What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas. It performs some important functions in our body primarily insertion of glucose in cells. Insulin resistance renders the cells incapable of repairing themselves leading to diabetes.
What is a hormone?
Hormones are molecules that travel through the blood. They are messengers between organs (also called glands) and cells, kind of communication particles. Hormones regulate each and every function in our body such as movement, digestion, respiration, moods, reproduction and the most important of them all, metabolism. Most of the time they are secreted in tiny amounts. Any excess of hormone production is called hormonal imbalance and leads to massive changes in your body.
Hormone is a kind of key, which is supposed to fit only in the target cell or tissue. This key unlocks the cell by opening the cell wall and delivers the message to the cell to take the necessary action.
Insulin regulates blood sugar or blood glucose
Glucose is the fuel of the body. Cells use glucose for energy. When we digest food, the intestine converts carbs into glucose and release it into the blood stream. This leads to increase in blood glucose or blood sugar. That triggers the pancreas to release insulin in the blood.
Body cells need glucose as a source of energy. But the cells on their own cannot absorb glucose directly. It is insulin which has to key to unlock the cell walls to allow glucose inside. If this key gets defective, your body cells are starved of energy.
Excess glucose is also stored in the liver for backup. Liver acts like the refrigerator for the body. Glucose is converted to glycogen for storage.
Between two meals when you are not eating, the opposite happens. Sugar levels in the blood drops, this signals the pancreas to release another hormone called Glucagon. This hormone induces the liver to convert the stored energy in the form of glycogen back to glucose and release it into the blood. Thereafter insulin unlocks the cell walls so that glucose can be absorbed and used.
Insulin perform the all important life supporting function of providing energy to the body.
Other vital functions of insulin
Insulin helps absorb amino acids. Diabetic people lose muscle strength because of the inability of insulin to absorb amino acids and repair muscles.
Insulin absorbs potassium. If you are suffering from insulin resistance, your Blood Pressure shoots up because of the lack of potassium. So now your BP is high while you are low on energy.
Insulin also helps sodium retention.
Important thing about insulin – avoid insulin resistance at all costs
Now that you have understood how important the role of insulin is, you also need to keep in mind what problems will you face if you have a less effective functioning insulin.
Insulin is the key which unlocks the cell walls to allow glucose inside. Glucose is the fuel on which our body runs. Insulin resistance begins when the key is unable to unlock the cell walls for some reason or combination of reasons. Let us understand how this happens.
There is a blood test to check if you have fatty liver or insulin resistance. But there is also a simpler test. Anyone having belly fat, even an inch is already into the initial stage of insulin resistance.
Harmful effects of high carb diet
Carbohydrates in your food converts into glucose and significantly increases blood sugar. Also consuming too much of sugar will increase blood glucose. Your pancreas now generate significant amount of insulin to get rid of this sugar. Part of it goes into the cells for energy, remaining is stored in the liver as energy backup.
There are certain people or situations where you eat too many times in the day or keep consuming large amounts of carbs. Blood sugar keep rising and to keep that under control the pancreas keep secreting insulin. Now two things are going to happen here.
Liver keeps storing glycogen and once it is full it starts sending the liver for storage next to the belly and then the waist. This is the famous visceral fat which for many people refuses to burn out once it makes home. A liver full of glycogen is called fatty liver condition. Consumption of alcohol leads to fatty liver condition and weight gain. For non drinkers, consumption of carbs leads to non alcoholic fatty liver condition.
Second thing, due to reasons not yet known, insulin can no longer open the walls of the cells to allow glucose to enter. It does not happen all of a sudden but rather a long period with walls partially opening.
Now the pancreas go into overdrive mode creating more and more insulin. The cells however block the entry of glucose. So all that glucose goes right back to the liver who is forced to accept it and keep storing it at different places in the body. But the body structure does not permit storage of fat beyond a certain limit. That is the time when the pancreas give up completely stop producing insulin altogether and you are now a Type – 2 diabetic.
Why does the liver not stop storing fat? Because blood sugar is toxic for the body and your body tries to get rid of it instantly. During insulin resistance stage, your insulin is working overtime along with your pancreas. You would have a high blood pressure and high cholesterol but your blood sugar will still be under normal range. That is because you body is still fighting and not given up yet. A fit and healthy person is the one who has zero belly fat.
Conditions and situations that take you to insulin resistance
Age – watch your belly fat once you cross the age of 40.
Alcoholic and non Alcoholic fatty liver condition.
Consuming alcohol stresses out your liver and it takes days to recover.
High carb diet & high sugar diet
Highly toxic or stressful situations
Lack of physical activity
Consuming less Vitamins and Minerals