If you have T1 diabetes, exogenous insulin is necessary for life. Too little and your BG soars. Too much and your scrambling for a sugary snack. Doctors don’t like it when your BG is normal because it’s too close to hypoglycemic levels which can kill you. The other option is to advise a high carbohydrate diet which will keep BG and, consequently, insulin levels high. For reasons which I’ll discuss shortly, insulin should be kept as low as possible to achieve normal BG levels (70 – 100 mg/dL). Then, I’d like to share several specific ways to do this.
Why elevated insulin levels over time is dangerous.
In an article reposted by Robb Wolf, Chad Cilli writes:
“High insulin and high inflammation go hand in hand. Our goal should be to optimize our insulin so that we are using as little insulin as possible to transport sugars. And again, this begins with diet. Avoiding high glycemic foods, high fructose, excess caffeine, and processed foods is necessary to help restore our insulin sensitivity. The ultimate goal is to adopt a healthy lifestyle with an intelligently balanced diet centered on quality food.”
According to Dr. Mercola,
“Chronically elevated blood glucose (and insulin) leads to insulin resistance and numerous chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. Elevated blood glucose and insulin resistance are epidemic today. An estimated one in four Americans are either insulin resistant or diabetic.”
Insulin resistance is currently blamed on inactivity, excess weight, and high blood cholesterol. Current medical care often prescribes diet and exercise for the excess weight and inactivity and medication to correct high cholesterol . These methods completely miss the mark and do little to prevent insulin resistance from turning into full blown diabetes. Worse, it is these very prescriptions that exacerbate insulin resistance causing more insulin to be secreted by the pancreas in order to drive down every higher BG levels.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably got type 1. Great! Let’s shovel some “healthy whole grains” down our throats three times a day, drive insulin chronically high, and add type 2 diabetes to our existing type 1.
Leptin (Again, Dr. Mercola)
“Leptin is a very powerful and influential hormone produced by your fat cells. Your fat, by way of leptin, tells your brain whether you should be hungry, eat and make more fat, whether you should reproduce, or (partly by controlling insulin) whether to engage in maintenance and repair. In short, leptin is the way that your fat stores speak to your brain to let your brain know how much energy is available and, very importantly, what to do with it.
Therefore, leptin may be on top of the food chain in metabolic importance and relevance to disease.
If your leptin signaling is working properly, when your fat stores are “full,” this extra fat will cause a surge in your leptin level, which signals your brain to stop feeling hungry, to stop eating, to stop storing fat and to start burning some extra fat off.
Controlling hunger is a major (though not the only) way that leptin controls energy storage. Hunger is a very powerful, ancient, and deep-seated drive that, if stimulated long enough, will make you eat and store more energy. The only way to eat less in the long-term is to not be hungry, and the only way to do this is to control the hormones that regulate hunger, the primary one being leptin.
How Do You Become Leptin Resistant?
You become leptin-resistant by the same general mechanism that you become insulin-resistant – by continuous overexposure to high levels of the hormone. If you eat a diet that is high in sugar (particularly fructose), grains, and processed foods – the same type of diet that will also increase inflammation in your body – as the sugar gets metabolized in your fat cells, the fat releases surges in leptin.
Over time, if your body is exposed to too much leptin, it will become resistant, just as your body can become resistant to insulin.
The only known way to reestablish proper leptin (and insulin) signaling is to prevent those surges, and the only known way to do that is via diet. As such, diet can have a more profound effect on your health than any other known modality of medical treatment.”
For a very in-depth overview of insulin, leptin, and sugar, check out this unbelievably popular video by Dr. Robert Lustig – Sugar, The Bitter Truth.
For the Men Out There:
A correlation has been established between low testosterone and high insulin levels in middle aged men. This seems to me like another darn good reason to keep insulin levels as low as possible.
How to Lower your insulin levels.
We’ve talked a lot about some of these strategies on this blog. Here are my top 5 ways to drive your need for insulin down while maintaining normal BG levels.
1. Avoid fructose. In this study, fructose fed rats developed hyper-insulinemia, hyper-tyiglyceridemia, and other metabolic derangements, including weight gain.
Unprocessed, whole fruit from time to time is not a problem. But let’s quit it with the glass of O.J thinking it’s a healthy choice in the morning. One glass of O.J contains 7 oranges. Could you imagine the belly ache you’d have after eating 7 oranges? Nature protects us from sugar toxicity by wrapping sugar in balls of fiber and water.
The biochemistry of fructose metabolism is discussed thoroughly in Dr. Lustig’s video Sugar, The Bitter Truth. Basically, our bodies have no way to metabolize large quantities of this sugar. Therefore, it’s treated like a toxin in the liver. It can lead to fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, and obesity. The dose makes the poison so stay away from processed foods containing high fructose corn syrup.
Unfortunately, the sugar molecule is half fructose so it’s best to ruthlessly remove all added sugars from your diet.
2. Avoid eating grains and sugar. A little rice or potatoes from time to time might not be harmful because these starches are predominantly glucose which are metabolized quickly by the body without damaging your liver or reducing insulin sensitivity. They will require insulin, however, so don’t go crazy and try to time them around exercise which will blunt the BG spikes. Sugar is half glucose and half fructose. Fructose is the dangerous component of sugar that should be severely restricted.
If you need another reason to stay away from processed grains, check out this link Apparently, niacin fortified flour has been shown to be a possible contributor to the obesity and diabetes epidemic.
3. Get plenty of sleep. A randomized, crossover study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed impaired insulin signaling in sleep restricted adults.
4. Exercise. A routine that involves moving, walking, playing, maybe even a few high intensity intervals is all that’s necessary. Like any drug, too much exercise is detrimental. Again, the dose makes the poison.
Here’s an interesting post by Katherine Derbyshire here she discusses a study demonstrating how even low to moderate intensity resistance training improved BG levels in a group of type 2 diabetics.
5. Have some coffee, but don’t go crazy. If you like coffee, this study hould make you happy. It looks like all the antioxidants in coffee and tea and even decaffeinated varieties can boost insulin sensitivity and possibly help prevent type 2 diabetes. However, over consumption of the caffeinated varieties can ramp up adrenal hormones and thus insulin levels. I’ll never forget the time I had a cup of Turkish coffee while vacationing in Greece. It was possibly the strongest, most delightful cup of coffee I’ve ever had except for the shocking 250 I read on my glucometer an hour later.
6. Find ways to smile, be happy and relax. We’ve all had those days where we test our blood sugar and it’s inexplicably high all day long. Stress requires insulin and, of course, the opposite is true as well. Every time I go on vacation, my BG levels calm down despite eating all kinds of “bad” food. I typically sleep better on vacation and smile more. Sometimes you gotta let the tail wag the dog. If you’re feeling crappy, smile anyway.