SMART HORMONES: Insulin and Inflammation
Are you familiar with AA? Alcoholics anonymous is an amazing organization that through a series of steps seeks to help people overcome the addictive effects of alcohol.
The first step of their program is overcoming denial.
They believe that no other step in the process can be addressed until an individual addresses the "elephants in the room" with regard to their addiction and stop the self-sabotaging practice of hiding from them.
Sounds good and intelligent, right?
Wait, but what does this have to do with your health and fitness?
The first step in our hormone pyramid addresses the simple "elephants in the room" regarding your nutrition and lifestyle before progressing to the more complicated steps of health and fitness.
Doesn't it make sense to start with the things that will making the biggest, glaring difference in helping you balance your hormones and keep our energy consistent?
I'm glad you think so. We do too.
In fact we believe, just like AA, that if you don't start with step 1, the other steps will be ineffective in helping you achieve well-being!
So before we address the complicated stuff, let's start with step 1. Insulin and Inflammation.
What is Insulin and Inflammation?
You have heard of both Insulin AND Inflammation, but do you know what they are?
Insulin, simply put, is an extremely important hormone in the body whose job -- among other things -- is to regulate how much sugar is in your blood stream by moving it from the blood into your cells.
Quick Insulin facts:
- High blood sugar is harmful to tissues in the body
- High blood sugar spikes insulin
- Cells can become less responsive to insulin (insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, or a "wearing out" of the cells that produce insulin)
- The pancreas releases more insulin if the cells are less responsive
- The more insulin is in the blood stream, the better the body becomes at STORING FAT
Inflammation, simply put, is a step in the body's process to repair damage inflicted upon it.
Quick Inflammation facts:
- Inflammation uses many of the body's vital resources to repair damage
- Inflammation can be local and short-lived (like in a sprained ankle)
- Inflammation can be global and long-lived (like in rheumatoid arthritis)
- High blood sugar can cause damage to tissues
- Usage of the body's resources to repair tissue (via immune response) alters other systems in the body and may keep them from functioning optimally
Can you see how the two are intimately connected? Can you see how this level of the pyramid affects every other level?
To make it crystal clear in a couple sentences:
If your blood sugar gets too high regularly, it will cause damage to your the body's tissues. Global inflammation can repair your body by stealing resources from your other hormonal systems.
Insulin can prevent this awful cascade of events by regulating your blood sugar as long as your body is sensitive to it.
But if your body is insulin resistant then you will store fat, be chronically-inflamed, and your other hormone systems will constantly operate sub-optimally.
So what can we do to improve our body's insulin sensitivity, prevent blood-sugar spikes, and lower inflammation?
I'm so glad you asked!
The Nutrition and Lifestyle of the Insulin-Sensitive and Uninflammed
Remember I said the first step of the hormone pyramid is about addressing the "elephants in the room"? Well, you won't be surprised that these things are amazing for your health and fitness...
What you will be surprised by is how big of a difference it all makes and how fast you'll notice the results if you commit to ALL FOUR changes.
Please note that I operate on the 90/10 rule. You don't have to be perfect but need to stick to the plan 90% of the time to see fast, noticeable results that culminate in lasting change!
1. Nutrition Change - Stay Under Your Sugar Limit
We have an entire article explaining the evils that sugar can wreak on your body. But for the sake of this topic, know that limiting sugar consumption is the basis of getting your insulin and inflammation under control!
Men should get no more than 37g and women should not consume more than 25g daily! This recommendation comes directly from the American Heart Association.
Less blood sugar spiking means less inflammation and less insulin resistance!
Start by checking the sugar content of everything you consume and tallying it throughout the day. It hides in SO MANY food products (vanilla greek yogurt = 17g. What?!), AND if you're eating more than 2 servings per day, count those sugar grams too!
Replace your high-sugar snacks with high-protein, high-fiber options (like an egg-stuffed avocado with coffee in the morning vs. a cappuccino and fast food sandwich -- saving 30g of sugar!) and watch your energy skyrocket while your waste line shrinks.
To help your insulin and inflammation, make limiting sugar your healthy obsession!
2. Nutrition Change - Get adequate fiber
Fiber has a role to play in the body for regulation of digestive function. But that's an added bonus compared to fiber's effect on blood sugar!
When fiber (like that found in veggies such as spinach, squash, and green beans) is a part of a meal it slows the absorption of sugar into the blood stream.
What does that mean?
When you limit sugar AND eat adequate fiber in a day ( 38g for males, 25g for females) you effectively eliminate ALL sugar spikes and resultant insulin spikes.
So you burn fat rather than store it.
Pretty cool, huh?
To help your insulin and inflammation, better get on those veggies!
3. Lifestyle Change - Average 10,000 steps or more
In fact, the study linked above found that if you are "exercising" but are classified "sedentary" (like you go to the gym but you sit all day outside of your workout), then outside of muscle tone, you don't seem to reap any health benefits from the exercise!
Pretty powerful information. We care about the benefits of your activity so much that exercise doesn't become a focus of balancing hormones until further up the pyramid!
For our purposes you should know that being active profoundly affects insulin resistance and therefore inflammation.
To help your insulin and inflammation, get your booty moving!
4. Lifestyle Change - Drink enough water
How's your hydration? Water makes up more than 70% of your total body weight and needs to be replenished often.
A crucial ingredient in the first step of "fat-burning" (triglyceride + water = glycerol and fatty acids) and the number one cause of day-time fatigue (that crash at 2pm does NOT mean you need a brownie and another cup of coffee), how much water you are drinking has a profound affect on this first step of the hormone pyramid.
As a simple rule of thumb you need half of your weight in ounces every day and anything that draws water out of your body should be compensated with a cup or so extra (sweating, alcohol, caffiene, etc...)
If that's a bit complicated for your taste, keep a 20oz. water bottle with you and try to drain it 5 times every day.
To help your insulin and inflammation, drink more water!
Get Serious About Level One
If you're serious about getting your body to work for you rather than against you, you have to get down with the program.
Becoming the happiest, healthiest, most awesome version of yourself through your nutrition and lifestyle is within your power but you have to take it one step at a time!
Like "AA" we believe that the first step of a comprehensive program must address the "elephants in the room" before the other, more complicated steps can be taken. But unlike the "denial" step, our elephants are all about balancing Insulin and minimizing Inflammation.
Count your sugar, get sufficient fiber, be more active, and drink enough water!
These are the foundation to a healthy and well-rounded eating program.
We can't wait to see you get them down this week, see results, and can move on to step 2!
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This information is meant to be actionable information to promote health and well-being and not to be used to diagnose or treat medical symptoms or conditions.