The Gut Brain Link

Leptin and Ghrelin, what do these words mean?

Leptin and Ghrelin are hormones in the body that we all have but we each have different levels of them. These hormones can be a contributing factor as to why you see ‘the incredibly skinny person’ eating
mountains of food and not gaining any weight and a very large person, eating like a mouse but still gaining weight!

These hormones are related to weight loss and are connected to our sleep patterns and the link between our internal urges to sleep and to eat.

So let’s just get clear on Leptin first.  The Leptin hormone is produced by your body’s fat cells.  If you had to give Leptin a job description what would it look like?  “Hi my name is Leptin I work in the Adipose Tissue part of the ‘body factory’, the hours are murder and I never get time off –  Oh and that’s because I live in a host body that never knocks off, i.e., work-a-holic!  I’m burning fat all the time!”

Leptin It is often referred to as the “satiety hormone” or the “starvation hormone.”

Leptin’s primary target is in the brain — particularly an area called the hypothalamus.

Leptin is supposed to tell your brain that — when you have enough fat stored — you don’t need to eat and can burn calories at a normal rate.

It also has many other functions related to fertility, immunity, and brain function.

However, leptin’s main role is the long-term regulation of energy, including the number of calories you eat and expend, as well as how much fat you store in your body.

The leptin system evolved to keep humans from starving or overeating, both of which would have made you less likely to survive in the natural environment.

Today, leptin is very effective at keeping us from starving. But our times are very different from when humans only had to worry about being chased by the occasional wild animal or worrying about where we were going to sleep for the night.  In caveman times, we went to sleep when the sun went down and woke up when the first rays of light filtered into our caves.  Now we are awake long into the night fueled by high-sugar foods, artificial lighting, and computer screens, TVs, Phones, or Ipads.   Too much of this activity triggers the mechanism that is supposed to prevent us from overeating.  This is what I refer to as ‘A Chemical Imbalance’!

Understanding how ghrelin and leptin work in the body can help us to understand and moderate these urges to eat too much or too little and thus help us to engage in proper healthy weight loss, or just maintain a healthy human form!

Studies show that the production of both Leptin and Ghrelin may be influenced by how much or how little sleep we get.

Ghrelin is a hormone that is produced and released mainly by the stomach with small amounts also released by the small intestine, pancreas, and brain. Ghrelin has numerous functions. It is termed the ‘hunger hormone‘ because it stimulates appetite, increases food intake and promotes fat storage. How woudl Ghrelin introduce itself? Hi I’m Ghrelin, I don’t think I’m very excited, however, I work in the Pancreas, and small intestine, and I’m supervised overall by the Gut.  I don’t get out much!

How do these two work together?

Poorly if you don’t practice my 10 Balance hints.  I’ve got to ask you a question first, then I’ll follow on with the answer that you have been searching for.

Have you ever experienced a sleepless night followed by a day when no matter what you ate you never felt full or satisfied?

If you have, then you have experienced the workings of Leptin and Ghrelin.
Those late-night benders when you were out partying or just experiencing a late shift at work, in bed after midnight, means that your body will use different chemistry and send signals to your brain to generate more activity spiking your body to use the sugar in your blood, which means sugar levels will plumate, which means ‘cravings’.  I’ve experienced this played out when I’ve been up very late. I don’t do this often, but if I’m in bed after midnight, as sure as eggs, I’m going to be craving carbohydrates the next day.  I’m also going to be craving sweet foods because of the effect of less sleep on my blood sugar levels.  The lack of sleep has told my employees in the brain to wreak havoc and demand more food.

Remember Ghrelin is released mainly by the stomach, with further instructions coming from the pancreas, it makes sense to me that of course, I’m going to be out of kilter for the late-night as science has proven, that lack of sleep or less sleep can upset the whole body factory, especially metabolism! Ghrelin, stimulates appetite, while leptin, produced in fat cells, sends a signal to the brain when you are full.  Not enough sleep means Leptin hormone is going to be very slack and not perform the task of sending your brain the right message, ie. STOP EATING!

Leptin and Ghrelin work in a kind of ‘cheques and balances system to control feelings of hunger and fullness and to compensate for these chemical imbalances, but when the battle is lost and your pancreas releases all its insulin (because of your morning sweet foods), you will find yourself in a chemical/hormonal dilemma.

The sleep connection looks like this; when you don’t get enough sleep, it drives leptin levels down, which means you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat, which means
your chemistry will dictate an urgency to eat more.  You will eat more, and not be satisfied, so you’ll still visit your pantry or still find yourself in the sweets aisle at the supermarket wondering how all the chocolates got along without you!  You’ll still be looking for food because your brain hasn’t taken in the messages.

Lack of sleep also causes ghrelin levels to rise, which means your appetite is stimulated, so you can’t help yourself.

How to get the Leptin and Ghrelin BALANCE right?

  1. Go to bed earlier.
  2. Eat good fats and oils (plant-based).
  3. Avoid sugary breakfast cereals and sweets at the start of the day!
  4. Don’t miss out on meals intentionally.
  5. Eat smaller meals more often!
  6. Chew your food well.
  7. Exercise minimally 30 minutes a day.
  8. Drink more water during the day than at night!  (so you are not waking up to pee)
  9. Breathe deeply and consciously.
  10. Carry out conscious relaxation daily.  Minimum 10-15 minutes.

If after implementing these top 10 tips but still craving the wrong foods, and/or lacking in vitality, then consider a 3-day detox - as explained in IN THE RAW health Manual book by ‘me’ Anne Clark.  Alternatively, it may be time to book a one-on-one Lifestyle Reset Retreat or join our group retreats.

Anne Clark runs Lifestyle Reset Retreats 3 times a year - check out the next retreat here: