Sleepy after meals, can’t lose weight, and always hungry?

 insulin resistance

If you are sleepy after eating, always hungry, and can’t lose weight, you may suffer from insulin resistance, which raises your risk for diabetes. The good news is insulin resistance is often reversible through simple dietary changes.

How do you know if you have insulin resistance? See if any of these symptoms apply to you:

  • Fatigue after meals
  • General fatigue
  • Constant hunger
  • Craving for sweets not relieved by eating them
  • Must have sweets after meals
  • Waist girth equal to or larger than hip girth
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased appetite and thirst
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Migrating aches and pains
  • Trouble falling asleep

Why is insulin resistance dangerous?

Insulin resistance, also known as pre-diabetes, is uncomfortable, but it’s also dangerous. It is linked with Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, chronic pain, hormone imbalances, and many other common modern maladies.

But that’s not all. Insulin resistance can also kill your libido and make you chronically tired.

If you’re a woman, insulin resistance causes testosterone to spike so you lose your hair and develop male characteristics. If you’re a man  it raises estrogen levels so you get “moobs” and cry at commercials. These are some pretty undesirable consequences for a sugar habit!

What causes insulin resistance?

The good news and the bad news is insulin resistance is caused by poor diet and lack of exercise. This is bad news because it means giving up some comforts, but it’s good news because it means radically changing your health is highly doable!

A diet high in sugars and carbohydrates—sugars, sweets, sodas, pastries, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, corn, grains, beans, and other starchy foods —leads to high blood sugar and insulin resistance.

Because high blood sugar is dangerous to the body, the pancreas secretes insulin to lower it. Insulin escorts sugar out of the bloodstream and into the body’s cells. Excess sugar is converted into fat for storage.

When this response happens regularly every day, as it does for millions of Americans, the cells become overwhelmed from the constant bombardment of insulin. In defense, they become resistant to insulin and refuse it entry. Now you have high blood sugar and high insulin in your bloodstream, causing inflammation, throwing off hormone balance, and degenerating the brain.

This is why insulin resistance causes fatigue after meals. The insulin-resistant cells are deprived of glucose for energy, converting all that extra sugar into fat is draining, and the whole process saps brain function.

Many people have both insulin resistance and low blood sugar. This means their energy crashes not only after meals, but between meals too. Either way, stabilizing blood sugar is your key to better health and losing weight.

Reversing insulin resistance

The most important thing is to ditch the sugar and eat only as many complex carbohydrates as your body needs (it varies from person to person). Eat tons of veggies for fiber and to build good gut bacteria. Start checking your fasting blood sugar in the morning and shoot for a level between 80 and 100. Anything over 100 is too high. Also, exercise daily, with bursts of high intensity and some weight training, to sensitize your cells to insulin.

Various herbs and nutrients can help reverse insulin resistance — ask my office for a recommendation.

Manage diabetes with functional medicine

diabetes management

Anyone with diabetes knows it’s important to manage insulin levels. Functional medicine offers unique tools to manage insulin and blood sugar — including diet, exercise, stress management, detoxification, and maximizing essential nutrients. To understand how all these tools apply, it’s helpful to know how insulin works.

Insulin and Blood Sugar: A Balancing Act

Insulin helps keep glucose (sugar) levels in the bloodstream within normal range. When you eat, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, our primary energy source. When glucose enters the bloodstream, the pancreas responds by producing insulin, which enables glucose to enter the body’s tissues. Excess glucose is stored in the liver; when needed to sustain blood sugar between meals, the liver releases sugar and the pancreas responds with more insulin to help it enter cells. This balancing act keeps the amount of sugar in the bloodstream stable.

When the pancreas secretes little or no insulin (type I diabetes), when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or when your cells are resistant to insulin (insulin resistance, common in type II diabetes), sugar levels in the bloodstream can get too high. Chronic high blood sugar can lead to complications such as blindness, nerve damage, and kidney damage.

Managing Insulin with a Multi-Faceted Approach

Certain environmental and lifestyle factors increase the need for insulin, which is a problem when the body can’t produce enough.

Diet

What you eat directly affects your blood sugar and insulin levels.

  • Not eating regularly, and eating larger meals causes drops and spikes in blood sugar and insulin, driving insulin resistance  If blood sugar is a problem, better to eat smaller, more frequent meals to keep blood sugar and insulin levels stable.
  • Processed and fast foods drive inflammation, which causes insulin resistance and other disease processes. It also increases cortisol levels, which can increase blood sugar levels.
  • Food sensitivities cause immune and inflammatory responses, which causes insulin resistance. Many people have food sensitivities they don’t know about.
  • Pay attention to Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load. Glycemic index measures the insulin response your body has after eating a food. The higher the number, the more insulin your pancreas needs to secrete. Glycemic load is the amount of that food eaten.

Exercise

Fat cells have insulin receptors. Exercise burns calories and fat; fewer cells mean less need for insulin. And, when you exercise, your muscles need more energy to fire and insulin receptor sites become more receptive. Even a short walk can reduce blood sugar levels and insulin demands dramatically.

Stress

Up to 90 percent of doctor visits are related to chronic stress. Stress has big impact on insulin by:

  • decreasing insulin receptor sensitivity, which means the body must make more insulin to have the same response to blood sugar.
  • elevating cortisol, which can raise blood sugar levels.
  • causing the liver to raise blood sugar (the body’s way of increasing energy to handle stressful situations). Raised blood sugar means more need for insulin.

Toxins

Toxins are found throughout our environment — in body products, food, air, and water. The body gets overworked trying to deal with them, causing inflammation and increasing insulin resistance. Inflammation shuts down receptor sites, requiring the body to make more insulin.

Essential Nutrients

Essential nutrients are necessary for healthy bodily function. Key nutrients commonly lacking in patients with blood sugar issues are:

  • Alpha-Lipoic Acid — Alpha-lipoic acid is one of the main nutrients responsible for making sugar into energy. Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant, it helps reduce insulin resistance.
  • Magnesium — Diabetics tend to utilize magnesium faster than non-diabetics. Magnesium is responsible for making energy, helps muscles and nerves fire, and is responsible for over 300 processes in the body. Low magnesium can contribute to constipation, depression, and high blood pressure.
  • Zinc — Excess inflammation causes you to use more zinc than normal. Because diabetes is rooted in inflammation, a lot of diabetics are low in zinc. An important nutrient to the pancreas, it plays a role in almost 300 reactions in the body.
  • B-Vitamins — The b-vitamins play a role in almost every cellular process. Diabetic medications can deplete b-vitamins.
  • Chromium — Chromium helps make insulin receptor sites receptive to insulin, helping lower blood sugar levels.

A Multi-Faceted Approach is Key

For proper diabetes management, we must provide adequate exercise, proper nutrition, and manageable stress levels. As a functional health provider, I understand that you have unique needs and am prepared to help you develop a customized action plan to manage your blood sugar and insulin levels.