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Insulin - Helping you off the Blood Sugar Rollercoaster


You can't expect to have balanced sex hormones over the month if your blood glucose levels are on a rollercoaster every day


Let's get to know Insulin who plays a vital role in regulating our blood sugar.

 

Acting like a key, insulin unlocks our cells to allow glucose (sugar) to enter and either be used for fuel or stored as fat. When our body senses a rise in glucose, the pancreas secretes insulin, allowing our muscle cells to take in glucose for fuel and our fat cells to store glucose for the future.

 

Without insulin, glucose would continue to accumulate in our blood stream, literally making our blood “sticky” and wreaking havoc throughout the body, all the while depriving our cells of energy.


Unstable blood sugars are a modern day issue

Without a doubt sugar has infiltrated the majority of processed and packaged foods creating addictive 'treats', sending our blood sugar levels on a rampant roller coaster ride all day long.

Sweet foods are no longer a rarity - our ancestors would have come across berries or honey or maybe fruits in season but these days we have 24hour access if we desire.

We have to actively become aware of whats in our foods and choose to make wise decisions to support our insulin.

The classic signs that your blood sugar levels are unstable are:

  • If you experience ongoing sugar cravings

  • Can't go for long without eating (i.e more than 4hours seems totally undo-able)

  • You regularly experience brain fog 

  • You have troublesome skin

  • Have trouble losing weight

  • You may notice around 3pm that your energy drops and you cannot get through the afternoon without something sweet or caffeinated


Insulin’s main job is to keep blood sugar levels stable, by moving sugar from the bloodstream into your cells where it can be used for energy.

Elevated insulin impairs ovulation, and stimulates the ovaries to make testosterone instead of oestrogen, which is a common finding in PCOS.

Other factors that contribute to insulin dysregulation include eating too much sugar/refined carbohydrates, insufficient sleep, nutrient deficiency, the oral contraceptive pill, stress and caffeine. 



Does the above also sound like symptoms associated with imbalances in estrogen, testosterone, or progesterone? Or they could also sound similar to adrenal or thyroid issues?

That’s because hormones are all interconnected.

They’re designed to function in harmony.

There's a saying I often use and it really applies to hormones 'If you only have a hammer everything looks like a nail'

When you are addressing you own hormone health you can’t just focus on one area or part and be the “expert” in supporting the thyroid or an “expert” on adrenal health. We have to address all of the factors to allow the body to heal.

When your blood sugar levels are out of balance it means your body is using sugars and proteins as a fuel source, rather than fats. This gives your body quick, emergency energy but the body actually interprets high blood sugar levels as a stressor which stimulates the release of cortisol.


Taking a re look at the Hormonal Hierarchy image above we can see now how real or perceived stress raises cortisol levels, cortisol elevates blood sugar (so we can fight off the perceived danger), this elevated blood sugar drives insulin levels higher


Do you see how this is negatively affecting the sex hormones downstream?!

Our sex and stress hormones share the same precursors, which means when your body is constantly in flight or fight mode, it is designed to prioritise survival and not reproduction.


Lifestyle Medicine for supporting Insulin

 Your Lifestyle is the foundation for addressing insulin resistance and supporting stable glucose levels

 

Move

Exercise and Movement is a vital factor in treating and preventing insulin resistance.

Dynamic movement trains your muscles to use insulin appropriately.

There are many ways to move and the key here is to pick something you enjoy and do it regularly.

Walking, gym, dancing, swimming, hiking, boxing, weight training - join a group, make it social or your time out. Do it daily and your insulin will love you for it! 


Fasting - This advice is specially for the women

Throughout a women’s month (whether you have a cycle or not) there is a complex hormonal dance going on in the body with estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. These hormones we now know are impacted by insulin (which is high when our blood sugar levels are high) and cortisol (the stress hormone) the thyroid hormones and oxycotin.

In order to keep our cycle regular and balanced we need to be mindful of what each of these hormones need to thrive, and when the body is trying to produce them during the month.

  • Estrogen is produced by the body at two points in the cycle and this is a great time to fast because Estrogen thrives when insulin is low (when we’re fasting we’re not consuming food and therefore no insulin is being released in the body).

  • Mid-cycle, at the time when testosterone is ramping up, intermittent fasting of no more than 15hrs is advised due to the adverse effects that cortisol would have on the bodies ability to produce testosterone (cortisol, the stress hormone, would be activated by a longer fast).

  • Progesterone also ramps up at two points in the cycle. Progesterone is sensitive to both glucose and cortisol and so it is best to avoid fasting all together during the time that this is hormone is being produced in the body.

So what does an ideal fasting practice look like for a woman?

For those with a cycle it looks like this (Day 1 is the start of your period):

Phase 1: Day 1-10: 13-72hr fasts are great

Phase 2: Day 11-15: 13-15hr fasts are good

Phase 3: Day 16-19: 13-72hr fasts are great

Phase 4: Day 20-30 (or until bleed): No fasting

It’s up to you to choose your own rhythm of fasting within these windows. So for instance, during day 1-10 you might do 15hrs fasts everyday with a 24hr fast thrown in at some point. In terms of fasting, the body enjoys variety (just like with our workouts) so mixing it up does produce great results.


Food Is Medicine

The focus should be on healthy fats, fiber, adequate protein, and low glycemic index foods. These are the primary dietary ways to address insulin resistance.

 

  •  Healthy Fats: People often forget that healthy fats are incredibly important for sugar control as well as metabolic balance. We want to aim for a balance of 4:1 omega-6’s to omega-3’s and get adequate amounts of saturated fats. Saturated fats account for about 40% of the fat in your cell membranes. So without enough saturated fat, it’s like removing bricks from your house and hoping it will stand when the storm comes. We absolutely need enough of these foundational building blocks. Include quality organic meats and fish, avocado, olives, olive and hemp oil, nuts, seeds, coconut, berries

  •  Protein: Many amino acids can help with sugar balance during fasts or in-between meals. So getting appropriate amounts of protein can help maintain sugar balance and keep you from getting hungry between meals.  Include quality organic meats and fish, bone broths, plant based protein powders, temph, tofu

  •  Low-Glycemic Foods:  Low-glycemic index foods are foods that do not turn into sugar rapidly or in large quantities when we eat them. These tend to be very nutrient-dense foods like broccoli, lentils, chickpeas, cauliflower, etc. Processed foods – for example processed grains, flours, foods with added sugar, and boxed or packaged foods – rapidly turn into sugar. Over-processing and overcooking foods makes them break down faster when you eat them. The overheating and processing also removes nutrients, so they become large calorie sources that turn directly into sugar.

 


Quality Sleep

Good quality sleep is vital for sugar control. Sleeping less than six and a half hours a night is shown to have a direct correlation with increased insulin resistance, risk for type-2 diabetes, and heart disease. Sleep apnea, snoring or mouth breathing is easily overlooked. If you don’t wake up feeling well-rested regularly, consider trying mouth tape at night or getting a sleep evaluation.

 

Time in the Sunshine  

There is a direct correlation between low vitamin D levels and the risk of developing insulin resistance and diabetes.

Statistics show: Metformin helps improve insulin sensitivity by about 13%, yet giving a Vitamin D3 supplement to people who are deficient improves insulin sensitivity by 60%!

Vitamin D deficiency is very prevalent in the NZ particularly in winter months so make it a priority to get outside and increase foods like eggs, cod liver oil, oily fish, beef liver & mushrooms

 

Nutrients shown to support Insulin Control

  • Chromium

  • Magnesium

  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids

  • Green Tea,

  • Berberine

  • Cinnamon


So to wrap this all up acknowledging that Insulin resistance is not just a precursor to diabetes; it’s a pervasive health issue that affects our physical and mental well-being.

By understanding the critical role of insulin in the Hormone Hierarchy and recognizing the symptoms and causes of insulin resistance, I hope you now feel empowered to take action!!


As always any questions feel free to contact me directly through laura@livewild.co.nz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 




  

 

 

   

 

    

 

   

 

 


 

 

 

 

    

  

 

 

   

 

    

 

   

 

 

 

 

    

  

 

 

   

 

    

 

   

 

 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

 

 

 

The next nutrient to consider is omega-3 fatty acids. EPA and DHA are critical omega-3s for sugar control, cell membrane balance, inflammation control, and more. A dosage of 1,000–2,000 milligrams a day is a good starting point. An important caveat: If you take more than 4,000 milligrams a day of omega-3s, you should balance it with vitamin E because excessive omega-3’s can actually induce insulin resistance.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Botanicals

 

Botanicals are plant-based nutrients that can be used to help regulate metabolism and your body’s other systems. Many drugs we currently use actually originated in the plant and animal kingdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

  

 

 

   

 

    

 

   

 

 

Berberine

 

 

 

Berberine, a naturally occurring plant compound, is basically nature’s Metformin. It has been used to help control sugar and cholesterol levels at the Vanderbilt Hypertension Clinic. Berberine can have a profound impact on insulin resistance. It can also improve digestion, support the growth of good bacteria in the gut, and has a host of different functions. Usually, 500 milligrams twice a day is the starting dose. There can be some GI upset from Berberine (similar to Metformin), but overall it is well-tolerated.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

    

  

 

 

   

 

    

 

   

 

 

Cinnamon

 

 

 

Cinnamon is a spice that has insulin-like or insulin-activating properties. It’s commonly used and has been studied throughout the world. A proprietary product called CinSulin has been studied for insulin resistance and that’s my go-to when using cinnamon as a supplement to support insulin sensitivity.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

    

  

 

 

   

 

    

 

   

 

 

Green Tea

 

 

 

The active ingredient in green tea, EGCG, has profound metabolic effects. EGCG has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, helps improve insulin sensitivity, and also helps with controlling the inflammasome, which is the part of our cellular metabolism that regulates inflammation. Green tea also has positive effects on the immune system. It helps protect your B-cells from cytokine-induced damage. Cytokines are the part of your immune system that you see elevated with inflammation. So – almost by definition – if you have insulin resistance, you therefore have inflammation. EGCG can help protect your your immune system from damage from inflammation. A typical dose of EGCG is about 500 milligrams 1–2 times per day. If you prefer to get it from drinking green tea, the therapeutic dose of green tea is about four to six cups per day.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

    

  

 

 

   

 

    

 

   

 

 

Pycnogenol

 

 

 

Pycnogenol is a standardized extract from maritime pine bark. Pycnogenol has been used throughout the cardiometabolic world for reducing cholesterol and inflammation, as well as a support for patients with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Through its anti-inflammatory effects and its basic plant structure, it actually helps lower insulin resistance as well. Pycnogenol contains certain plant chemicals called polyphenols that help modulate inflammation and has been shown to lower A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol. I tend to actually use Pycnogenol more for in my cholesterol patients than in my diabetic patients. But because it’s such a versatile product that also helps with joint aches and pains from inflammation, it can be great adjunct in this arena.

 



 

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