Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Retrospective #234: You begin to secrete insulin when…

Whether you’re a Type 2 diabetic or not, your body’s mechanism for regulating the level of glucose in your blood begins the same. It is far beyond my pay grade to explain it in detail, but I can give you an overview of how it works.
Everyone has a brain and a functioning autonomic nervous system, and while we’re alive, they work basically the same way. We breathe, our hearts beat, our temperature is regulated, and we are driven by elemental forces within us to eat, procreate and sleep. For survival, optimum health, and longevity, the body tells us what to do and when to do it. One of those elemental drives is eating. The body needs food to sustain itself. And grow. So, we seek food.
We seek food and learned through the ages what to eat. Through an evolutionary process we became omnivores. Eating both animal and vegetable foods allowed the human species to spread far and wide. Populations adapted to the variety of foods available in different climates and seasons and in times of both feast and famine. To kill, catch or gather food, we used our senses and motor skills and our developing intellectual powers. But first, before all the rest, when our bodies told us we were hungry, our senses kicked in. Our senses provided the message to seek and find food.
First among our senses was sight. By some estimates, ninety percent (90%) of what we sense is visual. The sight of food excites our brain and sends a signal to the pancreas to secrete insulin. Insulin is required to transport and enable uptake of glucose, from digested starches and sugars (carbs) in the blood. That energy replaces glycogen that has been stored in muscle and the liver and has been used, both to maintain our basal metabolism and for motor activities like hunting, fishing or gathering. As much as 10% of energy from protein is used just in digesting and absorbing it.
In addition, the smell and sound of food (e.g., a sizzling steak) excites our brain and sends a signal to the pancreas to secrete insulin. And personally, I think the smell of food is a more powerful stimulant to eat (and therefore possibly a more powerful stimulant to secrete insulin) than the sight of food. The smell of food being cooked is closer in time to eating it, and more of a certainty than just seeing food “on the hoof” with the prospect of a kill.
Even THINKING about food, which many dieters say they do all the time, excites our brain and sends a signal to the pancreas to secrete insulin. My serum insulin is probably somewhat elevated when I write about nutrition. Having a constantly elevated serum insulin, as carboholics do, can be problematic. Insulin is the fat storage hormone. When insulin is elevated, the body stores food energy and does not burn energy by breaking down energy stored as body fat.
Finally, there’s the taste of food, the digestive enzyme amylase from the salivary glands in the mouth excites the brain and sends a signal to the pancreas to secrete insulin. In the “normal” (healthy) metabolism, this is a burst of insulin that prepares your digestive system to ramp up to secrete more insulin to handle food passing through the stomach and on to the small intestine where the final digestion and absorption processes occur.
All these sensory processes are normal. In fact, they are elemental survival traits. And they are autonomic, meaning they happen automatically without conscious initiation. However, we do have total awareness of them, and we act on them. We seek food to feed our bodies to sustain life and to grow. It is fundamental to survival.
But what happens when these normal metabolic mechanisms break down? When the supply of insulin is lessened because our pancreatic beta cells which secrete insulin don’t function or die? Or when the insulin we have been able to produce circulates with the glucose from digested food but does not open the body’s cells to take up the glucose and replace the glycogen that’s been used? Answer: With a “broken” metabolism, your blood sugar rises abnormally.
Today, if you allow your blood sugar to rise to the point where you have “uncontrolled” blood sugar levels, you are diabetic. But if you are just Pre-diabetic, and you don’t want your disease to progress to that point, there is a natural way to manage and control without medication, your elevated blood sugar levels. There is something you can do to preserve what function your pancreas has left to make insulin and your cells’ ability to take up glucose. You can change what you eat. You can adapt what you eat for survival. You can eat fewer carbs. Your life may depend on it.

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