Insulin Resistance – Most of Us Have It, But Don’t Know It!
We have all heard about Diabetes, both Type 1 and Type 2. Some are saying now there is a “Type 3” and I will explain that here. Those that have been diagnosed with it (type 1) are dealing with a lifetime of insulin shots. But what exactly is Diabetes, what is the difference between type 1 and type 2 and why is insulin so important to supposedly “keep it in check”? Well, let me tell you a few things that are going to be huge eye-openers.
YES, it can be reversed!!! (Type 2 that is!)
The History of Diabetes
Back in 2016, the World Health Organization published its first global report on diabetes and the information was not good. Diabetes was an unbelievable disaster. In only a single generation, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes around the world had quadrupled. How did this disease become a modern-day plague?
Diabetes has been recognized for 1000’s of years. In ancient Egypt, around 1550 BC, the condition was first described as “passing too much urine”. Around the same time, the ancient Hindu discussed this disease and loosely translated it as “honey urine”. Those afflicted, mainly children, were mysteriously losing weight. Many attempts were made to slow the disease by continuous feeding. It was almost always fatal. Interestingly, ants were attracted to the urine as it was unusually sweet.
By 250 BC, a Greek physician by the name of Apollonius of Memphis had coined the condition as “diabetes”, the word used to characterize excessive urination.
In the first century AD, a Greek physician by the name of Aretaeus of Cappadocia described type 1 diabetes as the “melting down of flesh and limbs into urine”. This description captured the observation of this disease left untreated, (due to lack of such), as the excessive urine production accompanied by an almost complete wasting away of all tissues. Weight gain was impossible regardless of the amount of food eaten. Life back then with diabetes was short, horrible and full of pain as there was no effective treatment.
Several centuries later in 1776, the English physician Matthew Dobson (1732-1784) identified sugar as the substance causing this distinctive sweet taste. This was the “testing” of the day, when the urine of the afflicted was tasted, and diabetes was diagnosed. The sweetness was found not only in the urine but also in the blood. An understanding was slowly coming to light, but a treatment was no closer to being discovered
Then in 1797, John Rollo, a Scottish military surgeon became the first physician to devise a remedy that showed some success. He noticed substantial improvement in a diabetic patient eating an all-meat diet. Given that there was no other treatment in the day, this discovery was a breakthrough. This extremely low carb diet was the first diabetic treatment of its kind.
Then came along French physician Pierre Piorry (1794-1879) who advised diabetics to eat large quantities of sugar to replace the sugar lost in their urine. While this seemed logical at the time, it turned out to be a deadly observation. One of his colleagues, who had diabetes, followed his advice and died. Although this advice was clearly incorrect, this was the advice given to diabetics, to follow a high carb diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
In 1910, Sir Edward Sharpey-Schafer, suggested that perhaps the deficiency of insulin, a single hormone, was responsible for diabetes. By the turn of the 20th century, due to lack of a proper treatment, many doctors were leaning towards dietary changes to control this disease. In a sense, it was a starvation treatment of 1000 calories a day and less than 10g of carbs per day. The response of some of these patients was miraculous as their improvement was almost instantaneous, while others starved to death.
A lack of understanding between type 1 and type 2 diabetes was still not clear. Type 1 diabetics were usually severely underweight children whereas, those with type 2 diabetes were mostly over-weight adults.
It wasn’t until 1921 when Frederick Banting, Charles Best and John Macleod made the breakthrough discovery at the University of Toronto. Insulin from the pancreas of cows was isolated and purified enough to administer to their first patient. In 1922, a 14 year old boy with type 1 diabetes, weighing only 65 pounds started insulin injections. His symptoms rapidly disappeared and he regained normal weight. 6 more additional patients were treated with miraculous results and life expectancy at the time of diagnosis went from 16 months to 35 years! By 1923, Eli Lilly partnered with the University to commercially develop the new drug, insulin. Banting and Macleod received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1923.
By 1959, the two different types of diabetes were formally labeled. Type 1, was insulin dependent, and type 2 was not insulin dependent. In time, it was found that these distinctions were not entirely true as some with type 2 diabetes were also prescribed insulin. This distinction was dropped in 2003, leaving simply type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes Causes? Hidden in Plain Sight!
In the 1950’s, seemingly healthy people were developing heart attacks with growing regularity. So dietary fat was proposed as the culprit. Dietary fat was falsely accused to increase blood cholesterol levels, leading to heart disease. Doctors started promoting low fat diets. The problem, which was not seen at the time, was that restricting the dietary fat led to increasing the dietary carbs as this created a feeling of fullness. In first world countries, carbs tended to be highly refined.
Although a low-fat diet was originally thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, many high fat foods, such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil (the Mediterranean Diet) contain mono and polyunsaturated fats are now believed to be heart healthy. The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans released in 2016 have removed restrictions on total dietary fat in a healthy diet. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2518267
The link between natural, saturated fat and heart disease has been proven false. Artificially saturated fats, such as trans fats, are universally deemed toxic. The same does not hold true for the natural fats found in meat and dairy products, such as butter, cream and full fat cheeses-these have been part of the human diet for centuries. Also, one should note that the results of this low-fat, high-carb diet have turned the obesity rate upwards.
The dietary guideline of the 80’s promoted breads, pasta and potatoes as the base of the pyramid. These were the exact foods that we previously avoided in order to stay thin AND these were also the precise foods that cause the greatest rise in blood glucose and insulin levels. In the United States alone, obesity rates have nearly tripled in the past 50 years. https://usafacts.org/articles/obesity-rate-nearly-triples-united-states-over-last-50-years/ and along with this, so too has the diabetes rate.
What is The Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 1 – Not enough Insulin
This has been more commonly known as Juvenile Diabetes as it commonly occurs during childhood, however, it may be present at any age. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease. The body’s own immune system damages the cells that produce insulin. The blood of the afflicted person contains antibodies to normal islet cells. An islet cell is a pancreatic cell that produces the hormone insulin that are secreted into the bloodstream. The antibodies are responsible for the autoimmune attack. Over time the cumulative destruction of the insulin producing cells result in type 1 diabetes to progress to severe insulin deficiency.
Those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes often suffer from other autoimmune disease as well, such as Graves’ disease (affects the thyroid) or vitiligo (affects the skin.
With the discovery of injectable insulin, the prognosis has improved, however, over the long term, they are at a much higher risk of complications affecting almost all organs. Life expectancy is reduced by 5 to 8 years and carries more than 10 times the risk of heart disease compared with healthy people.
Type 2 – Too much Insulin
This usually affects older adults but is rising quickly in children world-wide due to the increase in childhood obesity. Overall, type 2 diabetes account for 90-95 percent of diabetes cases worldwide. It develops slowly over many years and progresses from normal, to pre-diabetes to full blown type 2. The risk increases with age and obesity. This occurs due to insulin resistance rather than a lack of insulin, as in type 1. Those with type 2 diabetes often show very high levels of insulin. The failure of insulin to lower blood glucose levels is called insulin resistance. The body compensates this by increasing insulin levels. But the body can only take so much. When insulin secretion fails to keep up with increasing resistance, blood sugar levels rise and this leads to the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin is a hormone that helps your body control blood sugar and metabolism, which is the process that turns the food you eat into energy. After you eat, your body breaks down the carbohydrates in the food and turns it into glucose, which is a type of sugar. This goes into your blood stream and makes your blood sugar levels rise. The pancreas releases insulin to control the sugar levels in your blood. Your body will make and release insulin based on your blood sugar levels. Similar to your furnace, when it is cold, the furnace will kick in and provide heat. When your blood sugar levels are high, the pancreas will make and release insulin. Insulin helps to move the glucose (sugar) from your blood into your cells, where it will be used for energy. Once the glucose is moved into your cells, the blood sugar levels go back to normal. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/305567
If your cells are “insulin resistant”, your body has a harder time moving the glucose into the cells so therefore, your body produces more insulin to help move it into the cells and keep blood glucose levels in the normal range.
A person can be insulin resistant for 20 years before blood sugar levels rise enough to be detected in a blood glucose test. Insulin level testing is a far better alternative to see if you are insulin resistant and therefore adjust your lifestyle decades before a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. These tests, however, are not part of the standard blood testing and they are expensive.
Complications of Diabetes
Retinopathy – Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness. Retinal damage is one of the most frequent complications of diabetes. Diabetes weakens the small, retinal blood vessels, which causes blood and other fluids to leak out. In type 1, most patients with this form of diabetes will develop some degree of retinopathy within twenty years. In type 2, this may actually develop up to 7 years before the diabetes itself is diagnosed.
Nephropathy – Diabetic kidney disease. Patients whose kidneys have lost over 90 percent of their kidney function require dialysis to artificially remove accumulated toxins in the blood. To stay alive, patients require 4 hours of dialysis, three times a week indefinitely unless they receive a transplant.
Neuropathy – Diabetic nerve damage. Commonly affecting the peripheral nerves, starting in the feet then progressing to the hands and arms. This will result in a tingling, numbness with perhaps burning sensation and pain. This can be debilitating and are commonly worse at night. Severe nerve damage in the foot can lead to Charcot Foot which may progress to the point that walking is impossible and may require amputation. No current treatment reverses diabetic nerve damage.
Atherosclerosis (Hardening of the arteries) – fatty material is deposited within the inner walls of the blood vessels, causing narrowing and hardening, causing heart attacks and strokes. Diabetes greatly increases this risk. It has been attributed incorrectly to cholesterol slowly clogging the arteries. Actually, it results from injury to the artery, of which the cause is unknown. It is suggested that many factors may contribute such as age, genetics, smoking, diabetes, stress, high blood pressure and lack of exercise. Cholesterol is but one of many factors. The smooth muscle that supports the tissues mushrooms and collagen rushes to the area to support the injury resulting in further narrowing of the artery. This continues to limit the flow of blood to the organs. If a clot forms, this stops normal blood flow and starves the cells downstream of oxygen. This leads to cell death and cardiovascular disease.
Heart Disease – Heart attacks caused by blocked blood vessels that starve the heart of oxygen. This is one of the most recognized and feared drawbacks of diabetes. Over the past 30 years, we have seen significant improvements in treating heart disease but not so much for those with diabetes.
Stroke – Atherosclerosis of the large blood vessels supplying the brain. A sudden disruption of the normal flow of blood starves the brain of oxygen and a portion of the brain may die. Diabetes poses a strong risk factor, increasing the chances as much as 150-400%. Approximately, one quarter of all new strokes occur in people with diabetes.
Peripheral Vascular Disease – this is caused by atherosclerosis of the large blood vessels supplying the legs. This condition starves the legs of oxygen carrying hemoglobin. This results in pain or cramping that occurs with walking and is relieved by rest. As the blood vessels continue to narrow, rest does not even alleviate the pain. This reduces mobility and can lead to long term disability. Skin on the feet of those with diabetes take longer to heal and may result in non-healing foot ulcers. This can progress to gangrene and amputation. Diabetes along with smoking is the strongest risk factor.
Alzheimer’s Disease – A neurogenerative disease that leads to memory loss, personality changes and cognitive issues. This is the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s may reflect the inability to use glucose normally, possibly a type of insulin resistance in the brain cells. Many researchers have suggested that this disease be called TYPE 3 Diabetes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769828/
Cancer – Type 2 diabetes increases the risk of most cancers, including breast, stomach, colorectal, kidney and endometrial cancers. The survival rate of those with pre-existing diabetes is far worse than for non-diabetics. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3093051/
Fatty Liver Disease – Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the storage and accumulation of excess fat in the form of triglycerides exceeding 5% of the total weight of the liver. This is said to be cause of liver cirrhosis (irreversible scarring of the liver). This is virtually non-existent in recent onset of type 1 diabetes but is estimated to be upwards of 75% in type 2 diabetes.
Infections – High glucose levels may impair the immune system; poor blood circulation decreases the ability for infection fighting white blood cells to reach all parts of the body. This can result in kidney infections, all types of fungal infections including thrush, vaginal yeast, fungal infections of the nails and athlete’s foot are common. Due to inadequate blood supply to the legs, non-healing foot wounds will develop during their lifetime.
Skin and Nail Conditions – Acanthosis nigricans is a gray-black velvety thickening of the skin. This mostly occurs around the neck and in body folds, caused by high insulin levels. Diabetic dermopathy or shin spots, are found on the lower part of the body as dark, finely scaled lesions. Skin tags are soft protrusions commonly found on eyelids, neck and armpits. Over 25% of people with skin tags have diabetes. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2438887/
Erectile Dysfunction – Diabetes is a key risk factor, increasing the risk more than 3 times. Poor circulation is likely the reason for the increased risk. This also increases with age and the severity of insulin resistance. https://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/endocrinology/erectile-dysfunction/
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – is characterized by irregular menstrual cycles, excessive testosterone, and the presence of cysts. These patients share many of the same characteristics as found in those with type 2 diabetes including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance. This syndrome is caused by elevated insulin resistance and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes three to fivefold in young women. https://diabetesjournals.org/clinical/article/21/4/154/1589/Polycystic-Ovary-Syndrome-and-the-Metabolic
So, What Can I Do to Help Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?
The drug companies are very quick to point out their drugs do seem to produce a preventative effect, but they fail to tell doctors that the degree of prevention achieved by drugs pales in comparison to the effectiveness of diet and lifestyle changes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1370926/ What they failed to tell the doctors was that walking for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week reduced the incidence by 58%. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11832527/
Diet plays a very important role. As mentioned above, there are good fats and bad fats. Good fats are the extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil. Bad fats are canola, corn oils and margarine, among others. The Mediterranean Diet is a great place to start!
Contrary to what has been suggested in the past, eating more good fat prompts LDL cholesterol to be more pattern A. Pattern A is airy and moves along the blood vessels similar to a balloon on a river. Pattern B is smaller and more dense and sinks like a golf ball in a river. Side note: To determine which is the dominant one in your body, take your most recent blood cholesterol levels and do the following. Divide your Triglyceride number by your HDL number. TG/HDL If the number is less than 2.0, then the LDL A pattern is dominant. If it is over 2.0, then your LDL B pattern is dominant. Studies have been done that followed over 100 subjects for 6 months, with LDL B pattern dominant cholesterol. The low carb, high GOOD fat diet not only lowered insulin resistance but also increased the LDL size from pattern B to pattern A. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16297472/
As for supplements, the following have had benefits in lowering blood sugar/glucose, in conjunction with a healthy diet. Again, do your research to determine what is right for you, and work with your health care provider.
Berberine – has been shown to lower blood glucose levels by increasing insulin sensitivity and production and regulates metabolism. It also has been shown to lower cholesterol. Berberine was shown to lower blood glucose levels better than metformin. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2410097/
Chromium Picolinate – this is an essential mineral. Chromium increases the activity of insulin receptors, resulting in the uptake of insulin by the cells. This leads to increased insulin sensitivity. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15208835/ Blood sugar goes down and insulin production by the pancreas also slows down as the insulin that is being produced is able to move the sugar/glucose from the blood, into the cells where it is used for energy production.
Cinnamon (Ceylon) – This spice has been used for 1000’s of years. Many believe that it has medicinal properties and can help lower blood glucose levels. Ceylon Cinnamon is known as “true” cinnamon whereas cassia cinnamon is the one that is used more commonly today. This one is a bit sweeter than Ceylon cinnamon. Try to stick with organic versions of this spice. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-benefits-of-cinnamon#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2
Treat The Cause, Not The Symptoms
Diabetes is growing at an alarming rate not only in the United States, but around the world. It affects every organ in multiple ways. Because of this, it is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, strokes, amputations, dementia, infertility and nerve damage. But why are these getting worse after centuries of knowing of its existence? You would think that knowing of this for as long as we have, and understanding more, that complications should decrease. Science is missing something. It is obsessively focusing on lowering blood glucose, but high glucose levels are only the symptom, and not the cause. The cause is high insulin resistance and until this cause is addressed, the complications will continue to get worse.
I have only touched the tip of the tip of the iceberg here. If you have been diagnosed with high glucose levels in your blood, the time is now to start your research. You are not guaranteed to spend a lifetime of deterioration with diabetes (unless of course, that is your choice). Diet and exercise are extremely important. As I have always said, if you were not born with it, you developed it through lifestyle. So, if you developed it, you can UN-DEVELOP it through lifestyle. Find a good doctor that will work with you to turn this around and not just someone who will brush you off with a prescription. Close monitoring is important once you start on this healing pathway, as you need to see that your efforts are resulting in a lowering of blood glucose levels and a switch from insulin resistance to insulin sensitivity. YES, it can be done, but it is up to YOU!! If you have access to a good Functional Medicine Doctor, take it!! These professionals have gone through the standard medical schooling and have added knowledge on natural forms of medicine. In short, they know when you need a drug, but they also know HOW the body works and what it may be lacking, in the form of proper nutrition, that will allow the body to heal itself. Obviously, if you are ever in a car accident, a trauma doctor and/or surgeon is vital. Let’s be reasonable here. There is a place for most fields of medicine.
A couple of great books to start you on your way is Why We Get Sick by Benjamin Bikman, PhD and The Diabetes Code by Dr. Jason Fung, MD.
Never be afraid to ASK QUESTIONS and do your RESEARCH!