3 min|Rhiannon Lockhart

Get To Know Your Hormones: Insulin


In this instalment of our “get to know your hormones'' series, we’ll dive into insulin.

You might associate insulin with diabetes, but did you know it’s actually a hormone? In fact, it’s a pretty important one that is directly impacted by your diet. You have likely read or heard your practitioner mention that all of your hormones interact. Before we dive into how insulin plays a role in numerous ailments, let’s take a look at how it works in our body.

Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas, and its primary role is to control our glucose (sugar) levels. Glucose comes from the food that we eat. Additionally, it encourages storage of excess glucose in the liver, muscle and fat cells. This is stored for a time when we need energy, but don’t have glucose immediately available for use. (1)

There are numerous diseases and conditions that can be impacted by our body’s ability to regulate insulin.

Here are a few:

1. Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is typically a precursor for the conditions highlighted below. When someone is “insulin resistant” (as is sometimes the case with type 2 diabetes, but not always), it means they do not respond normally to insulin in their body and their liver, muscle and fat cells do not absorb glucose from the blood as it should. Your pancreas then produces excess insulin to help glucose be absorbed properly. (2)

2. Diabetes (Type 1 & 2)

Those with Type 1 diabetes do not make insulin, however those with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes deal with issues of insulin regulation/production.

If a person is diagnosed as prediabetic or diabetic, it means that they may be insulin resistant, or their beta cells (the ones that make insulin) aren’t functioning properly and not producing enough to maintain balanced blood sugar. (2) In these cases, a person essentially builds up a tolerance to insulin and is given more to aid in the absorption of glucose.

3. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is considered both a reproductive and metabolic disorder; it is commonly marked by:

  • male-pattern hair growth or loss

  • insulin resistance

  • irregular cycles

  • cysts on ovaries

  • weight gain

  • irregular or missing periods

  • anovulatory cycles and acne

Note: not all symptoms need to be present for a PCOS diagnosis.

Insulin resistance impacts approximately 65-70% of those diagnosed with PCOS.(3) In fact, the hyperinsulinemia that proceeds insulin resistance appears to directly increase androgens (male hormones that can be the instigators of excessive hair growth and skin issues), which is another blood marker of PCOS.

See, we said all of your hormones are interconnected!

4. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

NAFLD is the most chronic liver condition, world wide and is caused by a dysfunction in how our liver metabolizes fatty compounds. (4)

It is strongly correlated with Type 2 diabetes, metabolic disorders and insulin resistance. (5)

insulin hormone nutrition

Can you find balance with diet and lifestyle?

In most cases, diet and lifestyle can play a significant role in your body’s ability to utilize blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity.

When looking at blood sugar regulation, maintaining a balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins is essential. Also, choosing the right types of carbohydrates plays a big role in how your body digests them.

A few tips for you:
  • Choose complex/slow carbs that take longer to digest (i.e. whole grains, starchy vegetables, low-carb fruits)

  • Pair your carbohydrates with a protein or fat

  • Aim to consume 20-30g of protein at each meal (especially breakfast!)

  • Avoid processed foods as many contain unnecessary added sugars

  • Go for a walk after you have a higher-carbohydrate meal

  • Work with a health care practitioner that can create an individualized plan for you.

Want to gain control of your health? Book your appointment today.

  1. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/physrev.00063.2017

  2. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/prediabetes-insulin-resistance

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3277302/

  4. https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/5/1367/5479344

  5. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/cjgh/2021/6613827/

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