• Insulin Resistance meets Human Resistance

    The other night I went to see Susan Bass, one of my favorite Ayuvedic Consultants, speak about Ayurveda in the the winter time and how we break the cycle of indulgence…how could I resist?! I am always so eager to see Susan as she has an incredible ability to break down complicated nutritional concepts and make them accesible mostly due to her personal journey with health (great story). Ayurveda is known for meeting people where they are and through this lens, I’ve learned more physiology then I had ever imagined possible.

    Susan’s talk, not surprisingly, became quickly focused on insulin resistance, which more and more is the buzz word for pre-condition-just-about-everything. This means, low and behold, sugar really is “a universal mechanism for chronic disease” and the holidays are a terribly self sacrificial time of year that we spend the rest of it recovering from. Did you know it is the one nutrient we really do not need in any amount to survive? Compound this with a lifetime of seemingly “moderate,” but regular, indulgence patterns and you’ve got a recipe for chronic illness, auto immune disorders, obesity and a genetic load no future generation should ever have to bear. The trouble is that change is hard for everyone, I get it, especially lifestyle changes. I understand, really, I do, I am extremely resistant to change.I think most of us are, still, we find that fulcrum where we we are able to accept and then embrace what’s good for us because it’s necessary. What aggravated me, during the course of Susan’s talk, was how many folks are sitting in this room….on a friday night…listening to a nutrition lecture (don’t judge us)…and my jaw dropped at how many of them were actually looking not for further information but for permission to ignore her advice thus far and continue in their lives unchanged. Really, there is no justification?! Allow me to paraphrase, “well, you don’t really expect me to do all of that, right? I can just do a few of those things and if I’m already doing THIS then I don’t have to do THAT, right? (even if what’s being asked directly competes with what’s been taught).”

    (breathe now, okay.)

    Let’s remember that CHANGE is the most dependable and inevitable factor of our lives! Those of you seeking nutrition have to know that anything worth doing usually requires some effort, besides the fact that health is a journey, we are constantly evolving and so are our health needs. A real change may even require some temporary discomfort, but the reward of health and better quality of life should be worth the trouble, especially when the alternative is a direct path to extreme difficulty, expense and for some, an early death. I know this may seem extreme, but aren’t cancer, diabetes, MS and even chronic pain extreme enough for you? I started to think that perhaps the real trouble is that we’ve forgotten how good it feels to be free of discomfort? Perhaps what we’ve really lost is a healthy positive and supportive experience of our health? Can I dare you to dream that one exists enough to even try to seek it out? I think that’s my real job here at SFT and Susan’s too. I don’t want to preach, rather, I want to offer you a brief glimpse of what this kind of freedom feels like, so you can find the fortitude to follow through on making it your reality. (you are welcome, BTW, ha!)

    Let me explain how insulin resistance happens….in a nutshell…

    You eat non-fiber carbs or sugar, which it breaks down into glucose FAST, and your blood sugar sky rockets. Because the body recognizes excess glucose in the blood stream as an emergency situation/toxin and it wants to balance the blood sugar asap. The brain calls on insulin, an emergency regulator hormone, to come in an force the cells to absorb the excess glucose and bring the blood sugar back down to normal, the trouble is that this is not insulin’s only regular job. Still, it dutifully accepts, for now, and everyone takes a breather and goes on as usual until you do it again. Insulin is not the bad guy here. In fact, insulin, in small amounts, is a great thing, because it allows your cells to be permeable to the nutrition they need. It moves nutrition such as magnesium inside the cell, it also builds muscle and stores protein. What it doesn’t want to do is get called on too much to force the body to deal with an excess amount of glucose in the blood stream in the first place: Sugar (which also competes with your Vitamin C receptors…just something else to think on). In larger amounts, and with consistent exposure, insulin causes cellular degeneration, can acellerate the aging process, and is toxic at high levels. So getting back to the point…once it’s forced into the cells, then the body burns the sugar for fuel/energy, because in Mother Nature’s infinite wisdom, she decided this was the best way to move it out of the body the fastest…blood sugar crash –> stresses the adrenals –> all systems stop to deal with the emergency –> digestion stops –> cannot absorb necessary nutrition. Now this presents another obstacle, because the body really needs to burn fat for fuel. So if the body isn’t burning fat, then it’s storing fat and burning sugar instead (*cough, cough* what a great space for fat soluble toxins to hang out, eh? but we’ll talk about metal toxicity another time). What you also need to understand is that insulin interacts with EVERY hormone in the body, which means that if insulin has to rally to the call, then everyone has to rally…enter Metabolic Syndrome…from here, just imagine that you continue this cycle of forcing insulin to answer the blood sugar balancing call all day long, day after day… Eventually, it stops listening and the cells are so damaged they can’t take anymore. At this point you are insulin resistant and pre-diabetic. The pancreas becomes exhausted and may lose its ability to produce insulin, to process sugar, and the body to detoxify itself. That’s why they call it a vicious cycle. And it starts so innocently. This isn’t to scare you out of eating, it’s to show you how every decision you make can effect every other decision you make and my hope is that one of them is to start taking your health seriously. You can sacrifice sugar, but please don’t sacrifice yourself for it!

    Susan offered some simple tips for winter eating and breaking the cycle:

    try to limit your sugar intake to 25g/day (if at all…one apple averages about 13g FYI)
    winter bodies crave warm, oily, sweet, sour and salty foods
    fat slows the digestion of sugar so pair them to avoid a blood sugar spike: think of ghee, sesame oil, sunflower oil (mono unsaturated fat like olive oil), eggs and avocado
    reduce your dairy intake
    eat sour foods to stimulate digestion (anything fermented is a good place to start)
    if you are craving salt — eat more mineral rich foods (like liver, kale, seaweed)
    cook your vegetables & soak your nuts
    reduce your bean intake (except for mung beans, but be sure to soak and/or sprout them first)
    enjoy animal proteins, nourish yourself, include the skins (if possible)
    don’t forget your probiotics
    try not to drink fruit juice first thing in the morning, eat some protein instead and stoke your metabolic fire
    think chelating/anti-inflammatory foods like chlorella, cilantro and celery (maybe juicing?)
    for more information on Susan’s practice and upcoming classes check out http://www.theartofdigestion.com/