There is a lot of finger pointing in diabetic circles and the fingers get pointed a lot at insulin resistance. It is widely accepted that insulin resistance is the problem here, and in a way it is, but only by proxy.
Insulin resistance is indeed an illness, but it’s a symptom really, as it must be, since something must be behind it. We’re well aware of what is behind it, although whatever that may be, that’s the actual condition.
The same is true with high blood sugar, it’s not a condition, something causes this, and whatever causes this is the condition, and the hyperglycemia is the symptom.
Functional medicine looks to what is behind things, where conventional medicine, we could actually call it dysfunctional medicine, is satisfied with just treating overt symptoms, like they are happy just trying to lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetes.
So we know high blood sugar isn’t diabetes, although we treat it as if it was, but what about insulin resistance? Jason Fung, in an excellent article on the subject, likens calling insulin resistance the problem to saying that bleeding is the cause of a gunshot wound. This is a perfect analogy actually.
If someone doesn’t understand what insulin resistance truly is though, they may find this comparison to be odd, and a lot of people view insulin resistance in a cursory and rather unexamined manner. So there’s too much sugar in our blood, that’s bad, and the cells don’t want to take it all in, that’s bad too, and that’s the cause of the other bad. This is just nonsense though once we think on this some more.
There aren’t a lot of people who will go as far as to say insulin resistance is protective though. I have told this to people and they have thought this was one of my crazy ideas I just came up with out of thin air, but it does have both science and reasoning behind it. The other side, the side that sees this has the root of the problem, has neither.
So when I see articles like Dr. Fung’s, I get to point out that it just isn’t I that think this way, although there aren’t many of us to be sure. This view is just the logical step though when you account for the pathology of excess insulin levels and then you look at why the cells resist the excessive amounts of nutrients that this excess insulin wants to give the cells.
When we’re speaking of insulin resistance, we usually mean peripheral insulin resistance, insulin resistance in muscle and fat cells, as opposed to insulin resistance in the pancreas and liver, where this is a much bigger issue and is indeed detrimental to our health.
On the other hand, Dr. Fung claims that peripheral insulin resistance is protective, as I do, and this actually makes sense, because it is not natural for cells to take in an excess of nutrients, a gross excess actually.
Where people get confused here is not understanding properly what happens in type 2 diabetes as far as why our blood sugar is high. Once you understand that it is due to an excess of glucose supply, then this all becomes rather simple to explain.
With type 2 diabetes, we not only have an excess of glucose in our blood, we have an excess of fat as well. So these extra nutrients need somewhere to go, they can’t just pile up into our blood forever. This requires that our cells take in more than the normal allotment of these nutrients.
This to some degree happens with just plain obesity, and that’s how we get fat, our cells take in and store nutrients, but in non diabetics this happens without excessively elevated glucose. When you throw that in, cells just get overwhelmed by it, and they do resist.
So the pancreas fights back and insulin goes up some more, and then the cells are forced to take in more until they fight back again, and then ultimately you end up with very high insulin levels and a lot of peripheral insulin resistance as the battle plays out.
So some may wonder, what if we didn’t have this insulin resistance? Wouldn’t things then be fine, with the cells clearing the blood of this glucose and insulin levels not needing to be so high? This view makes the mistake of thinking that it is preferable and healthy for our cells to be fed all this extra glucose.
One of the consequences of diabetes though is that our cells are exposed to too much glucose, damaging them, that’s why you worry about high blood sugar actually. Our cells don’t want this much, all that our crazy livers want to pump into our blood.
So peripheral insulin resistance protects us from this, although only to a degree, as we our cells still get damaged from too much glucose over time, and this is where a lot of the complications arise. High blood sugar in itself isn’t really the concern, it’s only when too much gets into our cells that we have a problem, and the same is true of excess fat, we don’t want too much of this poisoning our cells either.
So when people think, we need to get more of this extra glucose in the blood into our cells, they are not thinking straight. Our cells are thinking straight though and fight back against this, although with medications we can overpower this and harm the cells.
This is what happens when we elevate insulin further, we force more glucose down the throats of cells like we do with ducks force fed to make their livers fatty for foie gras. In time though, the cells will just fight even harder against this, and we’ll need more and more medication, all the while trying to break down the body’s protective mechanism against these assaults.
With the class of meds known as TZDs, such as Actos and Avandia, they directly override insulin resistance, forcing glucose into these cells like nothing else. Instead of being a Godsend, these meds are the most dangerous anti diabetic medications we’ve ever invented, and they not only make people fat, they cause all sorts of nasty things including cancer and heart attacks.
That’s probably the best example of the dangers of uncontrolled glucose uptake, and lowering blood sugar at the expense of our cells just isn’t a bad idea, it’s a hideous one. The damage this causes is the exact thing we’re looking to prevent.
However, if we’re only guided by blood sugar readings, as is almost always the case, this stupidity can have us thinking all is well when our blood sugar drops, for a time anyway, wow you are getting better, the medication is working beautifully.
There’s only one sensible way to treat high blood sugar, and that’s to look to reduce the excessive amounts that are being excreted into our blood from our livers, the actual cause of the problem, not just trying to sweep it under the bed, or worse, sweep it where it can harm us more.