Most people think about diabetics when they see the word insulin, but problems with insulin can occur in a number of different conditions, in people with normal blood sugar. You have probably heard of insulin resistance; it is a significant health problem because it’s associated with an increased risk of obesity, heart attacks, polycystic ovarian syndrome, cancer and other serious conditions. People with insulin resistance usually have excessively high levels of this hormone, because it doesn’t work properly. We are seeing an increasing number of patients who have been diagnosed with insulin resistance by their own doctor, yet they don’t fully understand what this term means.
How would you know if your insulin level is too high?
There is a blood test that can measure your fasting insulin, but it isn’t always reliable and many doctors are not willing to order this test. This is a shame because elevated insulin is bad for your health and shortens your lifespan.
Insulin has many important roles in your body. People with too much insulin in their bloodstream are said to have insulin resistance, syndrome X, metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes. They are all interchangeable terms.
Due to modern diets and lifestyles, nearly everybody produces more insulin in their pancreas than they should. This is a problem because if blood insulin levels have been high for years, the cells of your body start to ignore it. The insulin becomes less and less effective at its important job in your body (getting glucose inside your cells so you can burn it for energy).
Knowing whether or not you have too high insulin is important because it can allow you to make some changes and avoid some serious health problems in the future. Luckily there are several tell tale signs or clues that your body gives you, alerting you to this problem.
The role of insulin in your body
Insulin is a hormone that your pancreas secretes into your bloodstream after you have eaten. It enables the glucose from your food to enter your cells, where it is burned for energy. If insulin is not doing its job properly, less glucose will be burnt for energy and more of it will be converted into fat.
Some of the fat is stored around your body, just under your skin, and some of it accumulates in your liver. Having too much fat in your liver is a classic sign of elevated insulin. There are plenty of other signs and symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of chronically elevated insulin
- Fatty liver
- Abdominal obesity. As the waist grows larger, insulin becomes increasingly ineffective in your body, therefore levels of this hormone rise.
- Hunger and cravings for sugar or carbohydrate rich foods. People with high blood insulin are hungry and nothing will satisfy their appetite like carbs!
- Elevated blood sugar. A fasting blood sugar level greater than 97mg/dL (5.4mmol/L) indicates insulin resistance.
- Acne and large pores on the face. Insulin and its cousin insulin-like growth factor 1 promote higher levels of the male hormone testosterone and increase the sensitivity of your face to testosterone. That means you’re more likely to experience acne and greasy skin.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Scalp hair loss in women in the male pattern (front and sides).
- Skin tags.
- Increased risk of gout. People who are insulin resistant are sensitive to fructose and convert too much of it into uric acid. Elevated uric acid can raise the risk of gout and kidney stones.
- Acanthosis nigricans – look at this picture of what this skin condition looks like
- High blood pressure
- Swollen ankles. Insulin tells your kidneys to hang on to sodium and water, therefore you will look more puffy. You can experience fluid retention anywhere on your body, such as your fingers, face and abdomen.
Three point plan for lowering insulin
Clearly having too much insulin in your bloodstream is not a good thing. Luckily there is a great deal you can do to reverse this scenario. Here is my three point plan:
- Help insulin to work better.
There are certain herbs and nutrients that help to make insulin more effective in your body. This is a good thing because if it’s more effective, you won’t need to secrete as much of it into your bloodstream.
The most important nutrients for insulin action are chromium and magnesium. You have probably heard that chromium helps to reduce sugar cravings and it’s true. It does this by helping to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day. Chromium deficiency is incredibly common because not many foods are a good source of this mineral. Also when you eat sugar or high carb foods, it flushes chromium out of your body through your urine.
Magnesium is also necessary for healthy insulin action. People who take blood pressure medication or diuretics (fluid tablets) are typically low in magnesium. Magnesium helps to relax your nervous system and makes you feel less stressed. Thus it is fantastic for people who eat when they feel stressed.
Gymnema sylvestre is an herb that helps to keep your blood sugar stable and it helps to reduce sugar cravings. It is also very good for diabetics. Bitter melon is a vegetable that is commonly used in Asian cuisine. True to its name, it is an extremely bitter vegetable and many people are not able to handle the intense flavor at all. You can find all of these nutrients and herbs combined together in Glicemic Balance capsules. When taken with meals they help to reduce hunger and cravings and help to lower your blood insulin level. Berberine helps to improve insulin sensitivity, cholesterol metabolism and assists weight loss. It is very helpful for those with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.
- Improve the health of your liver
A healthy liver is very important for blood sugar control. This is because the liver can store glucose and fat, and also produce glucose and fat. You want your liver to be good at fat burning. People with a healthy liver have a fast metabolism and don’t gain weight as easily. Unfortunately a lot of people have a fatty liver and their liver is doing the opposite of what it should be doing – it is very busy making fat.
A healthy liver also helps to control your blood sugar level. If you have not eaten for several hours, your liver is supposed to release some stored glucose into your bloodstream to give you energy and keep hunger at bay. People with a sluggish liver struggle with this and they often feel excessively hungry, weak or irritable if they have gone several hours without food. It makes sticking to a diet extremely difficult! To help improve your liver health I recommend you follow the diet in my book Fatty Liver You Can Reverse It. It is not a difficult eating plan to stick to and you should not feel hungry.
Taking a good quality liver tonic like Livatone Plus will provide the nutrients your liver requires in order to burn fat and detoxify your bloodstream more effectively.
- Follow the right diet
Insulin resistant people cannot handle common levels of carbohydrate in their diet. They over secrete insulin in response to eating carbs and they are less likely to feel satisfied after a meal, therefore tend to over eat. That means carbohydrate needs to be restricted in the diet. It is best to get your carbohydrate from vegetables, along with small amounts of fruit, nuts and seeds. There is an easy to follow low carbohydrate eating plan in my syndrome X book and type 2 diabetes book.
Protein is the most important nutrient for those wanting to lose weight and reduce their blood insulin level. It is critical to eat protein at every meal because it is extremely satiating. It will help to make you feel more full and satisfied after a meal, and keep you feeling satisfied for longer. This way sticking to a healthy diet won’t be so much of a struggle. Examples of protein include eggs, seafood, poultry and red meat. Dairy products, nuts and seeds contain smaller levels of protein. Protein powders can be extremely helpful for those wanting to lose weight because they provide a quick, tasty and easy meal option for busy days. A protein powder smoothie can also make a delicious and filling snack mid morning or in the afternoon, when you might be struggling with sugar cravings. You can use either whey based or pea protein powder.
Elevated blood insulin (syndrome X) is an incredibly common condition and is responsible for some of the most common health problems today. Fortunately there are many ways to remedy it.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.