Insulin – Friend or Foe?

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Less than 100 years ago, the discovery of using insulin to treat diabetes was a miracle. But today, insulin is being demonized in the low carb culture (predominantly among those with Type 2 diabetes.) I’m here to say…insulin is NOT the enemy!!! Ask this little boy…yes, he obviously is a Type 1…but thank God for insulin!! This is him before, and then 2 months after insulin therapy.  Let’s not forget from where we have come…

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As Type 2’s, we aren’t overweight and/or diabetic from INSULIN itself. We are overweight and/or diabetic ( Type 2) from TOO MUCH INSULIN contributing to INSULIN RESISTANCE. Big difference!! We are overweight and/or diabetic from living lifestyles that raise blood glucose farther than it was ever designed to go, causing our body to make FAR more insulin than it was ever designed to make. So is it the insulin’s fault?

For a while, I too began to believe that insulin was evil (for Type 2’s). This is mostly because I work with patients with very uncontrolled diabetes. I have seen patients actually get worse with more insulin. I have had patients on more than 500 units of insulin per day who still do not have controlled blood glucose. It starts to make you wonder how much insulin it would take to control blood glucose in a person with this much resistance. In cases like this, you start to feel like insulin is part of the problem, not the solution. And it CAN be. But then you have to step back and realize, is there anything wrong with the insulin itself? Once again, what is the problem, INSULIN or TOO MUCH INSULIN resulting in RESISTANCE? When you can empty an insulin pen into your body and not get controlled blood glucose…you’ve dealing with SIGNIFICANT RESISTANCE!

Just like any other hormone in the body, insulin has a job. Insulin is doing EXACTLY what it was made to do, lower blood glucose. So the problem is NOT the insulin in ITSELF, but the INSULIN RESISTANCE that results from… not NORMAL production of insulin, but OVER production of insulin.

Since the time we as humans originated, we have made insulin with rarely a snag. Why is it only the last 100 years or so that this has become a problem? Because we FORCE our bodies to make too much and we become resistant. What causes us to produce too much insulin?

  • Eating to much or too often
  • Eating the wrong type of foods (processed/refined carbs)
  • Not exercising enough to burn the energy we are consuming
  • Not sleeping enough
  • Not managing stress
  • Taking medications that elevate blood glucose
  • And so many more!!!

Notice what most of these things have in common? They are our lifestyle choices*. If insulin didn’t do its job, you would start seeing wildly elevated blood glucose very early in life, the first time you ate your first cookie, or drank your first cup of juice or soda. Our bodies weren’t designed to eat these highly processed, sugary foods. Insulin is just doing its job by trying to compensate YEAR after YEAR after YEAR, until we, typically, make ourselves insulin resistant.

STOP putting insulin to the test!!! 😉

Insulin is not evil. Without insulin, we would all die. Let’s remember that. If ANY other hormone in our body was consistently raised, it would cause a problem. What if you had too much estrogen, testosterone, etc? There would be problems. It’s no different with insulin.

So we need to do what we can to keep our insulin levels in check. Whether our body is making its own insulin, or whether we are injecting insulin, forcing our bodies to MAKE or TAKE a LOT of it will lead to insulin resistance and problems.

Let’s take two scenarios:

  1. Non-diabetic – eats lots of the foods that force the body to make a lot of insulin. Results? Weight gain and insulin resistance.
  2. Insulin-dependent diabetic – eats lots of the foods that cause the need to inject a lot of insulin. Results? Weight gain and insulin resistance.

So whether we make our own insulin, or whether we have to take insulin, they key is avoiding resistance.  If insulin ALONE was the cause of insulin resistance, then EVERY Type 1 would be insulin resistant.  Is that the case?  No, in fact, the majority of Type 1’s are very insulin sensitive.  It is only when they live a lifestyle that forces them to have to inject a LOT of insulin that they become resistant as well.

So, should Type 2’s take insulin?? The answer is not as simple as yes or no. I have recently stumbled across a brilliant physician and his assessment and treatment of Type 2 should be the standard on diabetes care. His name is Dr. Theodore Naiman, his website is HERE. For his Type 2 patients, Dr. Naiman assesses how much insulin they are currently making. This can be determined from a simple blood test.  (Why is this simple measure of common sense NOT being utilized by every physician treating diabetes?  Because MOST physicians only consider Type 2 diabetes as an insulin deficient disease, not a disease of insulin excess.)

So, if the person is making a sufficient amount of insulin, then more insulin is NOT the best answer to tackle high blood sugars. This CAN worsen insulin resistance. The focus here will be to immediately use diet to reduce blood glucose and eliminate excess weight, and exercise to improve insulin sensitivity. Now, even if a person has a mild insulin deficiency, they may still be able to overcome this with the right diet, that does not provoke the need for a lot of insulin, and exercise to improve sensitivity. Intermittent fasting can also be used to reduce insulin needs, promote weight loss, and improve sensitivity. If you have a mild deficiency of insulin, you may need to be even more diligent in these areas. This is BY FAR the most effective treatment of Type 2. This will help the MAJORITY of Type 2’s get control of their diabetes.

But what about Type 2’s with a more severe insulin deficiency? Particularly those that have had diabetes for a very long time? What if all of these methods are employed? Right diet, vigorous exercise, maybe even some intermittent fasting…and blood glucose is still NOT controlled?? Then you are down to two choices…control blood glucose…or not. I vote for controlled blood glucose. Yes, even if that means taking insulin. Insulin resistance does NOT come about by using SMALL amounts of insulin to compensate for a deficiency. Insulin resistance comes about from using LARGE amounts of insulin to “cover” poor lifestyle choices.

Some of us are more genetically predisposed to being overweight and Type 2. I happen to be one of those people who are “gifted” in this way, ;). So I choose not to “poke the bear.” Lol! I try to live a lifestyle that causes my body not to have to over-produce insulin. We cannot change what we have inherited. However, we can fight it to the best of our ability for as long as we can. If there comes a day where we can no longer control our blood glucose despite doing everything we can with lifestyle, then further management is warranted. Bottom line, don’t live with high blood glucose.

So if we are still BLESSED, yes, blessed with a pancreas that still makes enough insulin. Cherish it! Protect it! Preserve it! You do this by being as kind to your pancreas as possible. Stop over-taxing it. Quit raising blood glucose to levels it was never designed to reach.

If you find yourself in a position of having an insulin deficiency and have to TAKE insulin, remember, it is NOT the enemy. Simply live a lifestyle that causes as little need for insulin as possible.

Whether we make OR take insulin, they key is to use as little as we can. This helps us avoid insulin resistance. The REAL enemy.

Good health to you!!

*There are some conditions of hyper-insulin not directly related to lifestyle. (These are not the focus of this article.)  However the majority of hyperinsulinism is caused by modifiable lifestyle factors.