Friday, 3 March 2017

What the bleep is insulin? Is it friend or foe?

Whole-food salad full of fibre to help regulate insulin levels.

We’ve all heard of insulin, but perhaps only in relation to diabetes. However, there is now increasing awareness of the important role this hormone plays for all of us, not only in transporting blood sugar around the body, but in fat storage and disease as well.

When you eat sugar or carbohydrates (that convert to sugar in the body) your pancreas releases insulin to get the sugar out of the bloodstream. Well-done body. This is a very important job, as high blood sugar is dangerous, and potentially deadly without such clever regulation. But what happens if insulin is overworked as a result of our sugar and carb laden modern diet?

Basically what happens is that once insulin has stored as much sugar as will fit in the muscle and liver cells, it has no option but to store it as fat. At the same time, insulin stops the body burning fat because it needs to focus on the immediate issue of using sugar for energy.

The problem with our modern diet is that so much of our food is refined and full of sugar that it causes a massive roller coaster of high and low blood sugar levels. If we eat whole food carbs full of fiber, the sugar will be released more slowly into the bloodstream than if you’re eating white rice or donuts. When the blood is flooded with sugar (from any source, even “healthy” sugars), the body responds quickly with insulin. 

But in a desperate attempt to shuttle that sugar away from our blood, there can be some overcorrection. Then the blood glucose levels get too low and the body screams out “quick, feed me some more sugar”. And that’s when you get that little message from your brain saying “ooh snack time”. And it’s usually a sugar-laden snack, because that’s what your body is telling you it needs… and now!

An image that really stuck in my mind from my nutrition studies is the analogy of insulin as a fast car overcorrecting as it swerves around a corner. When the “car” realizes it’s gone too far, the driver quickly turns hard in the opposite direction. But what happens if the turn is so great that you run off the road?

Over time, if this yo-yoing of insulin continues, your body’s cells can become resistant to insulin and need even more to have the same effect. Welcome Type 2 diabetes. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, in which your body cannot produce insulin at all, Type 2 diabetes is more common and an ever-increasing problem in the world of fast food. In this type of diabetes, the body’s cells may become resistant to insulin and/or not produce enough insulin. The consequences are far from pleasant if you value your heart, brain, eye-sight and keeping your feet attached to your body!

So what is the take home message? Cut out sugar and refined carbohydrates from your diet, eat wholefoods and don’t forget healthy fats to fill you up and replace the empty carb calories that cause disease.

Get off that insulin roller coaster and glide towards wellness.

May you always be full of beans and other wholefoods,

Carla J


  1. Great blog! I like your fast car analogy. Nothing better than stable blood sugars and no longer having to deal with 3pm-itis :)

  2. Great article! You explained a topic difficult to understand so eloquently and simply. It's a scary part of modern disease and I hate the way medical practitioners don't hammer home the idea of food as the cause and cure of type 2 diabetes. Always important to educate yourself. I'll be sharing this article with people I know!

    1. You are so kind Amber, and thank you so much for sharing, much appreciated :)

  3. Thank you so much Jess. Yes, avoiding 3pm-itis a massive bonus :)