Is there a link between hunger – fullness hormones and fertility?

Ever wondered why you feel hungry or full? There are a number of systems that work together to tell you when to seek out food, with the key players being Leptin and Ghrelin.

Our fat cells produce leptin, which regulates food intake and energy expenditure. Leptin levels correlate with your fat mass; if your fat mass is lower than your genetics would like it to be, the brain will sense the lower leptin levels and stimulate your hunger. In women, low leptin levels will also mean reduced fertility and/or amenorrhoea (lack of periods). The rationale for this is: if your body is low in energy stores, it’s not safe to start growing a baby!

It doesn’t only matter how much ‘padding’ we have, but also the pattern of our eating. Our gut cells release a hormone called Ghrelin in response to lack of protein in our diets or irregular meals. Ghrelin has a direct impact on the hormones that regulate our menstrual cycles (talking to the ladies here): it suppresses the luteinising and follicle stimulating hormones, which in turn impairs follicle maturation and ovulation..

Being ‘within the healthy BMI’ range does not necessarily mean that your body will be ‘ready’ to have a baby. You need to be at a weight that is genetically set for you as ‘healthy’ and eat regular, and balanced meals. Other factors that are important include exercise (not too much!) and avoidance of too much stress. The latter two increase cortisol levels, which also tends to suppress those all important menstrual cycle hormones...


Let’s talk about caffeine (& enjoy our morning coffee)

Caffeine is often unfairly criticised by some, but this is not justified when the evidence from research studies on moderate intakes is considered.In fact, moderate caffeine intake has been associated* with a reduced risk of heart disease in adults. Caffeine also has desirable short-term effects, such as improved alertness, concentration, and reduced perception of fatigue and pain.

Safe upper levels for caffeine consumption for healthy adults (report by EFSA**) have been defined as no more than 200mg as a single dose, and no more than 400mg as a daily dose.

Caffeine content of common drinks (per serving):

  •  espresso: 140mg
  •  filter coffee: 90mg
  •  black tea (teabag): 50mg
  •  decaff coffee: 15mg

Based on the above, up to 8 cups of tea or 2 cups of espresso, can be safely consumed as part of a balanced diet. However, what caffeine should not be used for, is to compensate for inadequate food intake or lack or sleep. Although it may feel like it's helping short-term, it may mess up your hunger signals, make you feel anxious and further disrupt your sleep..

*association studies do not suggest cause & effect, but merely a link, therefore, evidence from these studies need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

**(EFSA) European Food Safety Authority


Is exercise always good for you?

Excessive exercise can have significant negative effects on your body, i.e. worsen inflammatory state if you have PCOS or even lead to irregular periods and fertility issues.. It’s important to recognise if you have crossed over the line into an unhealthy pursuit of compulsive exercise, which could also be a sign of an underlying problem, such as body image dysmorphia, an eating disorder or dysfunctional regulation of emotional states.

Some warning signs that your relationship with exercise may be ‘unhealthy’:

  • You decline engaging in social activities in order to exercise
  • You feel restless/ irritable if you take a day off or try to cut down your exercise
  • You increase the amount of your exercise if you think that you are ‘too much’
  • You continue to work out even when you are sick…

What is YOUR relationship with exercise?


International Women's Day

To mark the international women’s day, I’d like to share some thoughts on Sexual Objectification (SO) Theory. It proposes that SO contributes to mental health problems and disproportionately affect women (i.e. Eating Disorders, depression and sexual dysfuntion) via two main paths: SO experiences and self-objectification.

When media presents women in body parts rather than thinking and feeling humans, we, women, learn to turn that gaze upon ourselves. We internalise this outsider view and begin to self-objectify by treating ourselves as an object to be looked at and evaluated on the basis of appearance (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). This takes away from everything more important that we could be focusing on, such as good friendships, talents, hobbies and dreams...  To all girls out there, I wish the power to overcome self-objectification and start living your life to the full.


Loving your body - self compassion

Many struggle with the concept of loving their body unconditionally, and allow it to depend on how many calories they’ve eaten/ burnt that day or how many compliments they received.. Years of dieting and being soaked in messages and images of ‘perfect bodies’ can make loving your body feel unachievable. Working on self-compassion and recognising that you are an imperfect human with strengths and weaknesses that don’t define your worthiness is the way forward


Exercise

My clients often ask me what exercise they should be doing and for how long for ‘optimal health’. The truth is that you could have the most ‘perfect’ exercise prescription, but you won’t be able to sustain it, unless you ENJOY it... A growing body of research shows that getting pleasure from physical activities may be one of the most important factors for sustaining consistent exercise. So it’s not the frequency, intensity and duration that you need to be thinking about, but what you FEEL LIKE and WHAT FEELS GOOD... This concept of engaging in activities that you enjoy or that give you increased energy or an improved mood is based on the Hedonic Theory of Motivation. This theory basically says that people will repeat activities that feel good. Conversely, activities that cause pain or discomfort will wane or be avoided. Discover physical activity that you truly enjoy and ditch all exercise that feels like punishment/ something that ‘you should be doing’. So what do you enjoy?


Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D is the only vitamin that can be made in our skin in with the help of sunshine, more specifically, the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. During the summer months, we get most of this vitamin through sunshine-skin collab. But from October through to early March, UK sunshine isn’t UVB – rich enough, so we aren't producing any significant amounts..

A recent report carried out by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), suggests that everyone over the age of 1 needs to consume 10 micrograms (400IU) of vitamin D each day… This advice also applies to pregnant and breastfeeding ladies. You should avoid consuming more than 25µg (1000IU) a day, unless recommended by a doctor or a Dietitian.

NOTE: it's a fat soluble vitamin, so best if you take your supplement with a meal.