If we feel healthy, look healthy and our labs come back without any major red flags, doesn’t that mean we’re in the clear? Not necessarily. Our health is quite reliant on the production of a certain hormone: insulin. In our latest free webinar, Susan M. Eichorst, PA-C, MMSc, breaks down the importance of insulin, how we may develop insulin resistance, why too much glucose is detrimental to health and how we can naturally reverse this disorder.
Am I on the road to type 2 diabetes?
As you may already know, type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar/glucose and is frequently treated with prescribed medication. But how do you know if you have diabetes or are pre-diabetic (on the path to diabetes)? There are several tests your doctor can perform, including an HgA1C test, fasting blood sugar test and glucose tolerance test. For the A1C blood test, which monitors the amount of damage to the hemoglobin in the red blood cell within a three-month period, a 6.5% result or above indicates diabetes, a 5.7% – 6.4% result indicates prediabetes and any result 5.7% or below is normal. Now, why are chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes so prevalent in the world?
We are getting sicker and sicker
It’s true. We are so used to just accepting chronic symptoms such as fatigue and digestive issues as a part of getting older. And we assume that since chronic diseases such as cancer and dementia are common, they must be normal. But really, a lot of our sickness can be attributed to our own behaviors, like what we choose to eat and drink, for example. Did you know 40% of the world’s adult population is overweight or obese? Worldwide rates have nearly tripled since 1975, and prior to 1982, there were no cases of type 2 diabetes in adolescents. See the connection here? In many cases, our fate isn’t predetermined by family history. Though genetics are important indicators of possible future diseases, we have the power, based on our own behavior, to turn genes on and off. This is called epigenetics, and it means our behavior is a major factor in whether our genes create health or disease, or weight gain or weight loss.
What is insulin and how does it work?
Did you know insulin can have an interplay at how your health will develop? Yes, it’s that important. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to eating sugar or starch. It shuttles sugar into the cell to use as energy and protects against high blood glucose levels, which are damaging to tissue. Insulin levels should go back down to normal after eating, it’s good to keep them low.
Insulin has many important functions throughout the body because our brain, heart, muscles, bones, etc. all need glucose for energy. The fact of the matter is: We will die without insulin. It’s the key that unlocks the glucose channel and allows glucose to enter our body’s cells. But too much insulin is not good and leads to insulin resistance. That’s right, not being pre-diabetic doesn’t mean you’re fully in the clear. Eating processed starches and refined sugar, dairy, fruit juices and MSG (monosodium glutamate) can all spike insulin levels. Even stress, low hormone levels and a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to a high level of insulin.
Understanding insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is the dysregulation of our metabolism from eating too much starch and sugar. This means that insulin remains high after glucose is pushed into the cell or other tissues. Cells then become desensitized to insulin and stop responding normally. The normal course of treatment has been to prescribe more insulin to type 2 diabetics to force glucose into the cell because the cell is starving of that energy. But a new theory is that the cell isn’t starving at all, it’s in overflow and can’t take in any more glucose/sugar. Americans are no stranger to sugar and starch — the average American eats 152 pounds of sugar and 130 pounds of flour per year. These incredible amounts are poison and cause most chronic diseases. Just cutting out refined sugar and processed wheat can help in eliminating chronic symptoms and disease for many people.
Prevalence and signs of insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is the most common health disorder worldwide, and yet, nobody talks about it. Have you heard of it before today? Maybe not. That’s quite fascinating since around 85% of U.S. adults have insulin resistance. Half of adults in Mexico, China and India are also insulin resistant. Here are some common signs of insulin resistance for you to look out for:
- Skin tags
- Acanthosis nigricans
- Visceral fat/obesity
- Hair loss
- Sugar/carb cravings
- Fatty liver
If you want to check your labs for insulin resistance, it’s important to keep in mind that a lower result is always better. For example, a fasting insulin level of 19.6 or lower is considered normal with a Quest Diagnostics lab. But a more optimal result would be a level of 6 or lower. Whatever numbers you’re seeing in your labs, just remember, if we control our insulin levels, we can avoid most chronic diseases. There are many lifestyle changes you can make!
How to improve your insulin sensitivity
It may sound like an obvious one but get moving! The large muscles in your legs are perfect for burning more glucose, so use them frequently. Since a lot of us live a more sedentary lifestyle of sitting down for long periods of time, it’s crucial to our health that we exercise daily, even if it’s just a brisk walk after a meal. Another way is to eat smarter by eating whole foods like fruits, vegetables and grass-fed meats instead of processed foods. If you’re unsure of what to buy, start looking more carefully at food labels. If you can’t pronounce something, you may not want to eat it! You can always find alternatives too. Exchange refined sugar for coconut sugar, monk fruit or natural stevia, all of which have a lower glycemic index. And eliminate all processed flours except for nut flours.
A buzzword you may have heard before is “intermittent fasting.” Fasting for 14, 16 or 24 hours is a proven way to help lower insulin levels and reduce visceral fat. You could also use time restrictions for when you eat — only eat for six to eight hours during the day. When you eat is important. Get in the habit of not eating after 7 p.m. and only drinking water or tea. This will give your body plenty of time to fast, allowing your insulin levels to drop.
- We just threw a lot of information at you, so to recap, here are a few key takeaways about insulin resistance:
- Not being pre-diabetic is great, but it’s not enough.
- Insulin resistance is avoidable.
- Family history is only a little red flag, not YOUR outcome.
- You don’t need a prescription to live a better lifestyle, but you probably still need professional help to decrease medications.
You don’t have to wait to make changes, you can start today! Upon waking up, drink a full glass of filtered water to get your juices flowing and your body hydrated. Then, check yourself to see if you are really hungry before you break your fast. If you’re not, maybe you don’t need to eat breakfast right away. Then at night, commit to drinking only calming tea (like chamomile) or filtered/mineral water after 7 p.m. Don’t worry, this won’t break your fast. And of course, be wise in which foods you choose to nourish your body!
Here at BESANA Health & Wellness, we want you to make the best decisions for your overall health and wellbeing! To learn more, watch the full webinar, reach out to our team at 303.327.7300 or request a consultation online.