Insulin is a fantastic biochemical adaptation of the human body. To speak of it as if it’s an enemy, to declare war upon it, is foolish. But as discussed in the most recent post, you can have too much of a good thing.
Too much insulin, which is bad, has been confused with insulin itself, which is essential and beneficial. Thus, many people, seeking to identify one enemy and eradicate it, have picked carbohydrates, which cause insulin to be secreted, and insulin and lumped them together like Saddam and Osama. The ?ackshis? (axis) of evil if you will.
Insulin is but one instrument in the symphony of the endocrine system ? a group of glands and organs that are inseparably connected. Thus, too much of one thing can lead to too little of another. It’s truly a push-pull system that affects everything, including sex hormone levels, digestion, body temperature, you name it. But too little insulin could be just as problematic as too much, and going overboard has repercussions.
Recently I finally got around to reading Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution for the first time. I made fun of Atkins dieters for many years, referring to them as being on the Fatkins diet. But his book is stunningly good. Like the work of Gary Taubes, the science of metabolism, oversecretion of insulin and the health problems that accumulate because of this imbalance is top of the line. Much of the research that Dr. Fatkins did is incredibly valuable, I really believe that. The fatal flaw of Fatkins lies not in his research, but in his interpretation of the research and the dietary recommendations he made as a result.
He also swears that ketosis, which is starvation, is a benign metabolic process. But any form of starvation suppresses hunger, stimulates an outpouring of adrenal hormones just like fasting, and thus provides lower sleep requirement and euphoric energy just like the Fatkins diet. In a nutshell, it is seriously f-ed. Like any form of starvation, where your body turns to eating itself for energy instead of obtaining it from food, your body slows down its metabolic rate so as to slow the pace at which your body gobbles itself. It does this by decreasing the amount of thyroid hormone available.
Atkins knew this, but in the excitement of becoming a millionaire medical celebrity and one of the best-selling authors in history, the significance of this fact was lost. From the man himself, page 303?
?Remember that prolonged dieting [including the Atkins diet], tends to shut down thyroid function. This is usually not a problem with the thyroid gland (therefore blood tests are likely to be normal) but with the liver, which fails to convert T4 into the more active thyroid principle, T3. The diagnosis is made on clinical grounds with the presence of fatigue, sluggishness, dry skin, coarse or falling hair, an elevation in cholesterol, or a low body temperature.
Lowered thyroid function can also lead to constipation and ensuing digestive problems. This, by the way, was by far the number one complaint of Atkins dieters. But that’s not all. Some believe that the thyroid gland’s function is so important that a book has been written called, Solved, the Riddle of Illness, in which authors Langer and Scheer argue that lowered thyroid function is responsible for everything from depression to abnormal cholesterol levels, heart disease, etc. Lowered thyroid production is certainly associated with an uncanny ability to store excess body fat on normal amounts of food.
Diets too low in carbohydrates are also associated with electrolyte imbalances which can cause heart problems, muscle cramping, and dizziness. As journalist Laura Muha points out in Killer Diets?
?Muscle cramping in particular is a red flag because it may indicate that your electrolytes are off kilter, a problem you should take seriously, since it can lead to more serious problems such as heart arrythmias.
I bring this up because after eating far fewer carbohydrates for several months, I too experienced muscle cramping for the first time. Another person I knew eating even fewer carbs constantly complained of muscle cramping. I’ve also dealt with other low carbers who have gained weight after losing it, even while avoiding carbs almost completely. Personally I felt great on about 150 grams of carbs per day and was ripped, but amphetamines make you ripped and feel great too. This is an appropriate amount for an inactive hyperinsulinism sufferer trying to get insulin back to normal, but not enough for someone exercising intensely 40 hours per week like I was.
So the trick is really finding the diet and lifestyle that has the best kind of carbohydrates for getting insulin back into balance in a way that the body undergoes little strain and no sense of starvation. Carbohydrates can be reduced in the diet, but there’s no reason to take it to ketosis, or anywhere near there, to get the benefits of lowered insulin levels ? especially if you are very physically active. Redundantly put, you can balance insulin levels without eradicating carbohydrates ? far from it.
So what do I recommend? If I liked watching people fail, I would simply tell someone with high insulin levels to eradicate all simple sugars similar to a generic anti-Candida diet (which is phenomenally effective primarily because it returns the body to homeostasis, not because it starves some kind of pathogen in your body ? and by the way the people I know with the most severe Candida problems eat the least amount of carbohydrates of anyone I know). I’d say, ?yeah, you can eat and do whatever you want otherwise, but you must:?
1) Avoid all simple sugars, especially liquid sugars. For the first few months this even includes fruit (except on occasion), natural sweeteners, and milk ? especially if you feel any of these foods have an addictive quality.
2) Avoid all forms of alcohol and other drugs.
3) Avoid white flour.
4) Avoid artificial sweeteners and other chemical flavor enhancers (i.e. packaged and corporate restaurant food).
Simple right? Wrong. It’s a recipe for failure without further understanding. Anyone who has a severe problem with oversecreting insulin has a striking inability to abstain from foods that they, in turn, crave. Anyone who knows they have a serious issue with sweets, alcohol, soft drinks, bread, and other rapidly-absorbed foods knows that attempting to avoid their addictions results in disaster ? better known as bingeing. In fact, even trying is a good way to lose self esteem as you enter the vicious binge and repent cycle.
The only way to have a legitimate shot at pulling a diet like this off with minimal exceptions (no, an apple a couple times a week will certainly not ruin your attempt ? but 6 donuts will), is to understand blood sugar, how to keep it stable, and do everything in your power to keep it from dropping. Drops in blood sugar are caused mostly by:
2) Insufficient sleep
3) Going too many hours without food
4) Not eating breakfast
5) Exercising too much or too hard at one time
6) Not getting enough fat, protein, and carbohydrates, at one sitting
7) Getting too much carbohydrate at one sitting
8) Consuming rapidly-absorbed carbohydrates
If you can minimize these events, you’ll have an ability to avoid addictive, insulin-spiking substances like you’ve never known before. But this stability must be used to avoid the rapidly-absorbed carbohydrates mentioned above or else it will backfire. If you casually have a beer every night or a cookie every day with lunch, insulin will remain chronically high, and you are more likely to get fat and experience the degeneration that accompanies hyperinsulinism. The best defense you have if not willing to remove refined carbs and drugs from your diet is lots of exercise and nutritious foods, especially raw foods, but this isn’t nearly as effective as total refined food eradication.
Later this week, I promise I’ll stop blabbing and get into the specifics of the best carbohydrates and accompanying foods to eat.
P.S. I’m feeling guilty about pointing out that what your mom ate during and prior to pregnancy can make you more prone to hyperinsulism and insulin resistance. To mitigate that, I would like to share this short video with you from one of the most talented, intelligent, inspirational, and well-respected authorities of my generation.