I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Christiane Northrup speak at a live conference a couple of weeks ago put on by IIN. In case you are unfamiliar of her, she is an experienced gynecologist who is well rounded in both traditional and holistic therapies.
(Just picked up her book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom which I am stoked to read!)
In her talk she brought up the topic of insulin resistance, a subject worth mentioning whenever hormones are out of balance (hello endo!)
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It acts as a messenger between the cells. With the help of insulin, cells throughout the body absorbs glucose and uses it for energy.
Glucose is a form of sugar that enters the bloodstream after eating carbohydrates and starches. Insulin helps muscle, fat and liver cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream, thereby lowering blood glucose levels.
The pancreas has to produce insulin in order to maintain normal blood sugar levels. If it has to do this too much then issues arise. Rapid changes in blood sugar levels can stimulate cravings and increases the likelihood of systemic inflammation (hello endo again!).
Impacts of Glycemic Stress
According to Dr. Northrup, eating too many high glycemic foods including white bread, cookies, cakes, bagels, etc. results in glycemic stress and inflammation of the blood vessels. Overtime, the blood vessel lining thickens making it more and more difficult for the insulin to get out and into the cells.
Glycemic stress and inflammation eventually leads to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition where the body produces insulin but does not use it effectively. So glucose builds up in the blood instead of being absorbed by the cells.
“Just about every cell in our bodies is affected by insulin abuse, which also results in the production of excess inflammatory chemicals – the basis for all chronic disease.”
– Dr. Christiane Northrup
Insulin affects ovarian function. The ovaries are very sensitive to insulin, as it makes the ovary produce testosterone. Too much insulin can cause too many ovarian follicles to be stimulated, producing multiple follicles. This can lead to ovarian cysts.
Insulin resistance has ties to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, as high insulin triggers high levels of testosterone and LH which leads to anovulation, where the ovaries fail to produce a viable egg. Excess insulin therefore can affect pregnancy, as it prevents ovulation.
Too much sugar = too much insulin. Simple as that 🙂
Signs of Insulin Resistance
According to Dr. Northrup, some signs of insulin abuse and early glycemic stress including:
- carbohydrate cravings and uncontrollable hunger
- emotional eating
- nighttime eating
- slowly expanding waistline
- increasing resistance to weight loss
- shakiness after eating
And some signs of early insulin resistance include:
- nighttime eating
- expanding waistline
- slow weight gain without change in diet
- low HDL cholesterol
- Increased triglycerides
- increased fatigue following a higher glycemic meal
- menstrual irregularities
- craving sugar and high glycemic carbohydrates
Do you relate to these? Last time I had my cholesterol levels checked my HDL levels were low. In fact, this was the only level that was out of normal levels. I recall wondering at the time what caused this. Now I wonder if this is an early sign that I need to pay more attention to my insulin levels.
In her talk Dr. Northrup suggested picking up a blood sugar level tester and check it periodically to see how you’re doing. Adding this to my to do list….
On the Positive Side?
My biggest nemesis on my journey to healing endometriosis (and long before this started….) has been my old friend SUGAR. I understand just how truly addictive this substance is and I recognize that its appearance for me becomes more apparent during times of stress.
But along the way I have picked up some tips and tricks for controlling my sugar cravings and balancing my blood sugar levels. As a result my energy levels are more steady.
I teach more about this in my new course, Eat for Energy with Endo. Learn more about it here.