Take Control of Our Insulin System

We Need to Get Our Insulin System Under Control
The insulin system is essential for maintaining the body's energy balance and overall health. When you consume food, especially carbohydrates, it's broken down into glucose, a sugar that your cells use for energy. Insulin, produced by the pancreas, acts as a key to allow glucose into the cells, where it's utilized for fuel. This process helps regulate blood sugar levels, ensuring that they neither get too high nor too low, both of which can lead to serious health problems.

When the insulin system doesn't function properly, it can result in conditions like diabetes. Without enough insulin or proper response to insulin, glucose can't enter the cells and remains in the blood, leading to high blood sugar. This can cause various complications, including heart disease, kidney failure, and nerve damage. Conversely, too much insulin can cause dangerously low blood sugar, leading to confusion, seizures, or even loss of consciousness. Therefore, the insulin system's precise functioning is vital for maintaining energy balance and overall well-being.

*Avoiding the insulin spikes that come with high blood glucose levels is crucial to our overall health.

A Little About The Insulin System
The insulin system is a crucial component of our body's regulation of blood sugar levels and plays a central role in glucose metabolism. Here's an explanation of the insulin system:

After consuming a meal (especially if it contains a high enough level of carbohydrates to trigger the release of insulin):
Step 1 - Pancreatic beta cells: Insulin is a hormone produced by specialized cells called beta cells located in the pancreas, specifically in clusters called the islets of Langerhans. When blood glucose levels rise, these beta cells are stimulated to release insulin.

Step 2 - Insulin secretion: In response to elevated blood glucose levels, beta cells release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin acts as a messenger, signaling various cells throughout the body to take up glucose from the bloodstream.

Step 3 - Glucose uptake: Insulin facilitates the uptake of glucose by cells, primarily muscle cells and adipose (fat) cells. It triggers the translocation of glucose transporter proteins, such as GLUT4, to the cell surface. These transporters allow glucose to enter the cells, where it can be utilized for energy production or stored as glycogen (in muscle and liver cells) or fat (in adipose tissue).

Step 4 - Glycogen synthesis: When blood glucose levels are high, insulin promotes the storage of excess glucose as glycogen in the liver and muscles. This process, called glycogenesis, helps maintain stable blood sugar levels between meals. When energy is needed, glycogen can be broken down into glucose through a process called glycogenolysis.

Step 5 - Inhibition of glucose production: Insulin suppresses the production of glucose by the liver through a process called gluconeogenesis. It inhibits enzymes involved in the synthesis of glucose, further helping to maintain appropriate blood glucose levels.

Step 6 - Lipid metabolism: Insulin also plays a role in lipid metabolism. It promotes the uptake of fatty acids into adipose tissue for storage and inhibits the breakdown of stored fats (lipolysis). This helps regulate fat storage and utilization.

Step 7 - Feedback regulation: The insulin system is regulated by a negative feedback loop. When blood glucose levels decrease, insulin secretion decreases as well. This prevents blood glucose levels from dropping too low and maintains the balance of glucose in the bloodstream.

Why This Matters

When we consume foods high in carbohydrates (especially simple carbohydrates), our blood sugar levels will experience a spike. This spike is unhealthy and even toxic, so our body goes into action to reduce this level via our insulin system. 

If we fail to keep our insulin system in proper working condition it could lead to conditions like diabetes, insulin resistance, or pancreatic disorders, where the body may produce insufficient insulin or become insensitive to its effects. As a result, glucose remains in the bloodstream, causing high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). Over time, this can lead to various complications such as: 

Blood Glucose Imbalance
Disruption in the insulin system can lead to imbalances in blood glucose levels, such as hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) in conditions like diabetes. Insulin resistance, where cells become less responsive to insulin, is a key feature of type 2 diabetes. Proper functioning of the insulin system is essential for maintaining glucose homeostasis and overall metabolic health.

Heart Disease
Insulin resistance and the potentially resulting diabetes increase the risk of heart disease through elevated blood sugar levels causing damage to blood vessels and promoting atherosclerosis, chronic inflammation contributing to plaque formation, dyslipidemia leading to the accumulation of plaque, hypertension putting strain on the heart, impaired nitric oxide production affecting blood flow and vessel health, increased blood clot formation, and the development of diabetic cardiomyopathy weakening the heart muscle's pumping function.

Weight Management
Insulin resistance and diabetes can significantly impact weight management through various mechanisms. In insulin resistance, cells become less responsive to insulin, leading to elevated insulin levels in the bloodstream. Insulin plays a key role in promoting fat storage, especially around the abdominal area, and inhibiting fat breakdown. Consequently, insulin resistance can lead to weight gain and make it challenging to lose weight. In type 2 diabetes, the body may not produce enough insulin, and high blood sugar levels can trigger increased hunger and cravings for sugary and high-calorie foods, further contributing to weight gain.

Additionally, fat tissue in individuals with obesity can produce substances that lead to both insulin resistance and inflammation, creating a vicious cycle that further exacerbates both conditions.

Chronic Inflammation
Insulin resistance and diabetes contribute to chronic inflammation through elevated blood glucose levels triggering pro-inflammatory molecules, dysfunctional adipose tissue releasing inflammatory cytokines, increased oxidative stress, the formation of advanced glycation end-products, immune system activation, and dyslipidemia. This chronic inflammation worsens insulin resistance and diabetes, creating a detrimental feedback loop. The persistent inflammatory state can impair insulin sensitivity, further elevate blood sugar levels, and exacerbate diabetes-related complications.

Read more about Chronic Inflammation

Cognitive Function
High blood sugar levels and insulin resistance can impair blood flow to the brain, leading to reduced oxygen and nutrient supply to brain cells, which can contribute to cognitive decline. Additionally, chronic inflammation and oxidative stress associated with these conditions can damage brain cells and impair neural connections. Insulin resistance may also interfere with insulin signaling in the brain, affecting memory and cognitive processing. Over time, these effects can lead to cognitive deficits, such as memory problems, decreased attention span, and difficulties with learning and problem-solving.

How to Do It

While getting control of our insulin system may be one of the simplest ways we can gain better health and add years to our lives at the same time, it may also be one of the hardest things for us to do. This may explain why diabetes, chronic inflammation, heart disease, and obesity, to mention just a few, have been on the rise in the Western world for the last hundred years, give or take.

We have become addicted, literally, to sugar and the foods (which are shockingly most) that contain it. But if we can reduce the amount of sugar that we consume, replace the sugars with healthy substitutes, and better yet, find healthy alternatives, we can take control of our insulin system, control our weight, reduce chronic inflammation, and return our bodies to the healthy state and lifestyle they were designed for.

With most of the foods we find at the grocery store loaded with sugar (needlessly most of the time), reducing or even cutting out sugar can be a daunting task. But, unfortunately, it gets a little worse, because it’s not just sugar that we need to cut, it’s simple carbohydrates (which sugar is a major member of) in general that need to be cut or replaced. Simple carbohydrates are represented by wheat flour, rice, as well as sugars. And the more refined these carbs are, the more “simple” they are.

The worst offenders in this group are white flour, white rice, and white (table) sugar. While whole grain flour and brown rice are better, even healthier alternatives, there really are no healthier alternatives to refined table sugar, although there are less healthy versions of table sugar (high fructose corn syrup), believe it or not.

All versions of processed simple carbs will spike our blood glucose levels, triggering an insulin release and ultimately leading to insulin resistance and some form of diabetes for most if not all of us at some point in time, when consumed regularly. Any improvement in our long-term diet is almost useless if it doesn’t include an almost complete elimination of these simple carbs.

Avoiding foods that lead to blood sugar spikes, such as:
  • Sugary Drinks - Sugary drinks such as soda, fruit juices, and energy drinks provide the fastest way for glucose to enter the bloodstream. And to make matters worse they offer little to no feeling of satiety, meaning you are free to drink even more of it. These must be avoided at all cost.
  • Alcohol - All forms of alcohol are high in sugar content through the fermentation process, but additional work is required since the liver needs to eliminate the alcohol. If a person is insulin resistant, excess sugar in the bloodstream will be deposited in the liver, creating even more work.
  • Refined carbohydrates - Refined carbohydrates are generally the solid form of sugary drinks. The carbohydrate is already so broken down, that absorption into the bloodstream happens very quickly. This is why these foods are so high on the glycemic index.
  • Consume foods high in fiber - Foods high in fiber have a positive impact on insulin resistance due to their ability to slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. Soluble fiber, found in foods like oats, legumes, and fruits, forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract, which delays the release of glucose into the bloodstream. This gradual release of glucose prevents rapid spikes in blood sugar levels, reducing the demand for large insulin surges.

A proper diet plays a crucial role in positively affecting insulin resistance. Choosing nutrient-dense, whole foods over highly processed and sugary options can help stabilize blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Emphasizing a balanced intake of complex carbohydrates, fiber-rich foods, lean proteins, and healthy fats helps slow down the absorption of glucose, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar and reducing the demand for insulin production.

Additionally, specific foods and nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants found in fish, nuts, and colorful fruits and vegetables, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties that can further enhance insulin sensitivity.

Glycemic Index - The glycemic index may be the best way to understand the effect a certain food will have on your blood sugar levels, and the spike that will be created. The GI values of foods range from 0 to 100. Foods with a GI of 0-55 are considered to have a low GI, those with a GI of 56-69 are considered to have a medium GI, and those with a GI of 70 or higher are considered high GI foods. Low GI foods result in a lower rise in blood sugar, while High GI foods result in a higher rise in blood sugar.

Exercise Regularly - Cardio Training
Cardio training, also known as aerobic exercise, has significant benefits for improving insulin resistance. During cardio exercises like running, cycling, or swimming, the muscles require increased energy, leading to enhanced glucose uptake. As a result, glucose from the bloodstream is utilized more efficiently by the muscles for energy, reducing blood sugar levels and improving insulin sensitivity.

Regular cardio training also promotes weight loss and decreases visceral fat, which plays a key role in insulin resistance. Moreover, aerobic exercise stimulates various physiological changes, such as increased blood flow and the release of beneficial hormones, which collectively enhance insulin function and overall metabolic health.

Exercise Regularly - Strength Training
Strength training, also known as resistance training or weight lifting, can have a positive impact on insulin resistance. Regular strength training exercises stimulate muscle growth and improve muscle mass, which plays a crucial role in glucose metabolism. Increased muscle mass enhances insulin sensitivity, making cells more responsive to insulin and improving glucose uptake from the bloodstream. Additionally, strength training helps to lower body fat, especially visceral fat, which is associated with insulin resistance. It also promotes improvements in metabolic health, lipid profiles, and blood pressure, all of which are significant factors in managing insulin resistance. Engaging in strength training exercises, along with a well-rounded fitness regimen, can be an effective strategy to combat insulin resistance and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

In addition, added muscle mass acts as a reservoir for excess blood sugar through the action of insulin. When you engage in strength training or resistance exercises, your muscles undergo small tears and damage. As these muscles repair and grow, they require more energy in the form of glucose. Insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar, plays a crucial role in transporting glucose from the bloodstream into the muscle cells to meet this increased demand. By taking up more glucose, the muscles serve as a storage site for excess blood sugar, thereby dampening potential blood glucose spikes and improving overall insulin sensitivity.

Weight Management
Excess body weight, especially abdominal fat, is closely linked to insulin resistance. When individuals manage their weight through a combination of a balanced diet and regular physical activity, they can reduce fat accumulation and promote healthier adipose tissue function. Weight loss, even modest, can enhance insulin sensitivity, allowing cells to better respond to insulin and efficiently uptake glucose from the bloodstream. This helps to normalize blood sugar levels and reduce the strain on the pancreas, which produces insulin. Additionally, weight management positively impacts other risk factors associated with insulin resistance, such as inflammation, dyslipidemia, and hypertension. By maintaining a healthy weight, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes and its associated complications, leading to improved overall metabolic health.

Improve Sleep Quality
Improved sleep quality can have a positive impact on insulin resistance. During quality sleep, the body's metabolic and hormonal functions are regulated more efficiently. Sufficient and restorative sleep helps in maintaining proper insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. In contrast, inadequate or poor-quality sleep disrupts the balance of hormones involved in appetite regulation, such as ghrelin and leptin, leading to increased hunger and potential overeating of high-calorie foods. Moreover, chronic sleep deprivation can trigger stress responses, causing the body to release more cortisol and other stress hormones, which can promote insulin resistance. By prioritizing and achieving adequate, high-quality sleep on a regular basis, individuals can support better insulin function, decrease the risk of insulin resistance, and positively influence overall metabolic health.

Quit Smoking
Smoking contributes to insulin resistance through increased inflammation, oxidative stress, endothelial dysfunction, hormonal changes, adipose tissue dysfunction, impaired cellular function, and interference with medications. These effects can lead to a worsening of insulin resistance and increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, smoking can exacerbate existing diabetes and raise the likelihood of complications such as cardiovascular disease and neuropathy.


Taking control of our insulin system is not just a matter of managing a single hormone – it is about embracing a holistic approach to health. Understanding and managing insulin is crucial for maintaining balanced blood sugar levels, preventing chronic diseases, and ensuring overall wellbeing. By incorporating a healthy diet, regular exercise, and mindfulness about our lifestyle choices, we can significantly influence our body's insulin response. This empowerment goes beyond mere disease prevention; it's about enhancing the quality of our lives, ensuring we're able to enjoy our days with vigor and vitality. As we continue to uncover more about insulin and its impacts, let's commit to making informed, proactive decisions about our health. Remember, every step taken towards understanding and managing your insulin system is a step towards a healthier, happier you.