What is Insulin?
Insulin is a hormone that’s created by the pancreas to absorb glucose from the blood and transport it into your cells to be used for energy. Essentially, every time you eat the following, your body produces insulin:
- Complex Carbs —Vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains
- Simple Carbs—White rice, bread, and pasta
- Simple Sugars—Sucrose (table sugar), and high fructose corn syrup (HFC)
Consequently, if you eat several small meals a day or three meals and several snacks a day, you are continually producing insulin to get rid of the glucose. When your insulin is working properly, it’s either transporting glucose to your cells or storing the extra glucose in your liver as fat to be used for energy at a later time. This is why insulin is called the fat storage hormone.
Moreover, that extra stored fat can actually make you gain weight in your stomach and waist area. And for most us, a little extra weight around the belly seems benign so at this stage, everything seems good in terms of how well the insulin is metabolizing the glucose…until it’s NOT!
When thinking of insulin, it’s natural to automatically think of diabetes in terms of the health consequences of having too much or too little in your body. But what if I told you that insulin affects far more than diabetes.
Did you know that high insulin levels are a major cause of Metabolic Syndrome? Metabolic Syndrome is a group of health conditions that act synergistically to increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and ultimately, yes—type 2 diabetes.
Consequently, that extra belly fat that I mentioned early— You know, the fat that you thought was benign— was quickly becoming a very dangerous deep layer of fat called visceral fat.
Studies done by PubMed have consistently found that visceral fat causes you to develop Metabolic Syndrome because it not only surrounds your vital organs, but it also acts as an organ itself and regulates how hormones are produced and utilized in your body. Every layer of that buried visceral fat leads to insulin resistance. Now folks, that’s deep…No pun intended!
In addition, Metabolic Syndrome is one of the first clues that your insulin levels are too high. And more importantly, please note that high insulin levels are always present, sometimes decades before you’re eventually diagnosed with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Can You Test for High Insulin Levels?
With current medical practices, you won’t know that your insulin levels are high after visiting your doctor because the doctor only checks your fasting glucose levels (how much glucose is left in your blood after fasting for 8 hours after you’ve eaten). Sadly, that test tells you nothing about how the insulin in your body is managing glucose when you DO EAT! Therefore, you will need an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) to measure those numbers. Unfortunately, the only time an OGTT is administered is when a woman is pregnant so that she can be checked for gestational diabetes.
With that being said, high insulin levels are another one of those silent killers that sort of “sneaks” up on you because it’s not being measured during your annual checkups. So, if you have any of the Metabolic Syndromes mentioned above, you might want to ask your doctor to do an OGT test during your next checkup, or you can visit a Walk-In-Lab test center in your area.
What’s the Impact of High Insulin Levels Long Term?
When your insulin levels remain continuously high for years, your body will eventually stop absorbing and transporting the glucose into your cells and liver because they already have too much. This is referred to as insulin resistance.
Again, the body is smart and wants to live so the cells in the body and liver will resist the insulin and close the pathways to bringing in more glucose. Over time, those cells become damaged from holding all of the extra glucose, and the liver becomes full of fat from storing too much glucose. Too much fat in the liver is referred to as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Now at this point, unfortunately, if you keep eating a high amount of ANY carbs (not just simple carbs) during this phase, your liver will keep being “force-fed” glucose that it just can’t take in anymore. Then you will start to feel symptoms like fatigue, increased thirst or frequent urination.
Therefore, you’ll go to your doctor and get another fasting glucose test (remember you get these at your annual checkups). But this time it’s different because things are really bad— the glucose had no where to go while you were (probably sleeping the night before) on your eight hour fast.
The doctor tells you that you have hyperglycemia (you probably had if for years), which means that the glucose is just hanging out in your blood wreaking havoc on your blood vessels and nerves. The good news is that the doctor finally made the diagnosis— that should have been made years ago with an OGTT — that you have type 2 diabetes. So, now you have a wake-up call to take control of your health.
The Medicine Fix for Diabetes
The doctor will prescribe an insulin resistance medication that will appear to help for a while. You might actually feel better so you keep eating the same diet (with a few minor changes) and the medicine keeps helping the insulin “force-feed” your liver and cells with glucose until they just can’t take anymore-again! So, you go back to your doctor and get stronger medicine to continue to “force-feed” the glucose into your cells and liver, which has EVEN LESS room —until they just. CAN’T. TAKE. ANYMORE. GLUCOSE!
If this cycle continues-you’ll remain in a state of hyperglycemia, which leads to peripheral artery disease (PAD) and peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage). Over time, this can lead to amputations because blood is not flowing to that area where the nerves are damaged. If the insulin levels remain uncontrolled, more amputations can occur along with blindness and kidney failure because your arteries are damaged as well.
As frightening as this sounds, it doesn’t have to be this way because in most people, diabetes is reversible through managing your diet and insulin levels.
The Diet Fix for High Insulin
I highly recommend a Ketogenic diet coupled with intermittent fasting until you get your blood glucose levels under control. As with any medical advice, you should consult with your doctor for any dietary changes and/or restrictions with your medical treatment.