Function and Dysfunction of Insulin
Insulin gets secreted in response to elevation of your blood sugar. This can be after a meal or as a result of stress. The relationship between cortisol and insulin is circular. Increased cortisol raises blood sugar which causes an increase in insulin which causes cortisol to go up.
Under normal circumstances, after a meal, the increased glucose and/or amino acids in the blood cause the pancreas to secrete insulin. The more glucose, the more insulin that’s produced. Insulin binds to the cell membranes and triggers glucose receptors in cell membrane to open up and let the glucose in. Glucose, amino acids, fats, magnesium and other nutrients are then transported into the cell, the mitochondria produce energy and everyone is happy. Once the nutrients are cleared from the blood, the pancreas stops secreting insulin.
Even under normal circumstances, insulin has some undesirable effects. But like most things in your body, it’s a double edged sword. It has its good side and its bad side. Insulin is absolutely necessary to get the sugar out of your blood and into the cells where it can be converted to energy. Without insulin, your blood sugar would skyrocket and you’d become diabetic.
The negative effects of insulin are
- Preferential use of glucose over fat as fuel
- Inhibits the burning of fat by the cells
- Inhibits growth hormone
- Slightly depresses thyroid effects by blunting conversion of T-4 to T-3.
Insulin is chronically elevated when you eat foods high in carbohydrates that stimulate a rapid rise in glucose, and when you eat your meals too close together. When this happens, you are in a constant state of inhibited fat burning, low growth hormone and, lowered metabolic. The end result is you can’t lose the belly fat.
Excess insulin can cause your blood sugar to get too low, leading to the brain fog, irritability and ravenous appetite caused by low blood sugar.
On top of everything else, after a while the insulin receptors on your cells get tired of the constant insulin stimulation and they basically put their hands over their ears and say: Enough!
When your cells become resistant to insulin, one of three things happens.
- Insulin can’t keep up with the demand and your blood sugar starts to rise, leading to diabetes
- Insulin gets really good at clearing the blood sugar triggering fat storage and your midsection grows steadily.
- Insulin gets too good at clearing the glucose. Not only does your fat storage increase, your blood sugar plummets and you experience the symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia.
The problem happens when you eat a lot of foods that trigger insulin to be released or when you’re chronically stressed and cortisol causes your blood sugar to elevate. Then what happens is either the circulating insulin does not bind to the insulin receptors on the cell, or it binds, but its effects are deficient, and the nutrients are not efficiently cleared from blood.
This causes your pancreas to continue to secrete more insulin causing high levels of insulin for a long period of time before nutrients are cleared. As a result you experience deficient function in insulin resistant cells, like your liver, fat, and untrained muscle due to insufficient energy production. It also results in the anabolic effects of excess insulin, namely increased body fat, especially around the middle.
Not all cells become insulin resistant. The cells lining your blood vessels don’t become resistant to excess insulin and thus suffer the adverse effects of excess insulin, namely oxidative damage to blood vessel linings. This can result in thickening, narrowing and plaque formation resulting in atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and increased risk of heart attack.
Excess insulin can also result in the adverse systemic effects of inflammation, water retention, suppressed fat burning, blunted growth hormone and low thyroid hormone.
SO…what should you do?
- First and foremost, get off ALL sugar and processed foods. That means no bread, even gluten free, no cookies, crackers (except raw dehydrated ones, made from vegetables, nuts and seeds) no cakes, pastries, candies and fruit juice. These foods trigger blood sugar spikes which trigger excess insulin release.
- You also need to restore your cell’s receptivity to insulin. There are a number of nutrients like chromium, magnesium, glutamine and zinc that are important here.
Insulin Receptor Sensitivity Restoration Steps
- Remove all foods that trigger blood sugar spikes: sugar, all grains, potatoes, fruit juice, dried fruit and high glycemic fruits like bananas and grapes. I recommend my patients purchase a glucose meter and test the fruits to determine which ones they need to eliminate. I also recommend that whenever fruit is consumed it’s taken with green leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach and sprouts. Smoothies are the best way to eat fruit.
- Supplement with the nutrients needed to restore regulation. In general these may be chromium, magnesium, glutamine, zinc and the B vitamins. It can vary from person to person.
- Supplement with DHA, an omega 3 fat that’s vital for insulin sensitivity. This can be in a plant form, from algae or from fish.Insulin resistance and blood sugar level imbalance are not minor inconveniences that can be ignored. The long term consequences are serious and life threatening.
Retrain your tongue and get your blood sugar and insulin under control so you can live a long and happy life with a flat belly, clear head and a renewal enjoyment of your life.
If all of this seems too overwhelming at first glance, don't worry…
I realize I gave you quite a bit of “technical” sounding information above. And that can seem like information overload at first. Don't worry, I have been there myself when I began this journey over twenty years ago. I just wanted you to know what you are dealing with, and to give you some basic tips earlier.
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Love, Health and Joy,