Insulin Resistance and Diet – Part II
As said before, insulin resistance starts and ends with the amount of sugar arriving in your blood and your ability to cope with that sugar. Generally the sugar comes from your diet.
However, natural steroid hormone (there is that word again) created in response to chronic stress will increase blood sugar. Further, synthetic steroids (like prednisone) prescribed to reduce chronic inflammation and pain will also increase blood sugar.
Ask any diabetic or autoimmune disease sufferer watching his/her blood sugar rise under steroid treatment. Both chronic stress and synthetic steroidal treatments (sometimes called corticosteroids) suppress the immune system. And high blood sugar also suppresses the immune system.
Please remember that your ability to respond appropriately to any infection (including a virus) is totally dependent on your immune system.
So now let’s look at diet — the primary driver of insulin resistance. We eat and this is how it is supposed to work.
How it is supposed to work!
Our blood sugar goes up from the carbohydrates in our diet. Insulin signals the body to store and use the sugar for energy. Insulin signals the liver to convert excess sugar to body fat. Insulin signals the fat cells to hold onto the fat until the energy is needed.
With insulin resistance that process is messed up. Thus come the “underlying conditions”. Thus the fatigue. You will not correct the problems by taking medications. Medications may allay symptoms but don’t eliminate insulin resistance.
Sugar in carbohydrates is the the primary driver of blood sugar and thus, insulin.
Sugar in whole food comes in two forms – simple and starch. Simple sugar vegetables and fruits have minimal sugar. Grains and root vegetables have a starchy structure, that is a lot of sugar molecules linked together.
It is the starchy stuff that can be the problem for two reasons – the amount of sugar in the starch and the degree which that amount proves to be excess for you personally. Nobody I know sits around eating directly from the sugar bowl.
Maybe you have gained a couple of pounds each year over the last 20 years. Shucks, two pounds doesn’t sound like much, does it? Until you realize that, over those 20 years, that adds up to 40 pounds heading for a lot more pounds in the next 20 years.
Obviously excess is at play here.
Over time the weight distribution shifts from soft fat in your legs, arms, around your chin to a lot of that firm stuff around your middle.
As that shift happens the underlying conditions develop. So how do we avoid this? In the interest of simplification, here are the things to consider in deciding what to eat.
What to eat.
- Minimize or even eliminate anything containing grain (the predominant source of starch), sugar, and vegetable oil. The predominant grain is wheat. The predominant vegetable oil is soybean oil.
- Almost every processed food in a box, sack, or bottle is made from grain flour (bread, cereal, crackers, chips) and/or contains starch extracted from different grains, and sugar. The longer the list of ingredients on the container, the more starch and sugar likely to be included even though you don’t recognize the words. Virta Health lists 56 words that are actually sugar.
- Don’t be fooled. The fact that the name of the food label says, for example, Kale Chips doesn’t mean it only contains kale. The words Olive Oil in big letters on the label don’t mean that is the only oil. Read the label.
- Sugar and starch (carbohydrates) make up the structure of plants. Carried within that structure are things called micro-nutrients, the vitamins, minerals, flavenoids, and all those other essential nutrients we need in our diet. The carbohydrates themselves are not essential, it is the micro-nutrients that count.
- The essential micro-nutrients are all equally available in meat and meat products (eggs, cheese) but I personally think a bit of dietary variety is valuable unless you happen to have digestive issues with them. For an assortment of reasons some people do.
- Vegetable oils are not actually vegetable oils. They are seed oils (grain and beans). Grains and beans have almost no oil in them. The process of extracting that oil removes the nutrients naturally available in the plants. The resulting oil is easily oxidized and inflammatory from exposure to air and heat. Every restaurant frying food is using these oils. Most households are using these oils to fry.
- The further a food is refined, the further away it is from its original form, the more unnecessary ingredients it contains, the less nutritious it will be.
Here is a common list of food that shoves a lot of sugar (carbohydrates) into our blood stream and makes essentially no nutritional contribution to our health.
Pasta, macaroni, noodles, cereals, any bread, pastries of any kind, cornbread, batter on fried food (meat and vegetables), gravy and sauces thickened with flour, hush puppies, fried potatoes, vegetable oils, catsup.
In about 5 minutes you can see how much of this stuff makes up your diet – possibly 70%.
Should you be concerned?
How much weight has crept up over the years? How much pain do you have? What other symptoms do you have? What diagnosed conditions do you have? How many medications do you take?
The more your health has evolved as described by your answers to those questions, the more you need to reassess your diet. Insulin resistance is building, chronic conditions are developing, your immune system is suppressed, and you become susceptible to infections like viruses.
Today would be a good day to begin adapting your diet to the needs of your health.
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. Her website is http://www.allaboutthefood.org/ She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, 870-490-1836. Her Facebook page is www.facebook.com/patsmithbooks.