I’ve Started Insulin and I’m Gaining Weight! Help!

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Ok, so you’ve begun an insulin regimen and now you are gaining weight, what is happening?

So let start from the beginning. Likely, you were placed on insulin because your blood glucose was consistently high, maybe 200, 300 or greater. When your blood glucose is very high, that means glucose is remaining in your bloodstream where it cannot be properly used. Sometimes it’s even high enough that it will start spilling into your urine. So, in the bloodstream, that damaging sugar is being carried all over your body, causing inflammation and damaging everything in its path. Bad news. You should NOT be living with high blood sugars.

So, with insulin, your blood glucose is coming down because now the glucose is going from the bloodstream, into the cells to be properly utilized. So why does this make you gain weight? We always hear “insulin is a fat storing hormone.” It’s true, but just how is this happening?

So now that your body can utilize the glucose, it has two options.

  • Use glucose, or
  • Store glucose

Now, most people don’t get active right after a meal, so very little glucose will actually be used around the time we consume a meal. The majority will be stored. There are three main places your body will store glucose.

  • Muscles
  • Liver
  • Fat

Your body stores glucose (in its stored form) in the muscles. This is glucose that can be quickly used for exercise or activity. There is a limited space in the muscles to store glucose. Also, if you have less muscle, you store less glucose. And if you are not active, these stores can stay full, not allowing more glucose in.

Your body stores glucose (in its stored form) in the liver. This glucose is used in between meals and during sleep to keep blood glucose stable when you’re not eating. There is a very limited space in the liver to store glucose. If you stay in the fed state too long or too often, and don’t allow sufficient fasting periods, these stores can stay full, not allowing more glucose in. What is “fed state” and “fasting state?” We are in the fed state when we eat a meal and for about 4 hours thereafter. In a fed state, your body relies on glucose from the food you have recently consumed. Then you enter the fasting state, where your body relies on stored glucose from the liver. So if you eat often, such as if you eat 3 meals per day, plus snacks in between, you are in a constant fed state for the majority of your day. This keeps your liver stores full. And if you have a bedtime snack, you are even interrupting your night time fast. This is not good.

So, when muscle and liver stores are full, what happens to all of the glucose?  It stores as fat! What’s worse, it stores as visceral fat, or fat around our organs, in other words, belly fat. This is dangerous. And guess what? Fat storage is unlimited. There is no end to how fat we can get.

So, is this whole picture insulin’s fault? No. Insulin’s job is to bring down blood glucose SO HIGH BLOOD SUGAR WON’T KILL YOU. The problem likely is, you are giving your body TOO MUCH GLUCOSE TO STORE. That is why it is imperative that if you have to use insulin, to take in as little glucose as possible. Remember that injected insulin is not quite as effective as insulin made by the body. This means that when we inject insulin, we typically end up using more than our body would have made with its own insulin. So how much glucose do we NEED to take in? Very little. The blood needs to maintain a circulating level of glucose of about 1 teaspoon (4g). We DO NOT need a bunch of carbohydrates to supply that glucose, as a great deal of the protein we eat also is converted to glucose.

So, pairing insulin with a low carbohydrate diet that focuses on nutrient dense carbohydrates (vegetables) versus nutrient devoid carbohydrates (sugar, grains) will help to insure the least possible amount of insulin used, and the least amount of weight gain, possibly no gain, possibly even weight loss.

What else can we do to take even less insulin? Get active. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity. In other words, your insulin will work better and you’ll need less. And don’t just focus on cardio (walking, jogging, etc). Build some muscle. The more muscle we have, the more our body can both burn glucose and store it. We have to use and deplete stored glucose regularly. This will allow us to replenish those stores from our meals. Daily exercise is a key to using this stored glucose.

What else helps? Spend less time in the fed state and more time in the fasted state. Go more than 4 hours between meals, avoid snacking, have a long daily fast at night by not eating within 2 hours of bedtime, all the way until you wake up the next morning. Even better, try intermittent fasting. This allows us to access and burn stored glucose in the liver. Once again, we have to use and deplete stored glucose regularly. This will allow us to replenish those stores from our meals. Daily adequate fast periods are a key to using this stored glucose.

If you mix injected insulin with a high carb diet, frequent snacking and a sedentary lifestyle, you are playing with fire. Expect to gain a lot of weight. Expect increased insulin doses regularly, and a rapid decline in your health. Expect your heart, kidneys and brain to suffer significant damage. Expect fatigue, depression, sleep disturbances and memory problems. Expect chronic aches and pains. Expect vision problems. Expect pain in your legs and feet. Expect urinary tract infections and yeast infections. I could really just go on and on…

How do you know if you are taking in too much glucose? Well, how much weight are you gaining? If you are gaining weight, your stores of glucose are likely full. So you have to eat less glucose, by adopting a low carb way of eating, and burn more glucose, by exercise and allowing greater fasting periods in your daily routine.. By doing this, your chances of eliminating injected insulin is very likely. At the very least, you can expect a significant decrease in insulin usage.

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Wishing you all health and happiness.

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 those with Type 2, we aren’t overweight and/or have diabetes just from INSULIN itself.  Insulin is a necessary hormone that our bodies need to function.  We are overweight and/or have diabetes (Type 2) from TOO MUCH INSULIN contributing to INSULIN RESISTANCE.  This is caused partially from our genetics and partially 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 using insulin was a bad idea for those with Type 2. 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 control of their diabetes.  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 ITSELF, or TOO MUCH insulin?

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 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 resistance develops. 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, unfortunately, inheriting bad genes ☹️)
  • 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, develop insulin resistance.

In fact, one of the reasons insulin resistance develops to begin with is because of excessive intake of glucose.  Normally, it is insulin’s job to allow glucose into the cells to be used for energy.  But our bodies actually need a very minimal amount of glucose.  When we take in more glucose than our bodies need, the insulin is trying to FORCE the glucose into the cells.  And the CELLS DON’T NEED OR WANT ANYMORE GLUCOSE!  Their way to reject the glucose is to become resistant to insulin.

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. Person without diabetes – eats lots of the foods that force the body to make a lot of insulin. Results? Weight gain and insulin resistance.
  2. Person with insulin-dependent diabetes – 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 person with Type 1 diabetes who injects insulin would be insulin resistant.  Is that the case?  No, in fact, the majority of those with Type 1 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 people with Type 2 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 COULD 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. If insulin was being taken, it can be tapered down as needed, maybe even eliminated if safe to do so.  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 those with Type 2 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” or support poor lifestyle choices.

Some of us are more genetically predisposed to being overweight and have 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.

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.