If you were alive in the mid-twentieth century, you probably always heard the word diabetes as part of a phrase – sugar diabetes. At that time, the cause of Type II diabetes (as it came to be called) was thought to be consuming an excess amount of sugar. In fact, that was partially correct. Consuming excess sugar will eventually lead to the disease.
However, that understanding was a deadly oversimplification. Not only did it negate the effects of overconsumption of other carbohydrates – it also concealed the real culprit. The discovery earlier in the century that Type I diabetes could be controlled with injections of insulin came to be inappropriately extended to Type II diabetes as well.
Please read my disclaimer before going any further. The following information is gleaned from sources I deem credible. However, it is not medical advice. I strongly urge you to consult with your doctor(s) before acting on it. Your situation may not be typical, and in any case, if you are currently using insulin as a medication, you must be monitored closely if you wish to withdraw or lower your use of it. Failure to consult with your doctor can result in serious, even fatal, consequences.
In the paragraph before the warning, I referred to the use of insulin as a medication for Type II diabetes as inappropriate. That is my opinion, based on both direct and indirect reading of studies indicating that diabetes is the result of years of hyperinsulinemia, possibly combined with a genetic predisposition. The very word means an abnormal amount – too much – insulin circulating in the bloodstream. According to an article in the Mayo clinic website, hyperinsulinemia alone isn’t diabetes, but the most common cause is insulin resistance. In fact, that’s a circular argument. What causes insulin resistance? Insulin!
Now look at the process. Your cells, especially the liver, become resistant to accepting more glucose for some reason (see the post Why Sugar Sometimes Isn’t Sugar for the most likely reason). Blood sugar ‘stacks up’, signaling your pancreas that more insulin is needed. The more insulin you secrete, the more resistant your body becomes to its effects, and the higher your blood sugar rises. At which point, your doctor prescribes… insulin? Haven’t we just established that excess insulin is the problem in the first place?
Taking higher and higher doses would seem to be counterproductive. Not only is it expensive, but doing so exacerbates the issue, which is insulin resistance. High amounts of insulin constantly circulating in the bloodstream can also be toxic. Common and serious side effects of regular insulin use include hypoglycemia, headache, flu-like symptoms, weight gain, lipoatrophy, itching, rash, allergic reactions, anaphylaxis, and hypokalemia (low potassium). Some of these side effects are serious or life-threatening on their own. Weight gain, in particular, is almost a given over years of treatment.
So, if taking higher and higher doses of insulin isn’t the answer, what is? Common sense would indicate that reducing the amount of circulating insulin would be better. However, before we can do that, we must reduce the reason for the insulin in the first place. I.e., change our diets or our eating habits in such a way that less insulin is needed. Reduce the glycemic load in our blood, reduce the need for insulin. Easy-peasy, right?
Wrong. It’s doable, but it isn’t necessarily easy. Anyone who has ever gone on a low-carb diet will tell you it’s far from easy. Furthermore, all low-carb diets (unless combined with a way to satisfy your hunger) eventually fail. It’s almost impossible to avoid fattening carbohdrates in modern times. Nevertheless, it’s worth the effort, but only if you do it right. We’ll talk about how to do it right in other posts.
For now, a second warning. DO NOT radically change your diet without a doctor’s supervision if you are currently using medical insulin. Your dose will be affected. Don’t use these posts, which are simplified and weighted with personal experience and opinion, as medical advice. Do your own research, consult with your doctor, and above all, don’t lose hope. Many people have overcome obesity, and many people have been cured of Type II diabetes. Yes, cured. Keep reading!