Insulin is one of our most important and most influential hormones. It exists in all living organisms. Not only does insulin impact fat storage, but it also plays a role in the production of our stress hormone, it affects thyroid function, sleep cycles, appetite, and the metabolism of cholesterol and triglycerides.
Receptors in our cell membranes use small amounts of insulin to unlock special pores which allow desired nutrients into our cells including fatty acids, glucose, amino acids, vitamin C, and various other molecules. Insulin is basically the “master hormone” because of its critical role in transporting nutrients from the bloodstream into the cells of your body, but most of its important action take place in muscle and fat cells.
Like most things, too much of a good thing can cause us great harm. That is certainly the case with insulin production. It is an undisputed science observation that within any species, individuals who secrete the most insulin over a lifetime live the shortest lives. Human bodies were designed to burn fat, which does not increase insulin production, as our primary source of energy. However, the American diet today is the exact opposite consisting of too many high insulin producing foods, primarily processed carbohydrates. This is the root cause of the increased prevalence of obesity and obesity related diseases.Individuals who secrete the most insulin over a lifetime live the shortest lives. Click To Tweet
One of the key roles of insulin is to help regulate the blood glucose level. If the blood glucose level gets too high, a message is sent to the pancreas to produces more insulin, because too much glucose in the blood is toxic and can become life-threatening, as is the case with diabetics. Insulin does its job lowering your blood glucose by sending a message to your metabolic system to store it in the form of glycogen in the liver and muscles, then whatever remains is stored as fat in fat cells.
Since most of us do little to deplete our existing glycogen stores almost all of the extra glucose is converted and stored as fat. Then, because we didn’t get the nutrients we needed, we get hungry again soon. And, the process starts all over again if we eat more high insulin producing foods.
Let me go through the entire process. Carbs (primarily processed) are ingested. They digest very quickly which elevates blood glucose levels creating a boost of energy, mood, and cognitive function. Within minutes the elevated blood glucose prompts the pancreas to release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin removes the glucose from the bloodstream which results in a “sugar crash” which makes you feel sluggish, moody, and unfocused.
This sudden drop in energy is perceived by your body as a stressful event triggering the release of the hormone cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone. When cortisol hits the bloodstream, your body thinks something is wrong so muscle tissue is converted into glucose through gluconeogenesis, giving you some quick energy to deal with the fight-or-flight situation. It may make you feel hyper or jittery. The cortisol has done its job. After a little time the effects of cortisol will wear off. As the fight-or-flight response, it is designed to produce brief bursts of energy and heightened senses for emergency situations, but it is not designed for this to be a daily occurrence.
Over time, the highs and lows of too much glucose and insulin in the bloodstream promotes systemic inflammation, which is the cause of many health problems and diseases.
Insulin resistance and Type 2 diabete
If this pattern continues, the problem gets worse. If insulin levels in the bloodstream are continually elevated, cells become desensitized to insulin’s signals (this is called insulin resistance). So, instead of accepting the nutrients transported by insulin into the cells, they are rejected. The brain then perceives that the bloodstream is starved for nutrients, hunger increases, and more calories are consumed. As the liver becomes insulin-resistant, blood glucose levels increase which triggers the pancreas to produce more insulin. The extra glucose is converted into triglycerides as your body transports it to fat cells for storage. This process promotes oxidation and inflammation in the arteries leading to heart disease and other complications.
Constant elevated blood glucose causes the pancreatic beta cells to work overtime to produce more insulin. Eventually, this mechanism in the pancreas gets worn out and type 2 diabetes ensues. All of this is the result of excess carbohydrate consumption. This is why eating the right combination of fats, proteins and low-glycemic carbs is so important.
So, what changes can you make in your diet so this doesn’t happen? The most important thing to do is eliminate, or greatly reduce, high insulin producing foods, which are primarily processed carbohydrates and refined sugar, from your diet. Eat real, whole food, plants and animals, not something from a box. And, increase the amount of healthy fat in your diet which provides lasting energy and satisfies your hunger. You should aim for 40 to 50% of your calories each day to come from fat. The remainder should be split about evenly between low-glycemic carbohydrates and proteins. This pattern will reprogram your genes and help you become a fat-burner instead of a sugar-burner which is how God designed your body in the beginning.
My next post will share a 21 day challenge that will detox your body and reprogram your genes. It will be amazing the difference three weeks can make. But don’t wait to make the changes I mention above. Live Healthy starting today! ?