Insulin Dangers…and Fixes
Elizabeth had a tumor in the pancreas many years ago and had surgery to remove half her pancreas. Ten years later, she developed diabetes and began insulin. Since injecting insulin, she started gaining weight and needed more and more insulin to bring her blood sugar down. But, with more insulin came more weight gain. Elizabeth also started getting other problems such as cholesterol elevation, brain dysfunction, kidney failure, heart problems, speech problems, numbness and tingling in her legs and feet, and difficulty walking. Elizabeth is an actress by trade and needs to memorize lines, but found it increasingly hard while taking insulin. With increasing insulin she had better control of the blood sugar, but her body was shutting down!
Functions of Insulin
Insulin is a primary metabolic hormone which acts on ALL tissues in the body. When food is ingested, insulin is released to signal all the cells that nutrients are available. This has multiple effects on the body:
- Blood sugar decreases because sugar is brought from the blood into the cells
- Fat cells make more fat
- Liver cells make glycogen, a storage form of sugar
- Insulin blocks the use of fat for energy
- Muscle and other cells bring in sugar, storing the extra for later use
- The cells bring in more amino acids to make proteins
- The energy systems are stimulated (sodium-potassium pumps)
- Arteries open to increase blood flow
You can see how insulin affects every cell in the body, regulating energy and even protein production. Thus, an imbalance in the amount of insulin can affect many functions in the body – quickly. For example, too much insulin will lower blood sugar so much that the brain will be starving for energy. It can cause fainting, coma and even death! On the other hand, when there is no insulin, many cells cannot get energy and they waste away. Before injections were available, people with type 1 diabetes, often died of starvation. No matter how much they ate, glucose and protein couldn’t get into the cells, eventually causing death.
On an immediate basis, too much insulin can cause brain damage or death. But on a long-term basis, we also see many other effects, or lack of effects, as the body becomes resistant to insulin. I will give one example:
Imagine that insulin is the key that unlocks the door to let glucose into the cell. There are many such “doors” in each cell. So if there is more insulin, it opens more doors and more sugar gets in.
Now, let’s say you followed advice from the 1980s. You eat 5 small meals every day, snack every few hours and never have an empty stomach. Each time you eat, you make more insulin, letting more glucose into the cell. When the cell becomes full of sugar, it starts closing and locking the glucose doors from the inside. You guessed it — insulin no longer works!
Insulin Resistance In Your Body
We call this “insulin resistance.” Essentially, the cells have too much sugar and are not going to let in anymore, so the sugar builds up in the blood. That’s why the blood sugar gets high – which we call “diabetes.”
The story continues in your fat cells, which becomes a significant issue. Fat cells do not block insulin, nor do they shut the door to glucose. Fat cells just keep making fat. We always have the same number of fat cells. Fat cells just get bigger as they store more fat and smaller as it gets taken out and used, like when we aren’t eating. Thus, while the muscle cells in our body can stop sugar from getting in, fat cells cannot. They just keep getting fatter.
A third problem of having insulin all the time is its effects will diminish all over the body. Insulin resistance causes many of the complications of diabetes: