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Why Insulin Insensitivity Keeps You Craving Sweets And Feeling Hungry

I’ve been studying the human body for years and never cease to be amazed at how magnificently designed it is by our Creator. But every now and then I’ve got to step back and scratch my head for a second as I question how some things work the way they do.

One such irony is why do people who have elevated blood sugar levels, still crave more and more sugar? You’d think there would be some built in primal mechanism that would make these individuals want to avoid what they already have too much of. No such luck.

In today’s post I want to dig into the issue of insulin insensitivity and why it keeps you craving you craving the very foods you should be avoiding.

More importantly we’ll look at what you can do about it!

More after the jump…

First off let’s make sure we’re on the same page with what I’m referring to as insulin insensitivity. Often times you’ll hear this referred to as “insulin resistance.” Technically speaking, insulin resistance is the more advanced degree of insulin insensitivity. This is where the cell receptors pretty much shut down to insulin.

Left unchecked and without corrective measures, the next stop is type II diabetes. Just know there are obviously stages of insulin insensitivity, it’s not a switch that gets flipped on or off.

So what causes insulin insensitivity in the first place?

The most common culprit is a generally poor diet high in processed and refined foods loaded with simple sugars. Consume too many sugars from starches and processed foods and the body becomes flooded with blood glucose.

However insulin insensitivity can also occur from the over-consumption of bad fats, exposure to estrogenic chemicals, deficiencies with essential fats (especially omega-3′s), and when the liver is overwhelmed by toxins like excessive alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, or chemicals.

Under the above conditions, the liver starts to get really bogged down and struggles to regulate fat metabolism. This triggers the accumulation of fat metabolites in the liver and compromises its ability to utilize glucose (blood sugar).

All the while other organs and glands suffer under the strain of increased inflammation. The pancreas, which is responsible for secreting insulin, becomes overtaxed from pumping out insulin and pancreatic enzymes to continually try and deal with elevated blood sugar levels.

Remember insulin is just trying to do the job it’s designed to do. It’s not some evil, bad guy hormone. A lot of health and fitness gurus like to portray insulin secretion as something to avoid at all times. This just isn’t the case, we need to stop blaming insulin!

Insulin is one of the body’s most anabolic hormones. This means it helps to rebuild and repair. Insulin works to deliver glucose and amino acids into muscle cells for lean tissue development following vigorous resistance training workouts for example.

The problem occurs when insulin is being consistently pumped out to try and deal with elevated blood sugar levels. Over time the cells receptors lose their sensitivity to this hormone. The pancreas doesn’t know the “why” so it responds by sending out more. Then end result is your body literally becoming flooded with both excess blood sugar and insulin.

Ok, you get now what causes the insensitivity and it should be obvious that low insulin sensitivity or the more advanced insulin resistance isn’t a good thing.

But why in the heck does insulin insensitivity make you keep craving sugar and leave you feeling hungry all the time?

You’d think your body would be like “hey we’ve got enough sugar here, no need to send in any more.”

The answer is a complex one as there are several factors at play here, but I’ll do my best to give you the short notes.

The first problem we have is sugar is a very addictive substance. The brain has opioid receptors which sugar acts on just like an addictive drug like cocaine would. This is why sugar provides a short-term state of pleasure or satisfaction.

Without going into extensive detail on this, just know that the over-consumption of sugar alters biding to dopamine and opioid receptors in the brain, which is the reason it can become addictive per say. Even though your body doesn’t need it, your brain sends signals that it wants more.

The reason for the hunger is a little more complex, but let me try to explain.

Typically when blood sugar is low, the body signals the stomach to produce hunger symptoms and demand fuel. This makes perfect sense. But why would you be hungry when blood sugar levels are high?

Here’s the thing, although your body has more than enough energy to utilize from the boatload of blood glucose floating around, your cells can’t get to it. In essence you’re getting hungry because your cells are STARVING for nutrients!

Read that last part again, it’s key.

Remember, insulin is the carrier hormone that helps shuttle nutrients like glucose into the cells. If the doors are shut because the receptors are shut down or blunted due to insensitivity, you’re not getting the nutrients you need.

All hunger is not the same, a subject I should expand on in a future post.

Just know that your hunger may not necessarily be a call from your body for more food, but rather a call that you need nutrients at the basic cellular level.

Yes, you could stuff yourself with junk foods on a regular basis but still be starving at the cellular level. Your body doesn’t have the ability to clarify the message to your brain.

The more you eat processed and refined foods, sugars and starches, the more you crave it, period.

When people who’ve been on crappy diets attempt to “diet” they often find it unbearably hard due to persistent sugar cravings and hunger. This is a result of all the things we’ve been talking about.

Trying to go “no carb” or restrict to very low calories is often met with failure because the individual can’t stick it out. The end result is guilt and feelings of failure, and back on the crappy diet they go.

Here’s the thing, breaking a sugar addiction and reversing insulin insensitivity isn’t easy. I’m not going to paint you a rosy picture. But if you know what’s going on and give your body what it needs, you can most certainly do it!

Number one is knowing that sugar is an addictive substance and must be treated accordingly.

Number two is knowing that your hunger may likely be a signal that your cells are starving for nutrients, not that you simply require more food.

Start with the above and make your game plan. While I’m not going to give you a particular “diet” to follow for dealing with insulin sensitivity, let’s just say it’s going to be hard breaking a sugar addiction with more sugar.

Yes, you’re going to want to bring down your consumption of heavy starches and processed carbs. If your body needs more energy and you want a sweet potato or side of rice that’s one thing. But you certainly don’t need or want that big sub roll or plate of pasta.

A key factor many people miss out on is getting their body to start fueling off of other substrates than sugar. If you’re going to pull down sugars, you want to make sure you’re filling in the void with more protein and healthy fats.

Starving yourself on restrictive diets is the last thing you want to do. You can’t fight the biology of your body, you’ll lose every time. Willpower has nothing to do with it.

Instead of starving yourself, look to give your body what it needs and is crying out for…nutrients!

Give your body whole, natural foods from fibrous vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, low glycemic fruits like berries, and healthy fats. This is a great foundation for improving insulin sensitivity and breaking a sugar addiction.

Doing freshly juiced green and fruit juices is also a great way to cleanse, detoxify, and get your liver freed up from the heavy burden its been under.

You don’t have to cut out all carbs completely, you’re just trying to stabilize blood glucose levels and allow your body to get back in balance.

Will you have cravings and be hungry in the beginning? You betcha.

But if you stick with giving your body an adequate supply of nutrients, you won’t starve or suffer the consequences of a down-regulated metabolism.

Know going in that your body will resist the transition in the beginning. It’s all part of the process due to the physiological changes that have occurred.

Remember, more than likely your body is crying out for nutrients, not just calories. Give it mostly live, whole foods and it will take care of the rest.

Your primal instincts, intuition, or whatever you want to call it that tells you the difference between true hunger and cellular starvation is still there. The signals have just been crossed from disrupting the balances in your body.

Be patient with yourself and you can regain control over cravings and find that place of stability and balance.

Yes, you’re going to feel like leaving the house and heading to the drive-through in your pajamas at times. It’s going to happen. Better to sit down and have a bowl of frozen blueberries or something naturally sweet like that, than to completely blow it.

Without trying to over-complicate things, just look to give your body healthy foods that can restore hormonal balances and rejuvenate at the cellular level. Don’t get hung up on calories, percentages of macro-nutrients and the like. There’s plenty of time for that later if you want to dial things in.

Improving insulin sensitivity is about improving your health. Look at it from a big picture perspective. Examine your exercise, stress levels, and other lifestyle factors outside of diet.

Make a plan to get healthy by looking at all components that synergistically impact the function and performance of the human body.

Try to rely on just one piece (like exercise or diet) and you’ll likely struggle and fail. Make a long-term commitment to improving your health and things will fall into place.

That’s the best piece of advice I can give you.

Insulin insensitivity is simply a sign that something is out of balance with your body. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of what causes the hunger and sugar cravings and how to deal with it.

As always if I can be of assistance in any way, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Shane Doll is a certified personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Fitness Training Studios. If you’re looking for a personal trainer in Charleston, you can receive a no-obligations personal training trial and consultation without risking a dime. Over 1000 Charleston area residents have transformed their bodies following our unique burst training workouts and simplified nutrition programs. Experience the Shaping Concepts difference today.

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