Insulin Resistance

 Insulin Resistance


Have you been diagnosed with clinical depression? Heart disease? Type II, or adult, diabetes? Narcolepsy? Are you, or do you think you might be, an alcoholic? Do you gain weight around your middle in spite of faithfully dieting? Are you unable to lose weight? Does your child have ADHD? If you have any one of these symptoms, I wrote this article for you. Believe it or not, the same thing can cause all of the above symptoms.

I am not a medical professional. I am not a nutritionist. The conclusions I have drawn from my own experience and observations are not rocket science. A diagnosis of clinical depression is as ordinary as the common cold today. Prescriptions for Prozac, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, etc., are written every day. Genuine clinical depression is a very serious condition caused by serotonin levels in the brain. I am not certain, however, that every diagnosis of depression is the real thing. My guess is that about 10 percent of the people taking these drugs actually need them. I am not saying that the other 90 percent do not have real and very distressing symptoms! I am saying that I believe that 90 percent of the people diagnosed with clinical depression actually do have normal serotonin levels. They have a very real condition, all right, but it isn't depression.

The condition they have is called insulin resistance. Left untreated, it will cause weight gain (around the middle of the body) and depression-like symptoms. Over time, it will cause problems with concentration and alertness. In the worst cases, it will cause diabetes, heart disease, and eventually, death. The problem here is elementary physiology. The human body uses insulin to store glucose in cells (as fat). Most of us know that glucose is sugar, but very few of us know that the body cannot distinguish between starches and sugar. Your body cannot tell the difference between a piece of white bread and a handful of sugar. Whole wheat bread is better, but only because it is absorbed into the blood more slowly. 

All carbohydrates - including, but not limited to, rice, corn, potatoes, and even carrots - are converted into sugar in your body. In fact, there is a school of thought that says that a baked potato is actually worse for you than eating raw glucose. From my own experience, I think that school of thought is quite correct. In some people, particularly after years of abuse, the body stops utilizing insulin well. To compensate, the pancreas makes more insulin. The results include weight gain, an increase in triglycerides, lousy cholesterol ratios, climbing blood pressure. In extreme cases, the pancreas eventually becomes exhausted and insulin levels fall, creating Type II diabetes. In short, I am talking about a recipe for suic!de.

Insulin resistance is deadly, but why does it also make you feel lousy? Blood sugar! First, you eat something that makes blood sugar rise - some sort of carbohydrate. Maybe it was a candy bar. Maybe it was a sandwich (two slices of bread!). Maybe it was a baked potato, or rice, or a serving of corn. Maybe it was a breakfast pastry or bowl of cereal. After you eat, blood sugar rises for about twenty minutes, which makes you feel quite good. Meanwhile, your body is busily trying to utilize this food. Wups! The insulin isn't working. Make more. And more. 

All of a sudden, you have too much insulin floating about and your blood sugar drops through the floor. You feel worse than sleepy. It's a groggy feeling, like you've taken a barbiturate - you can't keep your eyes open. If you can, you go to sleep. If you can't, you suffer. Either way, it's over eventually. Afterward, you actually have a slight hangover, like you've been poisoned. Well, your own body has poisoned you. Worse still, you are now ravenously hungry - so you do it again. If I have just described you, then you are insulin resistant and addicted to carbohydrates. It wasn't your fault. You did as you were told by the folks who should have known better. Don't beat yourself up about it. 

But it's going to kill you if you don't change it. The lousy feeling of low blood sugar mimics depression. That uncontrollable sleepiness mimics narcolepsy. But how does this explain alcoholism? As in the other two cases, it doesn't. Alcoholism, like clinical depression and narcolepsy, is a real and incurable disease. But carbohydrate addiction can certainly cause problem drinking! Nothing on this planet can be converted to pure sugar faster than alcohol, so nothing makes you feel better faster when your blood sugar is below the floor - very briefly. Then your blood sugar crashes, and you need another drink to feel better again. And another. And another. The next thing you know, you are looking at a DWI, which is totally bewildering because you did not set out to get drunk!

Are you an alcoholic?

 It's possible. It is also possible that you are not. If not, should you ever drink? Not for a long, long time. You've got healing to do. You will also need to accept the fact that you will never, never be able to drink like other folks. I find I can manage a glass of dry wine a couple of times a week now. That's it, and I do it only at bedtime. That way, if it gets me, I just go to bed instead of having another drink. I was never a heavy drinker, fortunately. My carbohydrate addiction took other forms. My father drank a quart of Vodka a day for fifty years. Was he an alcoholic? I used to think so, but in the light of what I've learned over the last year, I'm not so sure now.

 He didn't like to get drunk, and he was appalled when he did. Was he a carbohydrate addict? Well, he was certainly a depressive. He was diagnosed a narcoleptic, too, but I remember he always fell asleep after meals. He was fat, and he gained all that weight right around his waist. You tell me. So what is the answer? Stop eating the carbohydrates! And please, please get over the irrational fear of dietary fat. Your body needs fat to function. There are dozens of low carbohydrate books out there, and most were written by physicians. Buy several and read them carefully. Then pick the plan that works for you. Everyone's body is different. I personally follow the Atkins Diet, which is the most severe of the popular plans today, but my insulin resistance was quite bad. Fortunately, I caught it before I'd done any permanent damage to my body.

 I am not, thank God, diabetic, but I believe I would have been eventually if I had not found this way of life. My pancreas was certainly working overtime. What do I eat now? Lots and lots of meat and cheese. Reasonable amounts of green vegetables and salad (with real dressing, containing real fat). No sugars of any kind (not even fruit). And no starches. Needless to say, I do take a major handful of vitamins daily. I also have occasional treats. I make my own chocolate, for example, using Baker's Unsweetened chocolate, real butter, vanilla, pecans, and a sweetener called Splenda (which I can't distinguish from real sugar, but doesn't cause an insulin response). Any woman over the age of twelve years who reads this article will understand why I can't survive without chocolate! Fortunately, I don't have to.

Am I in ketosis? I certainly hope so. Ketosis is that state where your body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. The word comes from the appearance of ketones in urine (ketones are a normal byproduct of fat burning). Unfortunately, many people confuse what Dr. Atkins calls "benign dietary ketosis" with keto-acidosis, which is lethal for a diabetic. The difference to remember is that keto-acidosis is a result of uncontrolled high blood sugar in a diabetic. On this diet, it is just about impossible to have high blood sugar. My blood sugar remains well within normal limits and stable now, regardless of how much food I consume. So what has happened for me in the ten months since I made this drastic change? Well, my triglycerides have dropped from 256 to 69! My cholesterol is 150 with an excellent ratio (used to be about the same, but with much lower HDL). 

My blood pressure has dropped from 145/110 to 107/70. My energy levels have surged. I get through a 13-hour work shift in reasonably good shape now - with none of this feeling like I'm going die around mid-afternoon. If I get hungry, I eat something immediately, so I am never uncomfortably hungry. My migraines have just about vanished. I have taken antidepressant medication for most of my life, but I haven't touched the stuff in many months, and I am no longer even slightly depressed. Frankly, I haven't felt this good in thirty years! My exercise endurance is better than it ever was eating carbohydrates - so much for that mythical nonsense. Last, but far from least, I've lost 70 pounds. According to my weight in the past, I've still got about 40 pounds still to lose, but I don't think so. Because the weight I've retained is mostly muscle (if you eat high protein, you don't lose muscle), I actually look - and my clothes fit - like I've got about 10 pounds to go. I would certainly no longer describe myself as obese!

Is this diet hurting my health? My doctor certainly doesn't think so. In recent years he has seen enough results from low carbohydrate diets to recommend them to just about all his patients, obese or not. Will it work for you? That is difficult to say. You will see dramatic results if you are, in fact, insulin resistant. If you are really depressed or narcoleptic, you may not. Unfortunately, the only test for insulin resistance is so unpleasant that doctors almost never recommend it. It is far, far easier to just give a low carbohydrate diet a try and see how you feel after about two weeks. Give it a full two weeks. There is an adjustment period, and you will feel worse briefly, but for most people, that's over in a couple of days. It could save your life. It could do nothing at all, but what have you lost in that case? Only a little time and effort! You must decide if it is worth enough to you to give it a try. 

Let me offer one word of caution. If you are already an insulin-dependent diabetic, either Type I or Type II, this will lower your insulin requirement more than you would believe possible. Most Type II diabetics can stop taking insulin altogether. This is more than a good thing, but you must start this only under the very close supervision of a doctor, so that he can adjust your insulin intake downward to avoid insulin reactions that could result in your death.

There is one more disease I want to talk about, because it is hurting America's children terribly - Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder. I don't know what percentage of children between the ages of five and twelve are actually taking Ritalin, but the figures are appallingly high. Recent research has shown that kids who take Omega 3 fatty acids show a dramatic improvement in ADHD. This makes sense, because ADHD only started appearing in huge numbers about fifty years ago, and in the last fifty years, the average American's consumption of cold water fish (a primary source of Omega 3) has dropped by 80 percent. Personally, I am not fond of fish. I'd rather take the pills. Either way, you need Omega 3 fatty acids, and children need them even more. I also believe that there is also another factor at work here. Have you ever watched a small child drink a soda - and watched what happened afterward? The kids I've seen act psychotic. They bounce off walls for a few minutes, then they become downright mean. Classic ADHD! This is caused partly by caffeine, but mostly by sugar. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is not an appropriate meal for a small child, but we've been brainwashed for years to believe that a high carbohydrate diet - I mean ridiculously high - is actually good for our kids. That is not true! I would never recommend putting a child on a severely restricted carbohydrate diet, unless they are already insulin resistant. If the child is not obese, then a balanced diet is the way to go. I mean equal portions of protein, high fiber vegetables, and one starch (rice, corn, etc.). No deserts and very little bread! Absolutely no drinks containing sugar or caffeine! If you feel you must provide your child with a sweet, make it a banana or an orange. If you help your children form this dietary habit young, the chances are far less that they will ever develop ADHD or insulin resistance. 

In addition, you are going to spend a lot less at the dentist's office! The American Medical Association has recommended a diet ridiculously high in carbohydrates and low in fat for more than thirty years. Many people in this country follow this diet, and it is a perfect recipe for causing a normal, healthy person to become insulin resistant! These folks would be wise to remember that the average physician has less training in nutrition than a two-year dietician.

During these thirty years, what results have we seen? A hundred years ago, the average American consumed less than seven percent of the sugar he eats (and drinks) today, and Grandma kept a can of lard on the stove. The typical breakfast was bacon or sausage and eggs - fried in lard. Nobody had ever heard of margarine or fake eggs. Heart disease was nowhere near as prevalent as it is today. Cancer rates were much lower. So it is very unlikely that cancer rates will climb drastically with an increase of fat in our diet. As for the deterioration in our cardiac health, we have assumed it was due to lack of exercise. Partly true. But people owned just as many cars thirty years ago as they do today, and it wasn't as "fashionable" to exercise. So exercise cannot be the whole story!

After thirty years of high carbohydrate and low fat, obesity and diabetes are major epidemics, and heart disease is now the #1 killer in the United States! Type II diabetes is becoming a common diagnosis in children! Am I the only one who can see the connection here? I don't think so. My doctor sees it. A lot of other doctors have written books about it. Nevertheless, the American Medical Association stubbornly refuses to change their recommendation for a healthy heart. Their so-called "food pyramid" completely ignores the fact that muscle needs protein, and the heart is a muscle. Why? I don't know. I am sure that most of the doctors involved are sincere. However, I do also suspect that admitting that the so-called "heart healthy" diet actually causes diabetes and heart disease would make it possible for the families of victims to sue. And the United States is the most litigious society in the world. I don't think the AMA can afford to admit they goofed.

At a tiny 5'1", Kathryn A.
Graham is a licensed private investigator, pilot, aircraft mechanic and handgun instructor in Texas. Also a prolific author, she has written numerous articles, short stories and a science fiction novel.