Blood Sugar & Insulin Resistance

I am reading a book right now for my Body Typing class called The Nutrition Solution: A Guide to Your Metabolic Type, by Harold J. Kristal, D.D.S. & James M. Haig, N.C. According to this book, there are four different metabolic types, and people need to eat according to their metabolic type in order to maintain the proper acid/alkaline balance inside their bodies. The idea is that once this balance is achieved, all metabolic systems will be functioning optimally and one is more likely to avoid things like weight gain and disease.

I’m not sure I really buy into this metabolic typing theory, but many nutritionists do. Call me crazy, but it just seems unrealistic to me that we can put every person on the earth into 1 of 4 categories, and if they eat the diet for their category, they will stay healthy.

However, the book is still interesting to me and I really like their description of insulin resistance. Blood sugar is a major problem for many people, whether they know it or not. I didn’t even realize I had blood sugar issues until I started nutrition school. Basically, when we eat, our pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. This insulin acts as a “key” that unlocks our cell’s doors, so that energy (in the form of glucose) from our food can enter. Without glucose, our cells have no energy. Our brain cells ESPECIALLY need glucose and will stop functioning properly without it. SO, insulin is very important. I'll do my best to explain it in simple terms - stick with me, because understanding this stuff can be helpful if you or someone you know may have blood sugar issues.

So when we eat food, insulin lets it into our cells so we get energy. But when we eat foods that are really high in sugars, our pancreas needs to release LOTS of insulin to quickly get all of that sugar out of our blood. All of this insulin causes cell walls to become crowded. They begin to reject insulin because they are so overwhelmed. Without insulin, the sugar begins to build up in the blood. Sugar buildup in the blood interferes with proper metabolism and can eventually lead to disease.

We learned that people with blood sugar problems may suddenly NEED to eat and get cranky and cannot think about anything else until they get food. And I thought “that’s totally ME!” When I’m hungry, I have a really difficult time staying even-tempered and waiting patiently until I get food. I remember once I was a young kid and we were driving home from somewhere, and I just hit a wall. I got out of the car and just plopped down onto the driveway and began to cry. My mom and sister kept asking what was wrong, and all I could say was “I’m dysfunctional!” I didn’t really even know what that word meant at the time, and my sister totally made fun of me for using it, but my brain couldn’t think or react to anything because it needed fuel so badly!

I’ve worked hard to adjust my diet so I don’t experience such dramatic fluctuations in my blood sugar anymore (in a nutshell, more protein and fats!). However, according to this book I’m reading, I am a “fast oxidizer” meaning I tend to metabolize quickly. This means the sugars go into my cells fast and I am hungry again sooner than others may be. (But, keep in mind I’m not totally buying into this book… it also says that I am more likely to sleep well (totally not true); like to sleep in (again, not true), and have small to medium pupils (no idea if this is true or not!)).

When dramatic blood sugar fluctuations occur over extended periods of time, people can become insulin resistant, which can lead to things like diabetes and heart disease. Insulin resistance is typically accompanied by high triglyceride levels (this is a blood test your doctor can do); low HDL cholesterol; and elevated blood pressure. Those with insulin resistance tend to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease than other people. This is because the accumulation of the hormone insulin on our cells can eat away at our blood vessels. And we all know that heart health depends on healthy blood vessel walls, so when they become corroded, our heart suffers.

Things that improve the cell’s ability to “fix” blood sugar issues include weight loss, exercise, and (of course) proper nutrition. According to this book, “proper nutrition” means eating according to your metabolic type. However, according to me, “proper nutrition” means avoiding processed and refined foods whenever possible and eating fresh, whole foods that give you energy and make you feel healthy and satisfied.

Blood sugar is a huge topic and I have only scratched the surface here. However, I think people should be aware of how it affects the body, particularly if it is allowed to occur for longer periods of time. It is possible to get it under control with some simple lifestyle changes, and I believe people will be more motivated to make these changes if they fully understand blood sugar and realize that if they don’t make changes, they are truly putting their body at risk for disease.

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