DR. DONALD JOHNSON: Weight-loss hormones and OSA

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There are two hormones that are affected by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The hormones gherlin and leptin have been found to be elevated in patients with OSA. OSA is a sleep disorder in which sleep is accompanied with periods of time, 10 seconds or longer, when the patient stops breathing because of an airway collapse. A recent patient in my office was tested for OSA and we found that she stopped breathing over 40 times per hour and each event was for an average of nearly 30 seconds. That means that every minute and a half, the patient stopped breathing for over a half a minute! And this went on all night long; this is a huge stress on the heart.

Remember that these periods of time that one stops breathing in OSA are when all the air is out of the lungs. The events do not occur after the patient inhales and holds his breath; it is when all the air is out and the airway closes! Try it on yourself for 10 seconds both ways and see what happens.

Note that OSA is almost always accompanied by snoring. And we know that someone who snores usually doesn’t even know that they are snoring! But if they have ever been told that they snore by someone else — they do snore!

These periods of lack of breathing have a bad effect on almost every organ and system in the human body. They also have a bad effect on many hormones in the body. These hormones include gherlin and leptin, two hormones which have control of the appetite (the desire to eat) and satiation (the feeling that we’ve eaten enough).

Gherlin is the “hunger” hormone and is produced in the human GI tract. When there is nothing in the stomach, gherlin is secreted and when the stomach is full, the secretion is stopped. It is the regulator of our appetite and also is one of the regulators of the rate of our use of energy as well as the routing of the use of the energy — that is, where the energy is used, be it the heart, the lungs, the leg muscles, etc. In patients with OSA, gherlin levels are increased so the patients are hungry when they shouldn’t be, which leads to weight gain, which leads to more OSA!

Leptin is the “satiety” hormone and works in the opposite way that gherlin works to inhibit hunger. Elevated levels make the patient feel that they are not done eating and consequently, they eat too much, which again leads to weight gain, which leads to more OSA, again!

Both gherlin and leptin are reduced in patients that have had their OSA disorder treated. And this allows them to enter a weight loss program and be successful. And this weight loss has the effect of reducing OSA! So treating OSA is important.

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Dr. Donald Johnson founded Northwest Treatment Center for Snoring & Sleep Apnea in Coeur d’Alene to help patients stop their snoring and live free with no limits! Obstructive sleep apnea is usually able to be treated with a small oral appliance. Dr. Johnson’s office is at 114 W. Neider Ave., near Costco. The website for more information is www.NWSleepDoc.com and the office phone is 208-667-4551. Schedule a free consultation appointment today!

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