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What You Need to Know
- Insulin resistance is a common medical condition and is extremely prominent in the overweight population. When someone is insulin resistant, their body no longer makes full use of the insulin produced by their pancreas.
- Insulin resistance is the reason why when some of us try to diet by reducing our calories but continuing to eat carbohydrates, we feel horrible and either don’t lose weight or sometimes even gain weight.
- If you are insulin resistant, consumption of high levels of carbohydrates will cause your blood sugars to rise and will stimulate your pancreas to produce more insulin.
Hello again, everyone. I hope you are all well and that you are low carbing successfully. I have been receiving quite a few different questions concerning the low carbohydrate lifestyle and it’s effects on our bodies and general health and well being. The questions have been wonderful; please keep them coming!
Since many of you have asked about insulin resistance, this week I have decided to discuss both insulin resistance and why low carbohydrate eating is effective in treating this condition.
Originally published 2/15/2000, Updated 09/21/2019.
What Is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance is a common medical condition and is extremely prominent in the overweight population. When someone is insulin resistant, their body no longer makes full use of the insulin produced by their pancreas. This causes their body to increase it’s insulin production since it is not effectively using the insulin which is does produce, and can eventually lead to the pancreas becoming overloaded and being unable to produce insulin at all. This is why insulin resistant people have an increased likelihood of becoming Type II diabetics.
Insulin resistance is also sometimes called Syndrome X or hyperinsulinism. Insulin resistance is the reason why when some of us try to diet by reducing our calories but continuing to eat carbohydrates, we feel horrible and either don’t lose weight or sometimes even gain weight. Our lack of success on low calorie, high carbohydrate diets is not the result of our lack will power or ability to follow a low calorie. high carbohydrate diet correctly. Our failure with low calorie, high carbohydrate diets is due to our bodies’ inability to process the high levels of sugars such diets create adequately.
What Is The Effect Of Too Much Insulin Production?
Insulin is produced by your body to control your blood sugar levels, the amount of sugar in your blood. When your body has an overload of sugar which is not being properly metabolized, it produces insulin to combat the excess sugar. When your body cannot effectively use the insulin it is producing, the excess insulin does not disappear, but stays in your system.
Excess insulin has a detrimental effect on your body. When your body has excess insulin, it causes you to retain water and to gain weight. To rid itself of the excess sugar, your body will burn the sugars (carbohydrates) first and store the fat for use later.
What Are The Warning Signs Of Insulin Resistance?
You may be insulin resistant if you experience any of the following:
- The inability to lose weight when following a low-fat diet.
- Chronic fatigue (a lack of energy that is constant).
- Feeling bloated or having gas after eating a meal containing a large number of complex carbohydrates.
- Mental fogginess after eating a meal containing a large number of complex carbohydrates. This includes dizziness, feeling lightheaded, and a lack of ability to concentrate.
- Fatigue or sleepiness after eating a meal containing a large number of carbohydrates.
- Cravings for sugar-filled foods after consuming a meal contain a large number of complex carbohydrates.
- Binge eating of any kind after consuming a meal containing a large number of complex carbohydrates.
- Depression, irritability, and or anxiety. These feelings may not occur just after consuming a meal containing a large number of complex carbohydrates but may be constant, if you are consuming a large number of complex carbohydrates throughout the day, not only with your meals but as snacks.
Are There Medical Tests Which Can Prove You Are Insulin Resistant?
Insulin resistance cannot be diagnosed via simple blood tests that merely show the levels of blood sugar present, and that is why insulin resistance frequently is undiagnosed. Both undiagnosed insulin resistance and/or mistreatment of insulin resistance can cause a variety of ever-more-serious health problems that can eventually lead to Type II diabetes. It is extremely important to have an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment! I cannot stress this strongly enough!
It is pretty evident to those of us who are insulin resistant what our problem is, but for those people who are uncertain, there are blood tests that can definitively diagnose insulin resistance. These tests can help both physicians and patients accept the problem and work together toward a solution.
One of the tests that help in the diagnosis of insulin resistance is the oral glucose tolerance test. In the oral glucose tolerance test, samples of your blood are measured at specified intervals after you drink a solution of glucose and water. A blood sample is first taken before you drink the glucose solution, then additional samples are taken again at designated intervals after you ingest the glucose solution. Common time intervals often used include 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, and 3 hours after swallowing the glucose solution. You are often advised not to eat for at least 8 hours before the test, and certain medications (such as diabetes medications) may be discontinued before the test is administered. You should check with your healthcare provider for specific instructions.
The normal levels of blood glucose after not eating for 8 hours fall into a range of between 70 to 110 milligrams/deciliter (or mg/dl). After 30 minutes the normal levels are between 120 – 160, and after 1 hour the normal levels are between 120 – 160.
The second test is called a GTT insulin test, also called the blood insulin assay test and is run concurrently with the oral glucose tolerance test. The GTT test measures the insulin levels in your blood. Additional blood is drawn at the same time your blood is drawn for the glucose tolerance test so that additional the test can be run. Normal results for the first fasting test before you have consumed the glucose and water solution are 2 -10. From the first blood drawn (after 30 minutes), the normal level for insulin is 9 – 45, and the blood is drawn after one hour the normal levels are 5 – 30.
What Role Do Carbohydrates Play In Insulin Resistance?
Blood sugar is not elevated simply by consuming sugar. All carbohydrates turn into sugar in your body, and your body does not differentiate between the sugar from a bowl of ice cream or the sugar from a baked potato. It sees all sugars as being equal. Sugar, from whatever source, is sugar.
If you are insulin resistant, consumption of high levels of carbohydrates will cause your blood sugars to rise and will stimulate your pancreas to produce more insulin, being the dangerous spiral of overproduction of insulin, which causes your blood sugar to drop drastically, which leads to low blood sugar, which causes you to be hungry, which causes you to want more carbohydrates to raise your blood sugar levels, which causes your pancreas to produce even more insulin, and so on and so on.
Eventually, this constant spiral causes your body’s insulin receptors become desensitized and they stop working. When this happens, your blood sugar levels rise and remain high, since there is little or no insulin being produced to manage them. At this point, you are a Type II diabetic.
How Does Following A Low Carbohydrate Regime Help With Insulin Resistance?
The goal in the treatment of insulin resistance is to stabilize your body’s blood sugar levels, thus preventing your body from producing excessive, damaging amounts of insulin. When you have excessive levels of sugar in your blood, your body burns the sugar for energy first in order to get rid of the overload and stores the fat for later. Unfortunately later
never comes, and this stored fat becomes more extra weight on your already overweight body.
If your blood sugar levels are stabilized and your insulin production is lowered, your body will burn your fat as there is no excess sugar available for it to burn for energy. This will cause you to lose weight, as you body is using your already existing fat reservoirs instead as it’s primary source of fuel rather than using consumed carbohydrates and depositing the dietary fat and protein you consume into body fat.
If you keep your blood sugar levels lower, it will prevent the body from making excessive insulin. This is where low carbohydrate diets enter the picture. If you are not eating food that turns into sugar, your body will not need to produce excess insulin. Without the excess insulin, your body will simply burn both the fat that is ingested and your already existing body fat for fuel. In addition, insulin will not be there to promote fluid retention. There is no storage of fat; it is simply burnt for energy.
In a nutshell, the lower you keep your intake of carbohydrates, the less insulin your body will produce, and the more it will turn to its own excess fat for fuel. You will not only lose weight but will improve your health and well being by eliminating the other numerous side effects of insulin resistance.
I also think it is important to note that exercise will also help lower the levels of insulin in your body as well as promote quicker weight loss by using calories and helping your body to build muscle. You should always strike a balance between diet with exercise. Remember, the ultimate goal is not merely weight loss, but a return to optimal health. Exercise is an important and continuing part of the process.
I hope this discussion has shed some light on insulin resistance and the reasons why a low carbohydrate lifestyle is an excellent means of battling insulin resistance and preventing the onset of Type II diabetes.
More Resources About Insulin Resistance
- What Is Insulin Resistance?
- Insulin Resistance Causes and Symptoms – EndocrineWeb
- Insulin Resistance – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
- What You Need to Know About Insulin Resistance — Diet Doctor
Until next time,
Christy DeBoer R.N.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this website has not been evaluated by The Food and Drug Administration. It is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Individuals starting any diet plan or who are suffering from any disease or illness, should consult with a physician or health care professional.