I have diabetes in my family history. My Dad has Type II, so did an aunt of mine, and my Great Aunt died of it. As a chubby (sort of) kid with that kind of family history, it’s not surprising that my blood sugar has been tested on a regular basis through most of my life. And it’s fine. Always has been. But blood sugar is only the second half of the equation. The first half is how the body reacts to insulin – and mine doesn’t.
Insulin does a lot of things but its biggest job is to control the carbohydrates I eat and transmit the processed glucose to the cells in my body, so I can use that energy. If the cells don’t open up to receive the glucose, my body produces more insulin to force the cells open and to deal with the glucose running loose in my body. This is insulin resistance (a very simple explanation, sorry), and the worst thing about it is a) it stops you losing weight and b) if untreated, leads directly to Type II Diabetes.
A normal insulin level is between 0-17. Mine is 34. Yep, that’s pretty high. I’ve done quite a bit of research on this and although there’s a lot of talk about insulin resistance being part of metabolic syndrome – which includes obesity, high blood pressure etc – it doesn’t really say what causes it, apart from a possibility of a genetic component. What is very clear however, is that a lack of exercise closes up the cell walls and makes them not want to open to insulin. The more exercise you do, the more the cells open up.
In laymen’s terms – not exercising makes me insulin resistant, tired and stops me losing weight. Of course, being overweight and tired is what has stopped me from exercising! (it’s that nasty vicious circle again) On the bright side, exercise can actually reverse the insulin resistance. By doing daily cardio exercise, the cell walls change to admit more insulin, my body gradually reduces its production and a bit further down the line, I start to lose weight. Yep, sounds so easy, doesn’t it?
But wait, there’s more:
- Because my gut is so bad at absorbing nutrients, I have a desperately low level of Vitamin D and the supplements I’ve been taking are a waste of time because my stomach can’t process them. Low Vit D is essential to bone health and supporting the immune system
- I have an abnormally high level of what’s called “free testosterone” in my body, which not only causes the hair on my chin to grow (argh!!!!) but decreases insulin sensitivity and causes muscle weakness.
- Free testosterone is one of the possible causes of insulin resistance, and it’s production goes up as I get older – and yes, I’m of that age, so…
And finally, as if this wasn’t enough, I have another severe deficiency. Cortisol is an essential hormone that gives you energy. In times of stress, your body will produce more cortisol and can give you strong cravings for comfort food containing high fat (and chocolate!). Prolonged stress will automatically store all these extra calories as fat. I know this is what has contributed to my weight problem in the past as I can map out long periods of stress to substantial weight gain.
Well, now I have the opposite problem. At the start of the day, normal cortisol is between 138-690 – mine is 117. At the end of the day, it will be lower, as I’ve used it up on my activities. The normal range for the end of the day is between 70-325 – mine is 50. So, basically, the reason I always feel so damned tired, muscle fatigued and exhausted is because… I am.
After having gone through all this, fatigue is one of the major results of all this imbalance in my body. Ironically, exercise is one of the major cures. So, although I feel tired all the time, the best way I can fix that is to exercise even though I’m too damned tired to get off the couch. That’s the only thing that will increase my level of cortisol and my insulin sensitivity.
And I was so hoping the cure was going to be two or three weeks by a pool in Tahiti…