I think most of you have heard about diabetes. It’s a disease where the body can’t handle sugar anymore, for various reasons. There are two main types of diabetes – type 1 and 2.
Type 1 is inherited and not dependent on lifestyle. It’s associated with an auto-immune reaction, where antibodies are directed against the cells responsible for producing insulin in the pancreas. They get destroyed and the body can no longer produce the hormone. To survive, insulin needs to be added through shots or infusions.
Type 2 depends on lifestyle factors and is therefore avoidable to a great extent. It starts of with something called insulin resistance – a condition where the normal signalling from the insulin receptors is jammed for various reasons. Why this occurs is still not fully understood but research is pointing toward free fatty acids being a big part of the problem (1). There is also evidence showing that leptins and other hormones and substances from the fat stores in the body has a blocking effect on the insulin receptors.
When the receptors fail to react to the insulin, more insulin is secreted from the pancreas as a response to the rising blood sugar levels. Eventually the insulin producing cells get fatigued and symptoms of high blood sugar start to occur:
* Frequent urination, due to high volumes
* Increased thirst and hunger
* Unwanted weight loss
Not all people with insulin resistance develop diabetes, there is also a genetic variability of how much the pancreas can take.
The increased urination frequency is related to the osmotic pull of water with the sugar/glucose into the urine. Usually there are mechanisms to clear glucose from the urine, but when the levels rise it overflows the system.
Through this mechanism the body loses water, and water intake increases.
The body signals starvation, since the energy from the glucose can’t be used in the cells, fatigue ensues and hunger increases.
Usually insulin resistance has been present many years before symptoms of diabetes occur. This condition is asymptomatic in the medical sense, but when looking at it from a different angle there are some signals to be aware of.
Increasing weight/obesity, is a sign of high levels of insulin, since that’s the main anabolic hormone. Fat will be stored around the waist, because of these cells high metabolic activity and therefore easiness to recruit energy. Sugar cravings, increased hunger and mood swings can be a sign of difficulties handling carbohydrates.
In traditional western medicine there are no really good ways to measure insulin resistance and when people are diagnosed with diabetes they have been on the downward slope for a long time, probably decades.
We know insulin is an anabolic and anti-catabolic hormone that closely regulates blood sugar levels but also controls fat metabolism. As long as insulin stays high, fat stores can never be utilized for energy and the body will keep storing sugar as fat and glycogen in the muscles. This is why people with decreased insulin sensitivity gains weight and the weight gain reduces the sensitivity even more.
The way out is lowering insulin, through lowering the carbohydrate. aka the sugar. When the insulin levels drops, fat stores are activated to get energy. And if the insulin levels stays low the body can switch over to run on fats. Insulin will still be needed to keep the metabolism in check, but not nearly in the same levels as when trying to clean the blood stream from glucose after a carbohydrate meal.
Cutting down on the carbs is the first and best thing anyone can do for their long-term health. Long before any symptoms occur.
It does not only lower the risk for diabetes but also for many other life style diseases. Many people also report an increased mental health and more stable emotional life. It’s clear that keeping your blood sugar levels low and through that your insulin levels low will be beneficial for you in many ways.
1) Mechanisms behind insulin resistance: http://www.wjgnet.com/1948-9358/pdf/v1/i3/68.pdf