“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” – Thomas Edison
Have you ever been told you have insulin resistance or high blood sugars? If you have, I’m sure you’ve Googled what to do next or diets to reverse these and have seen (or tried!) many, maybe even with some success! There are many blog posts, info-graphics, and handouts that explain the food choices with brilliant pictures and shopping lists that are WAY better than I could make so I’ve taken a different approach and aim to explain the basics and science behind those choices.
First, lets discuss what happens when your body does not use sugar properly. When our bodies are not able to adequately transport sugar into cells, this is called insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone secreted by your pancreas after you have eaten a meal that alerts cells “glucose is coming!” The cells then open their doors for glucose to enter. This is a totally normal process for everyone.
When you have to much glucose (sugar) flooding your cells all day, everyday your cells naturally become exhausted and less sensitive to the signal of insulin to open their doors. To try and combat this decreased sensitivity, your body creates more and more insulin to knock harder and harder on the cell door. Eventually, it will take so much insulin to make the cell’s door open that your body cannot keep up with the production, leaving stranded glucose to float around your body.
What causes someone to have spikes of blood glucose? Usually this spike is due to the food you consume, and the amount of carbohydrates that it contains. It would be beneficial for us to describe glycemic index. The University of Sydney explains it best1:
“The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health.”
By eating foods with high carbohydrate or a high glycemic index, blood sugar levels look similar to this:
Notice how the high glycemic foods take a short amount of time to be fully digested. This short amount of time creates a spike very similar to a coffee high, and then a quick crash. People who eat poorly will experience symptoms of crashing, which include: mood changes, fatigue, food cravings, headaches, among other symptoms. This is what I call the “hangry” symptoms, but is medically defined as reactive hypoglycemia.
When you eat low glycemic foods, such as fats and proteins, the increase in blood glucose occurs over a longer period of time, allowing for a more stable blood sugar level. This also eliminates the crash that I explained earlier, and allows for more energy and stamina over time. Having less glucose in your blood requires less insulin to be secreted by the pancreas. Because of this, insulin is not bombarding your cells, allowing them to start healing and become more sensitive to this signal.
By embarking on the “Reversing Insulin Resistance” Diet, the body will become more responsive to insulin’s signal, allowing for more stable blood sugar levels. After a period of time, not only will insulin resistance be improved but also diabetic markers will be lower. By this time, people may notice more energy, mental clarity, weight loss, and stable moods. The length of time this takes and results will vary from person to person, but with perseverance, this condition can be reversed.
You should always consult with your physician to determine if this program is right for you. This article does not constitute medical advice, and you should not embark on a new dietary program without supervision from a licensed physician.
- Paleo cookbooks
- “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” by Elaine Gottschall & SCD Diet