Think of these terms as the equivalent of “prediabetes.”
Sugar and Insulin
Think of sugar as quick energy. It can get converted into the currency your body uses for energy (ATP) very quickly. But your bloodstream can only accommodate a few tablespoons of sugar at a time. Your body needs to get rid of any excess quickly, before it causes vascular damage or hyperglycemic symptoms.
So when your body has to get rid of it, where does it go? There are two compartments in your body: intracellular (inside the cells) and extracellular (outside the cells). The bloodstream is outside of the cells, so sugar has to get inside the cells in order to get out of the blood.
Cells won’t let sugar in without the right key though; and the key is called insulin (produced in the pancreas). Once inside, sugar gets converted from “quick” energy into “potential” energy—fat.
The Blood Sugar Roller Coaster
When your blood sugar is low (called hypoglycemia), you crave sugar in its purest, simplest form—the kind that will hit your bloodstream as soon as it encounters the enzymes in your saliva to break it down. But if you consume more simple sugars at once that your bloodstream can accommodate, that sends a signal to your pancreas to pump out a corresponding amount of insulin, so that you can get it out of the bloodstream ASAP. The result? Your blood sugar spikes, and then it crashes, leaving you just as hypoglycemic as you were before, if not more so. And what do you crave to fix it? More sugar.
Problems come in when this cycle is repeated too often, too long. First of all, it’ll make you fat, because that’s what sugar becomes when it enters your cells. But even worse, like a drug addict needing a bigger dose for the same high, your body will start to require more and more insulin to keep up with your sugar intake (i.e. you become Insulin Resistant). Eventually, your pancreas can’t keep up with the demand (and that’s when it crosses over to diabetes.)
Often Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Syndrome coexist, but the latter is a broader term. It refers to too much weight (especially around your waistline), hypertension, high cholesterol and triglycerides.
What To Do About It
Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Syndrome are usually reversible… in order to get back on track, you pretty much need to do the things you already know you need to do anyway. 🙂
- Choose foods that will spoil, and eat them before they do. Foods without a lot of preservatives most likely haven’t been processed very much.
- If you must choose something that has been pre-packaged, read labels. If there are any added sugars, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), or ingredients you don’t recognize on the list, don’t eat it.
- Eat a rainbow. Get as many naturally occurring colors in there as you can. This will most likely cause you to consume the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables without even trying.
- Have some protein with every meal, including every snack. This will help to keep blood sugar stable. Protein doesn’t necessarily mean meat; there are lots of forms, including beans, soy, yogurt, cheese, nuts, quinoa, etc. When you do choose animal-based proteins, go for organic if you can (WAY less toxic). When you can’t, choose mostly plant-based proteins. On that note…
- If organic food is available and affordable, buy it. Organic animal products are produced from animals fed a natural diet, and therefore the products they produce contain the proper, anti-inflammatory balance of fats (higher omega 3 and lower omega 6). Additionally, organic foods in general are prepared without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or preservatives. For a list of those fruits and veggies that should be purchased organically (the “Dirty Dozen”) and those for which organic is less important (the “Clean 15”), see this list by the Environmental Working Group.
- Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water every day. If you have a choice, make sure you water is also as free from contaminants as you can get.
- Start an exercise program. Check out this article to get you started.
- Get plenty of sleep. Getting plenty of rest will greatly improve your BMI.
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