Carbs, Insulin and Glucagon
When you eat a carb, any carb, your body turns it into glucose, which is sugar. A carb can be a whole grain, fruit (which contains fructose and glucose), vegetables, potatoes, pasta, milk, or junk food, but your body turns it all into glucose. Some carbs gets turned into glucose faster than others, but they all turn into glucose.
Once the carbs are turned into glucose, they need to be processed in the body. Insulin is a hormone, and it is released to deal with glucose. Insulin puts some glucose into our cells for energy, some into our muscles for stored energy, and some into our liver for stored energy. If there is any leftover sugar, it is dangerous for the sugar to be left in the bloodstream, so insulin has the leftover sugar turned into fat, and stores it as a safety precaution. Insulin also guards the fat so that it does not escape. Insulin is nice, helpful, friendly and a team-player with the other hormones.
In a perfect world, (like when we were children), this system worked very well. We could eat a lot of carbs, we had energy, and if we needed extra energy or we got a little hungry, the stored sugar in our muscles, liver and fat were released to help us.
How carbs and insulin make you feel.
After many years, our cells begin to resist the work of insulin to put the glucose in our bodies. By resisting insulin, the sugar does not get into the cells. That means less energy for cells, and more sugar left over to be stored as fat. Our bodies feel tired from the lack of sugar in our cells, and our brains have a harder time concentrating. In the mean time, all this excess glucose winds up being stored for future energy and we get fatter and fatter.
This system was originally designed to help paleo man store up energy in the fall. When he came across wild grains or a fruit tree, he could eat as much as he could possibly stuff in his mouth, and it would be stored as fat for the coming winter when food would be scarce. But in our modern world, grains and fruit are available year round. Our bodies think that we are eternally storing up in the times of plenty for the harsh winter ahead.
With our cells becoming more and more insulin resistant and the blood sugar level always being high, the pancreas knows that something is wrong. The pancreas tries to fix it by making more and more insulin to try to push the sugar into the cells. Insulin becomes power-hungry and starts to take over. Insulin gets really bossy and suppresses growth hormones and sex hormones. Growth hormones are minimized and not able to repair and maintain cells, so things in our bodies start to fall apart. Growth hormones are also in charge of building muscles, so that is also minimized. If a child is growing, this can slow this growth. Sex hormones are also minimized. This can lower the sex drive, or hinder reproductive processes.
Insulin insisting on more carbs.
Insulin becomes a tyrant, with an insatiable need for carbs, and then is constantly putting the glucose wherever it can. When there are no more carbs, Insulin goes back to the brain screaming for carbs: bread, pasta, potatoes, donuts, chips, fruit, soda, ANYTHING that has sugar in it. So we are always hungry and craving, we are constantly snacking on carbs, our blood sugar goes way up, and then the pancreas dumps as much insulin as possible into the bloodstream to deal with it, making us us sleepy and brainfogged. Insulin gets trigger happy. Just the thought or suggestion of carbs sets him off, telling you to eat more and more. A sweet taste can set off insulin,even if it is artificial sweeteners, keeping the cravings alive. Seeing forbbiden foods on the TV can trigger insulin and make you want some (and the TV people know it.) But the constant eating of carbs and dumping of insulin does not help solve the problem of hunger and fatigue. Instead, we are on a blood sugar roller coaster. The cells continue to become more and more resistant to the insulin, and so we are eternally hungry, eternally fatigued, and more and more sugar is just being stored as fat. We never are full or satisfied. Glucose becomes a useless, addictive drug in our bodies and insulin is the pusher.
Insulin wants to control everything.
The more carbs we eat, the more we feed the demands of insulin. Insulin wants all the power, all the control, and all the glucose it can get. Insulin does not care if you live or die, it just cares that it is in charge and you are obeying its bottomless cravings for glucose. Insulin knows that it can store an infinite supply of carbs as fat, and as long as you keep obeying and sending the glucose down, insulin will store it. Insulin will store the fat under our skin, between our organs, in our liver, in our blood and in our arteries.
Eventually, the pancreas is not able to make enough insulin to deal with the glucose. Insulin will lose the battle. The pancreas was not designed to handle the carb load that modern civilization can deal it. It cannot put all the glucose in the cells and store all the leftover glucose as fat. The excess glucose floats around in the bloodstream and any molecule of protein or fat that the glucose comes in contact with, it destroys. If this continues, glucose floating in the bloodstream will kill us. When the pancreas cannot make enough insulin to deal with the glucose, it is Type 2 Diabetes. If the pancreas cannot make insulin at all, it is Type 1 Diabetes.
So we go to the endo, with our problems, and what does he usually say? “You are diabetic. You don’t have enough insulin to deal with glucose, so we are going to give you a way to get more insulin. That way, you can keep eating carbs and sugar, and not have to worry about dying.” This become a free pass for some people to just eat all the carbs and sugar they want, and instead of dying from sugar in the bloodstream, they just get fatter and fatter from storing it all, and leading to other health problems.
Now think about it. If you knew an alcoholic who was drinking himself to death and destroying his liver, do you think he should have a magic pill to save his liver? Sure! Then he can drink all he wants, and he will be okay. Just have a drink and take the pill. Just have 10 drinks and take 10 pills. Doesn’t that sound like a great idea? Of course not. We don’t want people to die from liver disease, but there is another solution: stop drinking. Likewise, there is another solution to diabetes and obesity: stop eating carbs.
You really are genuinely addicted.
What? Stop eating carbs? Are you crazy? They are so yummy! And besides, aren’t carbs necessary for life? Aren’t they full of vitamins? What if I can’t live without my favorite bread or pasta? Not even fruit? But fruit is “natural”. The short answers are: Carbs are not necessary for life (your body can easily make glucose from fat and protein). Meat, eggs and vegetables are also full of vitamins. Also, you will find that once you break your sugar addiction, you will live just fine without your bread, pasta, rice or fruit.
What happens when we stop eating carbs? Is it even possible? Can we just ease off of carbs, or do we have to do it all at once? Carbs are truly and addiction and insulin is the pusher that lives inside of us.
You can’t taper off of carbs. As long as you are having “some” carbs, insulin is being fed. Insulin will constantly be whining that you are hungry and craving and “NEEDING” more carbs. Insulin will constantly be reminding you of how much you are suffering by not having your favorite carbs. Insulin has become a domineering monster that lives inside of you and will do anything to retain its death grip on you. You must STOP feeding it.
No more carbs for insulin.
So what happens when you stop feeding insulin? First, it throws a temper tantrum and begs you not to do this. Insulin lies to you that you can eat “some” carbs and sugar, and you will be okay. Insulin lies to you that if you don’t eat carbs, you will be eating cardboard and dirt and your life will become an empty, worthless existence. Insulin is like the abusive lover who is finally getting kicked out and is begging to stay and promising to change. We all know how that goes. Don’t listen to the lies. Insulin is not sorry that you are hurting. Insulin is sorry that you got tired of him abusing you.
Every time insulin begs for carbs, instead of eating carbs, eat meat, fat and leafy greens. Your body is designed like a hybrid car and can burn two kinds of fuels: glucose and fat (ketones). But your body has to figure out how to make the switch. Insulin has been so busy collecting, storing and hording your fat and does not want to let go of the power or the fat. Even when you cut back on calories and exercise, as long as you are eating some carbs, insulin is in the driver’s seat, and insulin is going to hang on to that fat. When you stop eating the carbs and you eat fat instead, the power is taken away from insulin, and he is minimized.
Glucagon to the rescue!
Once insulin is out of the picture, something new and wonderful happens. The pancreas senses that there is no glucose to burn but there is new dietary fat to burn. The pancreas releases a NEW hormone: Glucagon. Glucagon only comes out when the Glucose is GONE (Which is why they call it “Gluc-a-gone!”). Glucagon is our hero and our lifesaver. He has a very special job: to burn the fat. Without insulin guarding the fat, Glucagon throws open the floodgates and says, “Release the fat!”
Glucagon goes through our bodies looking for fat and sending it to the cells for energy. The cells in our bodies that are starving for fuel, they can slurp up the ketones and get working again. We are no longer fatigued and sleepy, but energized. Our brains that have also been starving for fuel can also slurp up ketones. We are no longer brain-fogged, depressed, stressed and confused. Now we have laser mental clarity, optimism, organization and focus.
Glucagon does not give us cravings and hunger. Glucagon says, “I have everything under control. There are thousands and millions of calories stored here, and we are going to use them. Therefore, you can eat smaller meals, you can go longer between meals, and you don’t need to be craving anything.” So, you are full, you are not hungry, you are not craving, and you have energy that you never had before.
Also, while insulin was out bullying everyone around, two other important hormones, growth hormones and sex hormones, were suppressed. But now that insulin is minimized, growth hormones and sex hormones can go back up to normal levels. That means that cells will start mending. All through your body are cells that need help. They become aches and pains, and diseases. When they heal, the aches and pains go away, and some of your health problems heal. I don’t want to say “all”, but certainly “many”. Lots of people say that as they slowly healed, they were able to come off of many of their medications. All of your cell membranes are made out of saturated fat, and when you eat the saturated fat, your cells have the materials they need to heal and be strong.
Glucagon builds muscles
Growth hormones also build muscle. While you are losing fat, your muscles start growing. Some people say that in the beginning, their weight does not go down, but their clothes get loser. That is because muscles are growing while fat is leaving, even if you are not doing any exercises. I suspect that this can even help people in wheelchairs to lose fat and build muscle.
Lowered insulin also raises sex hormones. This can help overweight, but delayed children get into puberty. This can help people to conceive. And this can help your sex drive.
The longer you stay in ketosis, the better things get. Your body gets better at creating the ketones. Major diseases start healing. Diabetes Type 2 gets under control, and you don’t need your insulin medication. Diabetes Type 1 can be managed much better than before. Since glucagon is burning fat, it is burning the cholesterol in your stored fat, in your blood and in your liver. Your weight goes down, your blood cholesterol goes down and your fatty liver heals. One of insulin’s jobs was to hold on to salt, which in turn held on to water, and that raised blood pressure. With insulin minimized, salt is not stored, water is released and blood pressure goes down. All kinds of problems related to obesity and metabolic syndrome start to evaporate. Even your skin, which needs a lot of fat, starts to look younger and better.
Ketosis seems like a too-good-to-be true magical thing. You can eat until you are full, you never have hunger and cravings, you lose fat without starving, you build muscle without exercising, You body burns fat and heals all your “numbers”. You get off your medications. You stop hurting all over. You can have lots of energy. No more naps after meals. And you can have mental clarity, no depression and no anxiety, but full of ideas and optimism. And you start looking younger. Who wouldn’t want that? You can have ALL of that.
Or you can have bread.