Insulin is actually the most troublesome and damaging to the body, despite all you hear about high blood sugar. Insulin causes fluid retention and sodium retention, thus being the cause of hypertension in 80% of the patients I see with this issue. Insulin causes you to convert your bad cholesterol to plaque. Too much insulin causes insulin resistance in the brain, leading researchers to dub Alzheimer’s disease as “Type 3 Diabetes”. And most impactful for most people, the presence of insulin in the blood completely prevents you from burning fat.
Wait, what? Yes, you heard that correctly. When you eat that piece of toast, the insulin you release to deal with it actually causes you to store fat AND prevent you from burning fat. And if you’ve had a lifetime of eating more carbs than you can handle, even if you didn’t know it, you release MORE insulin than normal, potentially having that excess insulin in your system for hours. That means eating your 100-calorie pack of fat-free cookies has the potential to have MUCH more of a negative impact than you realize, since you ate the cookies in 5 minutes and you won’t be able to burn fat for maybe 4 hours. The insulin released to deal with the carbs you ate will stay with you for hours, and cause you to store fat, as well as be unable to burn it.
My patients come to me for many issues, and for many of them, the root cause is this excess insulin. This excess insulin will cause your blood sugar to drop, leading to sugar cravings and “poor willpower” that is incorrectly assumed to be a mental weakness. That drop in blood sugar will cause fatigue for people. Blood sugar going up and down is hard for your brain to have consistent energy, causing symptoms like memory issues, irritability, a hard time focusing and concentrating… all the things that look like Attention Deficit Disorder, but is actually just unstable blood sugar. This unstable blood sugar at night causes the “waking up” type of insomnia and having a hard time falling back to sleep. High insulin causes blood pressure problems. It causes you to convert your cholesterol to the type that makes plaque. It’s a stimulant for cancer cells. It causes weight gain, and the inability to lose weight. Don’t forget that Type 3 diabetes — Alzheimer’s Disease. And it’s considered one of the most inflammatory biomolecules in your body. In all the research and advice about aging well, reducing insulin is paramount.
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You want to check to see if you have a blood sugar problem? Run some blood tests and apply the narrower ranges that we do. Check your Hemoglobin A1c — that’s a 3-month average of your blood sugar. We start suspecting a problem if the number is 5.5% or higher. Or your triglycerides — we don’t wait for them to get over 150 mg/dL; we start talking to people when they’re over 100, since higher numbers are commonly caused by carbohydrate overload. The most important test is one your doctor doesn’t run often, but should — fasting insulin. This is the first marker to go awry when there are blood sugar problems. It’s an indication that your body is having to produce more insulin to deal with the higher amounts of carbohydrates being eaten. We want that number to be under 6 uIU/mL, yet we commonly see it in the teens, 20’s, even occasionally in the 30’s ( I’ve seen a fasting insulin of 36 in an 8-year old).
Look at your symptoms — do you struggle with fatigue? An expanding waistline? Sugar or carb cravings? Do you wake up at night and have a hard time falling back to sleep? Tired in the afternoons? How did you grow up — did you have soda in your house? Desserts regularly? When you left the house to live on your own, what did you eat? Did you drink soda? Do you like to cook? (people who cook and avoid processed food may slow the process). What’s your age? (the older you are, the higher the chance you have insulin resistance/diabetes).
If there was one action to take, to reduce your chances of any degenerative diseases, like cancer, heart disease, obesity, hypertension, dementia, it would be to stop stressing your pancreas out by making it produce all the extra insulin to deal with all the carbs you might be eating. You’ll lose your pancreas at some point (that’s when they give you the diagnosis of diabetes), and all that insulin over all that time is causing multiple huge problems, the first of which probably started being weight gain.
If you suspect this is a problem for you, and you don’t quite know where to start, or how to make it stick, call us or schedule a patient screening now. We can get you on track and pull you back from the edge of chronic disease, and make it easier than you think!