells then break down this food into glucose which is the body's main energy source.
Without insulin (as is the case with diabetes to who do not make or use insulin), your body actually end up in a state of starvation since the cells cannot access the food you eat.
So, insulin is great in many cases. BUT, not always.
Insulin becomes a major problem when "insulin resistance" builds up in the cells. Essentially, insulin resistance refers to the fact that over years of eating high carb foods (as a result of people being told to "run away" from fat, and instead eat high-sugar, low fat, processed grains), our cells have become overwhelmed by the constant insulin output.
Overwhelmed to the point that they literally "reject" and "resist" any incoming nutrients.
As a result, you get insulin resistant.
You see, the cells would generally break down the food into glucose, and then would store the nutrients as "glycogen" (a carb-based energy).
And in an ideal world, people would move around frequently and exercise, using up these glycogen stores. Except, this is far from the case these days, when most of us are stuck spending long hours at the office, followed by a (sometimes dreadful) commute home (while sitting down of course), and a high-carb/insulin spiking meal to end the day.
With the cells overwhelmed by insulin, and their constant "rejection" process, the excess food has nowhere to go.
Except for one not-so-friendly place.
---> As a result of insulin resistance, we directly store ANY excess nutrients as fat. This also starts a host of problems, in addition to a seemingly never-ending "feedback loop" of insulin resistance = fat = more insulin resistance.
The process is as follows:
1) Our insulin-resistant cells will not tolerate any amount of carbohydrates.
2) Since we're continuing to pump out insulin any time we eat carbs, though, our cells decide to fight back, and store the excess as fat.
3) As body fat increases, insulin resistance increases even more.
4) Insulin resistance combined with various toxins from our meals, plus environmental toxins, causes system-wide chronic inflammation. This inflammation leads to even more fat storage and weight retention.
5) Even worse, with less nutrients being shuttled into your cells, you stay hungry and/or get hungry soon after a meal.
6) Since you're hungry, you eat even more carbs (that your cells still will not tolerate) and end up causing further fat gain. (If you also eat fat with these carbs, there is a chance that both will be stored as fat.)
7) This process continues to repeat itself, and thereby claims its spot as one of the primary yet underrated causes of obesity and disease in America.
(Note: Protein is known to raise insulin as high as carbs, BUT protein also causes the output of a hormone called glucagon. Glucagon is the opposite of insulin, and it mitigates much of the "spike" and movement that would occur otherwise.)
Extra Tip ---> A very similar process occurs within our liver.
Many carb sources these days are loaded with sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup.
Fructose is a special type of sugar that the body converts into liver glycogen (as opposed to muscle glycogen). The problem here arises when our liver glycogen stores overflow, and we're again not moving around enough to use up the glycogen.
What ends up happening is, the excess fructose cannot be stored in our already-full liver glycogen stores. And since it has nowhere else to go, it's converted into liver fat, which is known to lead to fatty liver disease and various other health problems.
For this reason, it's very important to remove foods with high levels of fructose from your diet.
The only exceptions are if you eat them as a part of "10% junk allotment" for the week OR if you're eating fructose from pieces of whole fruit (dried fruit or fruit juices do NOT count.)
These insulin-related fat storage cycles are vicious to say the least.
The onset of these issues, along with chronic inflammation, are the primary causes of both obesity and various major modern diseases.
But there's more.
Remember the other hormone I mentioned in the beginning?
Well, that "other hormone" is leptin.
And many prominent researchers are actually linking leptin DIRECTLY to obesity, and are pinpointing leptin resistance to be causing more damage than we ever thought possible.
You see, in addition to your cells becoming very resistant to insulin due to constant high
carb/sugar intake, we often have to deal with fluctuations in output of the hormone leptin.
Leptin is a hormone that is created by your fat cells and "sent out" to tell your brain that you're full. Along with saying "you're full", it goes even further and tells the brain that you need to get rid of body fat. (It just may be the best fat-burning hormone in your body).
The problem is, similar to too much insulin causing insulin resistance, too much leptin causes leptin resistance. The typical American diet bombards the hypothalamus (which is the body's control center) with leptin due to constant "you're full" and "lose some fat" signals.
After a while of these constant signals, the body simply says "enough is enough". It shuts down leptin receptors completely. And going further, it stops telling your brain that you're full and that it's time to burn fat.
This is not good.
By this point, the hypothalamus is also too tired and overworked to regulate or control food intake, which makes dieting and weight loss more difficult than it needs to be.
In any case, as we start eating a healthier, reduced-calorie nutritional profile, this leptin
resistance will finally start to fade away. When the resistance fades away (and you become more leptin sensitive), things start to change big time.
For a while, leptin stays high and the body starts receiving the signals to stop eating and burn fat; and so you start burning fat like nobody's business.
Soon, though, leptin levels start to decrease a lot. What's happening is your body fat is dropping quickly and you're eating less than the body is used to. This confuses the body tremendously, and it actually starts to resist the change.
Remember that your body wants to be fat - and in an effort to hold on to that extra fat, the hypothalamus stops burning extra fat. Basically, if you eat too much, you don't make enough leptin, and if you eat too little, you don't make enough leptin. It's all about the balance.
To better understand this, let's look at various scenarios that can impact leptin levels.
Leptin is at its highest (meaning you're getting the "full" signal, but are also resistant to the signal at the same time)...when:
1. We are overweight
2. We eat too much in general without offsetting food intake via strenuous activity
3. We eat too many lectin-containing foods (especially wheat, barley and rye foods)
4. We eat too many high fructose foods (think sugary drinks and fake foods), since fructose and leptin resistance may go hand in hand.
Leptin is at its lowest when:
1. We start losing weight, and throw the body off the "balance" it's used to
2. We restrict calories, and the body is not used to the drastic change in food intake
Unfortunately, restricting calories is an integral part of weight loss. So we can't just say "well if leptin goes down when I restrict calories, I might as well not cut calories!". Relax now. We have ways around this.
Essentially, we have to find a way "around" these issues so that we can cut calories enough to drop weight, without letting leptin drop so low that the body forces itself to stop burning fat.
We'll get into some real-life strategies in the next chapter.
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