We often hear from patients that they feel their metabolism is ‘slow’ or ‘broken’ and that the amount of food and exercise they eat and perform never gets reflected on the scale.
Annually patients have their glucose levels tested, to screen for diabetes, or predict future diabetes (pre-diabetes), conventionally we watch this number climb over time, and when patients qualify, we recommend they are treated for diabetes with diet changes and medication.
Insulin is a reflection of how hard your body is working to not become diabetic.
However, long before changes in glucose occur, the body produces excessive amounts of the growth-inducing hormone insulin, to work to keep glucose levels normal. The purpose of insulin is to drive glucose into cells, and lower blood sugars. It’s coined an “anabolic” or “growth” hormone because it encourages storage of fuel, and growth of muscle and fat tissue. It helps rebuild tissues after exercise, and encourages weight gain.
When insulin levels are high, the body is ‘wired’ for storage and weight gain, patients feel fatigued, and have mis-cued hunger. Patients may feel hungry all the time, and then feel tired after eating. Brain-fog and difficulty concentrating are also common symptoms of elevated insulin.
A less commonly known symptom of insulin resistance is profound fatigue, especially after eating. If you are tired, struggle with abdominal weight or are fatigued after eating a high carb meal, your insulin may be the culprit.
High insulin levels can cause other hormonal imbalances, such as missed periods, more intense or more frequent hot flashes, and increases in male-pattern hair growth (chin and chest hair) in women. In men, elevated insulin lowers testosterone and increases estrogen, which can lead to a loss of muscle tissue, and increased fat carrying.
With a simple and inexpensive blood test, levels of insulin can be measured and compared against fasting glucose to calculate insulin sensitivity (or HOMA-IR score). This scoring can help direct your diet prescription towards a more supportive diet to encourage weight loss and less fatigue, and can guide the use of supplementation to encourage better metabolism.