3 Reasons to Keep Your Insulin Levels in Check

3 Reasons to Keep Insulin Levels in Check

What is Insulin and why is it so important to keep your insulin levels in check? Find out why it matters, who actually requires insulin, and lifestyle changes that can help manage your insulin levels naturally and effectively.

Insulin – What You Need to Know

Before we get into how to go about keeping your insulin levels in check, let’s first understand what insulin actually is, and how our body uses it. We as humans cannot survive without insulin; it is a rather important hormone.

In non-scientific terms, insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas that regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood. Insulin also plays a role in breaking down fats and proteins for energy.

According to the Cardiovascular Diabetology Journal, Insulin resistance is defined as a decrease in tissue response to insulin stimulation thus insulin resistance is characterized by defects in uptake and oxidation of glucose, a decrease in glycogen synthesis, and, to a lesser extent, the ability to suppress lipid oxidation.

Think of insulin as your sugar taxi, which helps to get sugar out of your blood stream and into your cells. It allows your body to use sugar from the foods you eat to use for energy, or to store as glycogen for later use. Insulin helps to regulate blood sugar levels overall, making sure they don’t get too high or too low.

Since sugar can’t really enter cells on its own, it needs an escort of sorts, which is where insulin comes in. After you eat a meal your blood sugar levels should rise, which alerts the cells in your pancreas (beta cells) to release insulin into your bloodstream. This insulin hormone attaches itself to the cells and helps to absorb sugar from the bloodstream and then shuttle it into your cells.

Who Actually Requires Insulin?

As with most hormones, insulin is pretty smart and should be able to self regulate depending on the levels of sugar in your body. If you have more sugar than you actually need or your body needs to use, insulin can help to store this excess sugar in your liver (as fat) and save it to release at a later time when you need more glucose (when levels are low, when you’re being physically active, in between meals and during times of stress when your HPA axis is activated). As your blood sugar rises, your pancreas secretes more insulin….insulin kind of acts like your blood sugar advisor (much like a financial advisor).

If you aren’t a Type 1 Diabetic and consider yourself to be healthy, your body should be able to regulate your insulin levels naturally, unless you become insulin resistant, or you can’t make enough insulin.

If you are a Type 1 Diabetic then there is no way around it, you need insulin, not only to just stay alive, but also to actually regulate your blood sugar levels, as their beta cells do not produce insulin.

Type 2 Diabetics might also need to supplement insulin, as their bodies can become resistant to insulin and/or they have issues regulating blood glucose levels (although Type 2 Diabetics can manage this through lifestyle and dietary changes, such as balancing blood sugar levels naturally).

If your body does not naturally make enough insulin on its own, or your cells become resistant to it (kind of like when you tune out your parents yelling at you to clean your room) your cells don’t get the “message” from insulin and blood glucose levels can remain elevated and not actually enter your cells. Roughly 32 percent of Americans have insulin resistance currently.

Why Insulin Levels Matter

1. Hormone/Metabolic Issues

If we do not manage our insulin levels properly, the development of certain diseases, such as PCOS, Diabetes, Obesity, Hypertension (high blood pressure) and Hyper-Lipidemia (high blood fat) can occur. Insulin resistance and dysregulated blood glucose levels are associated with various endocrine (hormone), metabolic and genetic conditions. This is common in women who suffer from PCOS, as insulin is an anabolic hormone and several underlying factors influencing the development of PCOS include dysregulated blood glucose levels and excessive androgen hormones.

2. Diabetes

One of the main consequences of dysregulated insulin levels is the development of Type 2 Diabetes. Beta cells (which are in the pancreas and responsible for making insulin) essentially become “burnt out” and stop producing insulin, which can lead to more blood sugar dys-regulation, chronically elevated blood glucose levels and eventually insulin resistance. This can eventually lead to weight gain down the road as well, as blood sugar levels play a role in cravings, satiety and overall metabolic health.

3. Cardiovascualr Diseases (CVD)

CVD is currently the leading cause of death around the world and is generally associated with other diseases such as obesity, abnormal lipid levels and insulin resistance. During insulin resistance, an imbalance of glucose metabolism can generate chronic hyper-glycemia (chronic high blood glucose levels), which can cause an inflammatory response to occur, which can lead to cell damage. This can also lead to high levels of plasma triglycerides, low levels of HDL (the said protective “good” cholesterol, although both are important and necessary) and the appearance of small LDL particles (which are more dangerous and problematic).

How Can I Manage My Insulin?

How to keep Inulin levels in check
The good news is, you can control and manage your insulin with some simple lifestyle and dietary modifications. Following are all ways to help to lower and balance insulin levels:
  • Avoiding excessive amounts of sugar (particularly fructose)
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Reducing stress
  • Exercise (especially lifting weights, not dying on the cardio machines for hours)
  • Healthy sleep cycles
  • Acupuncture
  • Losing weight
  • Taking some blood glucose supporting nutrients (such as cinnamon, bitter melon, gymnema, fenugreek and milk thistle to name a few)
  • Optimizing your fiber intake (eating more plant compounds which can help to balance glucose levels) can also help with insulin health.
Brianna Diorio

Author: Brianna Diorio

FDN-P, Holistic Lifestyle Coach, NASM – CPT

Brianna Diorio is a clinical nutritionist and holistic lifestyle coach, as well as one of our MariGold Ambassadors.

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