Exploring Insulin!

Last week two thing happened to me that prompted me to write this. Firstly I saw a quite witty picture with reference to the evolution of man and secondly spoke to a very good friend of mine who’d decided to close one of her business premises as it had become a burden to the overall success of her brand. A tough decision and one I have made before but in certain areas of life I believe we MUST fail in order to succeed…….I mean look at training!

A couple of weeks ago I referenced a quote which I posted about modern medicine.

“Let your Foods be your medicines, and your medicines your food.”

Hippocrates c.460 – 377 BC 

The image I saw with respect to the failure in many respects of evolution made me think about ‘what’ went wrong?

Now, this could easily and I mean EASILY turn into a piece of book proportions but I’m going to keep it relatively short and hopefully to the point.

This is more about nutrition more than anything as I TRULY believe that most of societies issues stem from an escalation of chaos beginning at grass roots level. I’m going to put together an interesting flow chart that sceptics may look at and tell me how there are ‘bigger’ issues but I’m going to stand by my guns on this one!

In a society riddled with symptomatic diagnosis of conditions and the satisfactory  ‘patching up’ of problems I am forever encountering what is not necessarily a bad or wrong diagnosis but one based on limited information and a lack of cross sectional knowledge from the practitioner. I’m not a doctor by any means and granted, we cant always acknowledge and act upon the full picture but with close analysis and a shared responsibility for the well being of someone we can often find a better approach and go someone to the full answer to a problem.

You see, I’m a big fan of taking minimal risks when choosing an approach to a positive physical response. Everything in life is a trade off. Medical intervention and the involvement of drugs is one with a big trade off and often a spiral of conditions that can often be traced back to the source.

Over the past 18 years I have dealt with a multitude of cases when medication was inappropriately prescribed or requested. Asking your doctor if it’s good for you is a common statement made on television in the US. As every drug has a side effect, if you don’t need it for the treatment and cure of an illness surely this is a free pass for self diagnosis?

One case which stood out at the time and I have encountered numerous times since is the misdiagnosis of anxiety and depression.

I work in an industry that every day I consult with someone they are more often than not looking at training or exercise as a means to:

  • Lose weight or gain weight
  • Improve body image and increase self esteem
  • Increase and stabilisation of energy levels and increase in general wellbeing, sleep patterns, mood patterns etc.
  • Increase in physical performance for specific or non-specific activities.

Some of the symptoms looked for when diagnosing clinical depression include:

  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Criticism of perceived faults and low self esteem
  • Physically sluggish or restless with a loss in energy and resultant impact on sleep including insomnia or oversleeping.
  • Loss of interest in physical activities.

At this point we have a problem in that the crossover of symptoms depending upon the selected approach to them, medical, nutritional or psychological can result in a badly selected treatment pathway.

The factors.

Weight loss or weight gain is more often than not a result of poor diet or habitual use of ‘dietary fads’, these will either revolve around either a high or low approach to Proteins, Carbs, Fats, Calories or a high amount of a particular ‘style’ of food, juice, soup, raw, vegan etc.

The same weight loss and weight gain can also be the resultant impact of medical intervention.

Both weight loss or weight gain dependant upon the individuals goals will cause a decrease in body image, a de-stabilisation of mood and not only that but each diet will have a negative impact on the bodies natural regulating mechanisms.

Food is the basic source of anything in the body and its responsible in some way for the regulating of each of the body’s systems, most importantly in this case we are talking about the Endocrine System, the nervous system and the digestive system.

The endocrine system is made up of a group of glands that produce the bodies hormones. These glands and hormones if given the right stimulus control metabolism, growth and sexual development.

Perhaps the most recognized imbalance of hormones occurs in females and is caused by the hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. These alter naturally in balance throughout puberty, menstrual cycles and menopause. Often these imbalances are further altered through the prescriptive and generic use of synthetic medication and hormones. In both males and females any un-natural confusion of this balance can often lead the body to an overproduction any of the sex hormones.

Perhaps the biggest modern day impact comes from the eratic, high, minimal or even zero ingestion of selective macronutrients. The current ‘trend’ has moved from the low fat and fat free diets to a reduction in the use of carbohydrate in the diet. As a macronutrient it has been sold to us as a high requirement by our respective governments for decades now.

As lifestyles change and the physical demands on the human body change, as must the diet. This approach to the ‘average’ person is our initial problem, the second problem is in an individuals situation the exercise they may undertake will create further requirements. More energy substrates, more fluid, more electrolytes, increased protein requirements. All of these must be compensated for.

To understand the more complex roles of carbohydrates besides the storage and transport of energy we must first understand that the bodies hormones are largely governed by a ‘master’ hormone, Insulin. Following the consumption of carbohydrates of any type there is a concurrent and specific rise in our blood sugar or blood glucose levels. In response to this rise, insulin is secreted into the body. The excessive or insufficient ingestion of carbohydrates that is common in todays society cause lows and highs in blood sugar levels. The repeated fluctuation of these levels can impact the bodies ability to produce Insulin and in some cases cause the whole system to shut down. Not only does this have a major impact on the regulation of sex hormones but in the pursuit of physical adaptation there is a common trend to exclude or minimise carbohydrates from the diet below the basic requirements.

At varying degrees this exclusion or reduction in carbohydrate will cause levels of hypoglycemia, a pathologic state produced by low blood sugar.

The symptoms at these degrees include:

Mild Hypoglycemia

Symptoms of mild low blood sugar usually develop when blood sugar falls below 70 mg/dL and may include:

Nausea.

Extreme hunger.

Feeling nervous or jittery.

Cold, clammy, wet skin and/or excessive sweating not caused by exercise.

A rapid heartbeat (tachycardia).

Numbness or tingling of the fingertips or lips.

Trembling.

Moderate Hypoglycemia

If blood sugar continues to fall, the nervous system will be affected. Symptoms usually develop when the blood sugar falls below 55 mg/dL and may include:

Mood changes, such as irritability, anxiety, restlessness, or anger.

Confusion, difficulty in thinking, or inability to concentrate.

Blurred vision, dizziness, or headache.

Weakness, lack of energy.

Poor coordination.

Difficulty walking or talking, such as staggering or slurred speech.

Fatigue, lethargy, or drowsiness.

The impact of such symptoms will quite obviously create a cascade of physical and psychological issues and if cross referenced to the symptoms associated with clinical depression can often be misconstrued.

We also have a myriad of factors when it comes to the stabilisation of Insulin and the corresponding levels of blood sugar. Someone who starves themselves or fasts for extended periods of time (3-5 hrs) whilst being mobile will fluctuate between what we see as Hyperglycemia (an elevation of blood sugar) and Hypoglycemia (a drastic drop). This as a note is what happens when you eat something that is either high in sugar or has a high glycemic response. which causes HYPERglycemia or has a high glycemic response.

The corresponding drop is often so dramatic that physically it will bring about:

  • An increase in Catabolic (stress) hormones, a few of which are Cortisol, Glucagon, Adrenaline, Catecholamines and Estrogen.
  • Alteration in breathing patterns
  • Decrease in Neural Focus and Concentration
  • Dehydration
  • Acute Hunger
  • Impaired Cognitive function.

Its no wonder that caffeinated beverages are one of the largest growth components of the food industry as symptomatically we can temporarily fix the following symptoms:

  • Decrease in Neural Focus and Concentration
  • Dehydration
  • Acute Hunger
  • Impaired Cognitive function.

…….all with a sugary caffeinated beverage……THAT MAKES FOR A  GOOD BUSINESS and a lot of people with addictions.

If we look at the impact this has on us hormonally the consequences are pretty shocking.

RESPONSE IN MEN

RESPONSE IN WOMEN

The time scale reflects someone waking at 6am, the option is to start a regenerative process with the inclusion of food or risk the drop in blood sugar which will take you into the red. The digestive process in people may take 2-5 hours in almost all cases. The argument for fasting remains one that doesn’t seem logical in the long term.

In the cases that this system has been tampered with and damaged so much the individual will not only be creating a large resistance to insulin but also what I can only describe as a ‘slow release sex change’. Insulin resistance beyond the inherent hormonal damage also carries a huge increase in the risk of cardiovascular events.

We must understand that these issues are brought about through irregular and unstable blood sugar. The eradication of carbohydrates however within a diet is on a par with deciding to ignore the fuel warning light on your car.

Selection of carbohydrate levels must be based upon the requirements of the individual. NOT on an average and certainly not the level determined by our ‘Food Industry/Governments’.

In the pursuit of this stable environment we must consider that when exercising the main fuel source used is carbohydrates, thus following almost any sort of exercise we actually create a state of hypoglycemia. Following exercise it is imperative that the level of glucose in the blood is raised to normal levels then stabilized unless the aforementioned symptoms will become apparent.

As a society we have a LOT to learn when it comes to sorting the food industry out for the better and the education of individuals. The topic of insulin, hormones, junk food in general  and its association with societies behavioural problems is incredible and the topic of a whole new article but for now a little food for thought!

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