Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance are unfortunate epidemics in America and the nightmare of many.
Have no fear! Arm yourself with knowledge and empower yourself so that you can take control of your health. Body and mind are intertwined – one cannot discern where one ends and the other begins. Therefore, if you are in control of your bodily health, your mind will follow!
You might be wondering what insulin resistance is and how it relates to type 2 diabetes. Let’s start from the beginning so you can understand this issue from the inside out. You do not have to have diabetes to be insulin resistant, but insulin resistance can lead to a condition called pre-diabetes, which can eventually develop into diabetes.
Insulin is what we calla hormone: a chemical messenger in the body. Insulin signals your cells to absorb glucose – a simple sugar. All of your cells need glucose to function properly.2 There are insulin receptors on the membranes of your cells. All your cells have membranes made up of fats and proteins. The membrane is a barrier between your cell and the outside environment. Receptors sit on the cell membrane and “listen” for hormones. Erratic blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels cause inflammation of the cell membrane. If the cell membrane is inflamed, the receptors cannot sense that the insulin is trying to alert the cell to the presence of glucose. As a result, the cell does not take up the glucose and your blood glucose skyrockets. Continuously irregular blood glucose leads to more cellular inflammation, and therefore more insulin resistance, making this a self-propagated cycle.1
Constant ups and downs in blood glucose are devastating to your health. One effect is the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs contribute to cellular oxidation, causing extensive damage to your cells, effectively accelerating aging. Other effects include chronic disease such as hypothyroidism, or sluggish thyroid.1
How do we stop this destructive insulin resistance cycle in its tracks? It’s simple: Reduce grain consumption. This may surprise you – most of us have subscribed to the Food Guide Pyramid, also known as the Food Pyramid that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released in 1992 (Figure 1).3
Figure 1: The outdated Food Guide Pyramid encourages us to consume grain products as the most significant food group.3
In 2005, the USDA updated the Food Pyramid, converting it to My Pyramid Food Guidance System (Figure 2).3
Figure 2: MyPyramid, the 2005 USDA Food Guide.3
2005’s version of the Food Pyramid still encourages us to consume significant portions of grain. The USDA once again updated its Food Guide in 2011, giving us the most recent version of their diet recommendations: MyPlate (Figure 3).3
Figure 3: MyPlate, the most recent diet recommendation by the USDA as of 2011.3
As you can see, MyPlate still encourages a high grain intake, though vegetables have caught up to grains. Still, eating this much grain is hard on our bodies. Did you know that a bowl of whole grain oat meal has the same glycemic index – or effect on your blood glucose level – as a 12 ounce can of soda?1 We have all heard the pro-whole grain rhetoric- countless products advertise in capital letters that their first ingredient is whole grain, but is that truly what we need? What is grain really doing to our bodies?
Not only do grains contribute to high blood glucose and insulin resistance, they also contain damaging toxins such as gluten, lectins, and phytates. Gluten in particular has gotten a lot of press in recent years. More than likely someone you know has a gluten intolerance. The prevalence of gluten-related issues has snowballed in the twenty-first century.1 Have you ever stopped and wondered what might be causing this?
In the 1970s, big grain producers began to hybridize their grain to make it grow more efficiently. As a result, new proteins arose in the grains that our immune system had never encountered before. Our immune system responds by activating to fight these imposters. When our immune system is activated, we feel sick and have inflammation in various parts of our body.
Another factor in grain’s harmfulness is glyphosate, or Roundup. This toxic chemical is sprayed in gargantuan amounts on grain crops.According to studies, Roundup can tear holes in our gut lining, causing a disorder called leaky gut. Roundup can also have adverse effects on our gut microbiome (the helpful bacteria in our gut). If our gut microbiome is out of whack, we could experience problems with our immune function, brain health, and many other bodily functions.1 With harmful effects like these, we have little to no chance to be as healthy as we can be.
Not surprisingly, a multi-million dollar industry has sprung up as a result of the popularity of going gluten-free – many people do it simply for perceived benefits rather than a medical need to do so. This is only making matters worse. Products that bear the label “gluten-free” are chock-full of starches such as rice, corn, potato, and tapioca products that are just as unhealthy as grain products. These starches increase your blood sugar to the same extent as bread, oatmeal, pasta, and other gluten-rich foods.1
In order to truly take control of our blood glucose, insulin resistance and subsequently our health, we must eliminate, or at least drastically decrease,grain and other refined carbohydrates from our diets. Instead of a grain-based diet, focus on healthy fats, clean and high-quality proteins, organic vegetables, and low-glycemic fruits. Examples of sources of healthy fats are coconut oil, olive oil, MCT oil, grass-fed organic meat, nuts, seeds, and full-fat, grass-fed dairy.1
If you are looking to keep your blood glucose on an even keel in the long run, you may want to look into a high fat, moderate protein,and low carbohydrate diet. That being said, it is important to monitor your protein intake as protein is converted to glucose via a process called gluconeogenesis.1 It is still important to eat the protein that your body needs, but try not to overdo it so as not to spike your blood glucose.
In our past articles, Diabetes The Unspoken Solution and Do You Suffer From Weight Loss Resistance, we discussed removing toxins to reverse type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Another option is a way of eating called the ketogenic diet.The ketogenic diet typically consists of high fat (70-80%), moderate protein(15-30%), and low carbohydrate (5-10%). This reduction in carbohydrate intake prompts the body to shift its primary energy source from glucose to fats and enter into a state known as ketosis. During ketosis, the liver burns the fats which the body uses for energy, yielding ketones. Ketones are acids that the body can easily use to fuel the body. If your body adapts to burning fats, then it goes without saying that you will begin to burn off your body’s fat stores,resulting in weight loss.4
Weight loss alone is a marvelous benefit, but the ketogenic diet can offer even more improvements to your well-being, including but not limited to:4
- Improved mood
- Decreased food cravings
- Hormonal balance and regulation
- Increased HDL (good cholesterol)
- Decelerated aging
- Blood sugar stabilization
- Improved mental function
- Mental clarity
- Decreased symptoms of certain diseases, including but not limited to:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Metabolic syndrome
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Fatty liver disease
- Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance
The most important aspect of a ketogenic diet is healthy fats. Without them, you cannot achieve ketosis and its subsequent benefits. We can take a cue from our cell membranes, which primarily consist of fats. Eating healthy fats will help to keep our cell membranes healthy and functioning properly. It also reduces cellular oxidation and therefore inflammation. With less inflammation, the hormone receptors on the cell membrane can function optimally, yielding the benefit of improved hormonal regulation.4
The average American consumes up to 300 grams of carbohydrates each day. That is far too many carbohydrates for our bodies to handle. As a society, our increased carbohydrate intake has had a positive correlation with the increase in obesity. The ketogenic diet aims to remove refined carbohydrates from our diet while keeping us full longer after eating.4
So how do you get started? If you want to kick start weight loss, you may want to follow a strict ketogenic diet. If you choose this,depending on your current weight, how much weight you’d like to lose, your activity level, and other factors, you should limit their carbohydrate intake to 20 grams, on average. In order to achieve this, you need to avoid pasta,bread, beer, soda, juice, candy, pastries, rice, potatoes, and other high-carbohydrate foods. Enrich your diet with low-carbohydrate foods such as avocado, zucchini, leafy greens, grass-fed beef and other high-quality meats,seafood, eggs, and natural fats. A rule of thumb for keto-friendly vegetables is to only eat the ones that grow above ground.5 It is also crucial to stay hydrated with plenty of water to optimize your digestion and other bodily functions.
Once you familiarize yourself with what to eat more of and what to avoid in this way of eating, the pieces will all come together, and you will be able to take to it without any trouble. It might take a few weeks to notice positive changes in your health but trust the process and stick with it. Your body will thank you!
Please keep in mind that it is essential to talk to a doctor knowledgeable in nutrition before making major changes to your diet. The ketogenic diet is still controversial, especially in the mainstream medical community, however there is significant amounts of new research showing all its benefits. This being said, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion if necessary. Additionally, make sure to do your research before trying a ketogenic diet and always listen to your body. You want to be sure to get the full benefits from this way of eating! The ketogenic diet has been shown to bean extremely effective way to control or even reverse insulin resistance.Hopefully it can become a way for you to take control of your health and be the best you can be!
- True Cellular Detox. “Controlling Blood Glucose.” Revelation Health, LLC.
- Hess-Fischl, Amy. “What is Insulin?” Endocrine Web. https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/type-1-diabetes/what-insulin
- Choose My Plate. “A Brief History of USDA Food Guides.” United States Department of Agriculture. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/brief-history-usda-food-guides
- True Cellular Detox. “The Ketogenic Diet (Part 1 of 2), An Answer for More than Weight-Loss Resistance.” Revelation Health, LLC.
- Eenfeldt, Andreas and Scher, Bret. “Ketogenic Diet for Beginners – The Ultimate Keto Guide.” Diet Doctor. https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/keto