Insulin and Blood Glucose Levels – How it works
The role of insulin is to regulate the metabolism of fat and carbs. Our digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is used by our cells to provide energy. Insulin is the gatekeeper of the cells allowing them to receive glucose, thereby lowering the glucose levels in the bloodstream.
Each time we consume a meal, our blood glucose level increases. The pancreas then releases insulin into our bloodstream, which in turn assists our cells in absorbing the glucose. The insulin stimulates our liver to store extra glucose as glycogen.
When blood sugar drops, a hormone in the pancreas stimulates cells to break down glycogen into glucose and release it into the bloodstream keeping everything balanced.
When we have an imbalance in our insulin and glucose levels, it is called insulin resistance. That means that the cells do not respond appropriately to insulin and have trouble absorbing glucose, so the body produces more insulin to counterbalance the (perceived) lack of glucose.
As time goes by and insulin resistance builds up, the pancreas can't produce enough insulin to keep blood glucose regulated, and levels rise. At this point, pre-diabetes, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders arise. Many people develop pre-diabetes and have no idea until full-blown type II diabetes develops.
Before we started using fat for fuel, we ate a whole foods diet, including all food groups and excluding processed foods. My husband didn't feel good if he went more than a few hours without eating. This made me wonder if he had a blood sugar imbalance; so I began monitoring his glucose levels. I used a monitor that would allow us to test our glucose as well as our ketones.
Around this same time, I had been intermittent fasting from time to time to allow my digestive system a break. Some days I fasted from after dinner one night until dinner the next day, and other days, I did a bone broth fast. I had also been practicing using fat for fuel to see what kind of impact it would have on my body.
After monitoring both of our blood sugar levels for a few weeks, we started working towards pre-diabetes prevention.
- Monitored our fasting insulin levels (the goal was between 2-4)
- Tracked our ketones maybe once a week for the first few months, then sporadically since then
- Monitored our fasting blood sugar levels
Conventional dietary guidelines for diabetics are not producing outstanding results. In fact, I'd say they could be considered a failure. Many people with diabetes are told to eat fruit, grains, and other starchy carbs that turn to sugar and cause an insulin reaction.
We chose to cut out the “healthy grains” for a while and focus on high-quality fats.
What we did to cut our risk of metabolic syndrome
- Less than 25 grams of fructose per day because, yes, even fruit has an impact on blood sugar levels (see infographic at the bottom of this post)
- No trans fats as they interfere with insulin receptors
- Eat as many healthy fats as we wanted from avocados, butter, ghee, coconut, nuts, and animal fats.
- Eat a moderate amount of protein, preferably from organically raised, grass-fed, pastured meats, eggs, and dairy. Although, one study published in 2005 found that “Individuals who do not drink milk may be protected against insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.”
- Ate as much non-starchy vegetables as we like at meal time
- Avoid genetically modified foods and opt for organic whenever possible
- Keep vitamin D levels up by getting sunlight daily and supplementing with vitamin d + k2 when necessary. Studies show that low vitamin D will increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and associated diabetes.
- Get sufficient high-quality sleep every night. Studies link irregular sleep to diabetes and obesity. Sleep deprivation can cause insulin resistance (and weight gain) in part because it raises stress levels. “In one 10-year-long study of 70,000 diabetes-free women, researchers found that women who slept less than five hours or more than nine hours each night were 34 percent more likely to develop diabetes symptoms than women who slept seven to eight hours each night.”
- Supplement with EPA/DHA in the form of Krill Oil.
- Supplement with Magnesium and Potassium
- Eat foods containing probiotics and prebiotics daily to encourage good gut health. Read Probiotics Benefit Metabolic Syndrome Patients for more information.
- Exercise at least three times per week. High-intensity interval training can improve insulin sensitivity after only a month of workouts. The findings of this study which examined the relationship between objectively measured sedentary activity and metabolic syndrome among older adults suggest that older people may benefit from reducing total inactive time and avoiding prolonged periods of sedentary time by increasing the number of breaks during the sedentary time. “The proportion of sedentary time was strongly related to metabolic risk, independent of physical activity.”
- Spend less time sitting in front of a computer or television as it has been suggested as a risk factor for weight gain, heart disease risk, metabolic syndrome, and high blood pressure.
- Practice Intermittent fasting which can also help with weight and health goals. When appropriately done, it is said to improve insulin sensitivity, encourage weight loss, and has an impact on cholesterol. Once I started practicing intermittent fasting, all of my cravings disappeared.
Quit Sugar to drastically reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome
We quit sugar a long time ago, but I still created desserts with erythritol, xylitol, stevia, honey, molasses or maple syrup. For reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome, I cut out honey, molasses and maple syrup. I replaced these with sweeteners that were more helpful in lowering our risk of metabolic syndrome.
For the first time in a long time, I didn't crave anything.
Recently, I received a box of Pyure products that are perfect for preparing desserts without sugar overload! Stevia is widely used as a sweetener around the world and has no effect on either blood sugar levels or glucose response. This makes it an excellent choice for those wanting to avoid metabolic syndrome as well as Type 2 Diabetes.
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I recently read the following on Dr. Hyman's website:
“Insulin resistance affects many people and is not exactly the same in everyone, but the ultimate consequences can be similar.
Most afflicted have extra fat around the middle (check your waist to hip ratio – a measurement around your belly button divided by the measurement around the hips – if it is greater than 0.8 you likely have insulin resistance). You may be tall or thin, short or fat or any combination and still have insulin resistance.
The only sure way to know is with an insulin response test (measuring blood sugar and insulin fasting and one and two hours after a 75-gram sugar drink).
We once thought that insulin's only role was to help sugar enter the cells to be metabolized, combining stored energy with oxygen and creating the energy we use every day to run our bodies. Now we recognize insulin as a major switching station, or control hormone, for many processes. It is a major storage hormone – fat storage that is.
Balancing blood sugar and correcting insulin resistance is well within our reach. Scientific advances of the last few decades point the way to managing this. All we have to do is focus on eating whole, real food, avoid sugary processed foods as much as possible, eat healthy fats, and stay away from hydrogenated oils.” Source: Dr. Hyman I Just Can't Seem to Get this Weight Off My Waist. Why Not?
Find out how much sugar there is per 100 grams of certain dried fruits, spices, condiments, and other common food products through our infographic “A Sweet Trap: Shocking Amounts of Sugar in Common Foods.” Use the embed code to share it on your website or visit our infographic page for the high-res version.
<img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/sugar-foods.jpg" alt="sugar in foods infographic" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;"><p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;">Find out how much sugar there is per 100 grams of certain dried fruits, spices, condiments, and other common food products through our infographic "<a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/sugar-foods.htm">A Sweet Trap: Shocking Amounts of Sugar in Common Foods</a>." Visit our infographic page for the high-res version.</p>