It is not uncommon to hear dieters, nutritionists and even doctors speak about the need to lower insulin. Low carb is very popular right now with this focus in mind. Many of you may be unfamiliar with the insulin discussion.
What is it? Why does it need to be low? The first and foremost point that I need to make is:
Insulin is NOT the enemy! Chronic elevated insulin is the killer…
Insulin is vital to healthy human function; without it you cannot survive. This is why individuals with insulin issues have to take medication and some have to inject insulin into their system. I want to emphasize this because I have heard people speak about the evils of insulin. Many try to avoid anything that spikes insulin levels (which isn’t possible). All foods affect insulin levels, some more than others. Not only foods, but insulin will rise and fall naturally even if you do not eat. There aren’t many scenarios, other than a fast, where this will play out in modern life. However, the point I want to make is that insulin will rise and fall in healthy individuals. It should not be avoided.
If insulin is so vital, why does it get a bad reputation in the dieting world?
This is the short version (if you want more details feel free to ask below).
In a healthy individual, insulin will rise and fall throughout day as you consume food. This also happens when food in your intestines is digested, releasing nutrient into the blood. Insulin’s role is to keep blood glucose in normal ranges. When glucose is high, insulin will spike and drive glucose/nutrients out of the blood stream: into cells to be utilized.
When you are eating too much (or too often) the cells will reach their maximum capacity to hold fuel. At this point, they aren’t accepting any glucose but it can’t stay in the bloodstream, (like when your GPS reroutes you because of a traffic jam). Glucose is sent to the liver, afterwards much of it is converted to adipose (fat) to be stored for future usage. In an ideal world, you will need this stored energy later. We live in a very abundant time; this has caused the average person to adapt eating habits that result in over consumption.
In this scenario: You ate enough to fill up, fuel your body and save some extra for later. Then later comes along and you need fuel… What does the average person do at this point?
The process above is repeated: use some, store the rest.
Does it stop there? Not usually… Let’s look at an average day for many workers. It is not uncommon to indulge in coffee full of sweeteners. Before those calories can be digested, we are eating breakfast. Then a mid-morning snack at work. Lunch time. Afternoon “pick me up”. Home for supper. Dessert after.
Look at the impact of that day. You start insulin spikes early in the morning, then you keep them coming every few hours until almost bedtime. There may be 12-15 hours of elevated insulin spikes packed into that routine.
The results? Look down art your midsection… look left and right across our society. Overconsumption is rampant and dare I say, normal.
Your body was not designed to handle elevated insulin for long periods. It does its task and then falls back to normal ranges. This is crucial for other hormones to elevate and perform their roles.
Fasting helps to correct this problem by giving your body a break from consumption. Some diets address this issue as well by limiting consumption. Others through controlling insulin. There are many methods that exist. I would like to make clear that fasting is not the only way to control insulin levels. However, it is important that you have a method of either controlling consumption, controlling insulin, or a combination.
I want to reiterate that this is not a comprehensive summary of insulins role. My purpose is to help you better understand the insulin discussion. Once againm, I want to reiterate:
Insulin is NOT the enemy! Chronic elevated insulin is the killer!