I’m still putting together the puzzle pieces for you, and there’s another important piece to put in place before we get to how to deal with your weight issues: insulin resistance. Insulin resistance contributes to NAFLD and metabolic syndrome, and is inseparable from sluggish cellular metabolism. Understanding insulin resistance provides us with big clues about what to eat and what to stay away from, and opens a doorway to understanding why we have so many health issues today.
How Do You Heal NAFLD & MS? First Deal With Insulin Resistance
The medical and scientific literature describe various contributing factors of NAFLD & MS, but stops short of taking a firm position on what causes it. Likewise, when it comes to what to do about, neither have much to offer. And it’s not because these issues are so recent that there’s not been time to adequately research them. Metabolic syndrome was first described in medical literature over 100 years ago, and NAFLD was initially described in 1962.
Healing these issues is a matter of seeing the forest from the trees. One of the biggest clues in healing NAFLD & MS is their strong connection with insulin resistance. In basic terms, insulin resistance means that more and more insulin is required to keep your blood sugar within a healthy range. As blood sugar begins going between greater extremes of lows and highs, insulin gradually creeps higher and higher in an attempt to keep your blood sugar within a very narrow range. Increasing insulin levels and swings in blood sugar lead to disastrous health issues, including the obvious like diabetes and the not so obvious like cancer. Managing your blood sugar is no joke, and it’s a wonder that people aren’t sicker than they are given the foods we eat and what they do to our insulin and blood sugar.
Technical Point #3: Insulin Resistance
Increasing levels of insulin are like the ever-increasing voice of a parent (insulin) that’s having to speak more and more loudly to get its children’s (the cells of the body) attention. After a while, the parent is yelling all the time, and the children just tune it all out. Raised voices becomes shouts and threats, and the children get so used to all the noise that they stop paying attention.
Insulin resistance means that the cells resist the action of insulin. Insulin is produced in response to increased blood sugar, and is designed to help drive sugar from the blood to the cells. But what if the cells don’t need sugar right now? Well, they politely decline in every way they know how. And when they do, the body has to take drastic measures, because it’s not cool to have blood sugar just hanging out in the blood supply.
It’s as if there are big signs inside our blood vessels that say no loitering! Blood sugar can’t hang out and skateboard with its buddies, and insulin knows this. Insulin realizes that if sugar is allowed to hang out in the blood for long, bad things happen. Very bad things. As a result, it pleads and begs the cells to take up the sugar, even though they’re not all that hungry. If the cells put on their headphones and do their best to ignore insulin—if they become resistant—, the pancreas pumps out more and more insulin, and the cells eventually give in and take up the sugar they don’t actually need.
As this situation escalates over the years, the cells can become so resistant to taking up blood sugar that you first become prediabetic, after which point you’re likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). T2DM can also occur when the beta cells of the pancreas, which produce insulin, become so fatigued that they can no longer produce ever-increasing rates of insulin, so there’s not enough of it to drive the ever-increasing amounts of glucose from the blood to the tissues.
Both scenarios are common, and both are enormous problems that have to be dealt with to regain your health and lose weight. Diminished insulin production by the pancreas is medically treated via insulin injections, whereas cellular insulin resistance is treated with medications such as Metformin. Both approaches are classic examples of problem-focused thinking, and both lead to further health consequences.
Neither approach addresses the real issue: insulin resistance. Instead, they use medications which are designed to allow people to continue doing the very things they’ve been doing to cause their insulin levels to remain sky high: eating excess carbohydrates and protein.
Trust me when I tell you that I’m not the first one to figure this stuff out. I assure you that this information has been known in government, medical, scientific and pharmaceutical worlds for decades. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions as to why you don’t hear anything about NAFLD, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance—and you certainly don’t hear much about how these health issues underlie diseases like cancer, stroke and heart problems. You don’t hear that all this is largely preventable, even though the CDC, NIH, WHO, JAMA, etc., have been unequivocally stating for years that they are.
What Causes Insulin Resistance & Therefore NAFLD, MS & Poor Cellular Metabolism?
Insulin resistance is predominantly caused by eating too many carbohydrates. It’s not as simple as that, but carbs are the main culprit. Unfortunately, just cutting carbs won’t heal you of fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome and impaired cellular metabolism once all this is taking place in your life. Ask me how I know this. I know this not only from personal experience, but from having worked with hundreds of clients who’ve jumped on the low-carb bandwagon, only to find that it’s not enough to turn the tide once they’ve developed metabolic syndrome, fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, adrenal issues, hormone imbalances, sleep disturbances, thyroid issues, gut issues and the list goes on. It’s a step in the right direction, but there are other steps that also need to be taken or you’ll more than likely just wander around for a while without arriving at any real destination.
To extract yourself from insulin resistance, fatty liver disease and metabolic syndrome, you’ve got to completely rethink your entire diet from top to bottom, and you’ve got to do things the right way. There’s a time to enter into all or nothing mode, and this is one of those times. This is not the time to dabble or just stick your toes in the water, it’s the time to jump in and swim. Why? Because when it comes to healing all these issues, you’ve gotta do it just right or you’ll make things worse than they already are, which isn’t what you want.
Seriously, what I’m going to describe can and will blow up in your face if you don’t follow the directions. It’s not the time to get creative with the recipe, it’s the time to follow it and do exactly what it says. I’m a little bit ahead of myself, but this serves as an introduction to the next and final section before we put all the pieces of the puzzle together and see where its led us. In this important section, it’ll become clear what to eat and why—essential things to know in order to move through your underlying health issues.
Macronutrients: Fats, Proteins And Carbohydrates
Macro means large, big. The big nutrients humans eat fall into three distinct classes: fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Carbs are things that breakdown into sugars. Examples are fruits, vegetables, grains, cereals, sweets, juices, breads, alcohol, honey, chocolate, pasta, legumes, seeds and most junk foods. You know what they are. Proteins are found in foods such as meats, fish, dairy products, legumes, nuts and seeds, and in some vegetables as well. Fats are found in foods like red meat, fish, dairy, nuts and seeds, avocados, olives and eggs.
Point Of Major Importance!
To heal yourself of fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, etc., you’ve got to ingest the right proportions of macronutrients. Too much of one and not enough of the others contributes to the health issues we’re dealing with, which makes it clear enough that virtually no one is landing on the right combination of macronutrients. What’s more, once you’re dealing with all these conditions, you’ve got to be even more exacting with your macronutrient intake or you’re not going to get anywhere. The key to optimizing your cellular metabolism also lies in hitting the macronutrient jackpot: once you learn to eat the right combination of macronutrients, all of these health issues are positively influenced, and losing weight finally becomes possible.
What Macronutrients Do I Actually Have To Eat?
This is the $64,000 question. Of the three macronutrients, only 2 are required for life: fat and protein. The things that are required for life are described as essential: that’s the word used by healthcare and science folk to describe the things you have to have to live. Missing from the short list of essential macronutrients is carbohydrates. Surprising as it may be, there’s no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. You could live for 100 years without ever eating a single carb, and if you’d like to live to 100 and be healthy when you get there, that’d be one of the first things to do: stop eating carbs. Why? Because you can’t become insulin resistant without eating carbs. Period.
Huh? If that’s the case, then why does the U.S. Government suggest that adult males ingest a whopping 296 grams (2/3’s of a pound) and adult females ingest 224 grams (1/2 pound) of carbs daily? It’s a very good question, and I’m still scratching my head in search of a sensible answer. Even the American Diabetes Association recommends huge amounts of carbs…for diabetics!
Wait–Are You Saying Carbs Aren’t Good For Me?
A big piece of the weight loss (and health optimization) puzzle is eating the right macronutrients. One of the biggest myths out there today is that you need carbohydrates to live. You don’t. And you really don’t need them once a lifetime of overfeeding on them has taken its toll on your health. Why? Because carbs lead to insulin resistance, and once you’re insulin resistant, have fatty liver and poor cellular metabolism, continuing to eat carbs will compound your problems.
No, you don’t need carbs. Not ever, period, end of story. But. I’m not saying that you don’t ever want to eat them again. That’s silly. Personally, I eat only a small amount of them—easily less than 20 grams per day on average—and I’ll get to the rationale for why I choose to keep them to such a minimal amount as we go.
For now, the next thing to cover is why eating anywhere close to the amount of carbs recommended by the government and healthcare professionals, especially in conjunction with other macronutrients, is a surefire way to invite every health issue there is. With this in mind, let’s have a look at a what macronutrients to ingest to begin healing through fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and the other health issues that occur alongside them.
As I mentioned, the only essential (required for life) macronutrients are fats and protein. That’s it. If you cut out carbs and eat only fat and moderate protein, your insulin resistance can gradually heal, and your cellular metabolism will have the opportunity to optimize. Pretty cool, huh? It’s that simple, and the point is beyond dispute. Fat and moderate protein intake don’t affect insulin or blood sugar—only carbohydrates cause problems with blood sugar and insulin, and that’s a physiological fact.
What causes insulin resistance? Excess blood sugar. Where does excess blood sugar come from? Eating too many carbs. Facts are facts, and this fact will never change: weight gain, health issues, diseases, NAFLD, MS, insulin resistance, etc., can only be caused by excess carb intake, and all of these things can only be reversed once you sufficiently limit or eliminate carbs from your diet. There’s no way around it, so let’s get to the heart of the matter.
It’s Really Not That Complicated
The truth of the matter is that weight loss isn’t really all that complicated after all. What makes it seem complicated is that what you’ve been led to believe your entire life is not only untrue, it’s downright dangerous. When you find out that what governments and medicine are telling us to do is actually killing us, it can seem a bit far-fetched, even though the conclusions are inescapable: following dietary recommendations destroys our health.
Here’s A Classic Example, Straight Out Of Americana
What Happens When You Eat Carbs, Fat And Protein At The Same Time?
Let’s have a look at what happens when we mix carbs together with fat and protein in the same meal. When you read this section, keep in mind that this is something 99% of westerners are doing several times a day, every day. Bear with me as I bring up the point one more time that we’ve been trained to eat “western style” not because it’s good for us, but to sell us certain food groups. And after a hundred or so years, we’ve all accepted that some of our classic western meals are not only harmless, but celebratory. Are they? Let’s have a look at one of the most classic meals out there: the burger, fries and a beer.
Burger, Fries And A Beer
You’re out running errands, and realize that you’re not going to get home at a reasonable hour, so you stop and have your favorite meal: a bacon cheeseburger, fries and a beer. Let’s turn our attention to what happens to your health when you partake in this well-worn American pastime.
When you eat a burger and fries and wash it down with a beer, the carbs in the beer, bun and fries will begin increasing your blood sugar within minutes. Let’s count a few carbs: there’s 29g for the bun, about 50g for the fries (medium size), and about 14g for the beer, or a total of 93 grams of carbs. If you’re more the soft drink kind, add another 15 grams of pure sugary goodness to the total. Surely if the government recommends 224g daily for women and 296g per day for men, this paltry 93 grams isn’t going to cause any problems, is it?
The answer to this question blows people’s minds. Yes, eating this much carbohydrate at one sitting will cause problems. What problems? Fatty liver, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, impaired cellular metabolism, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, overweight issues and of course obesity. Let’s go about it this way: how much sugar is your blood before you eat that coveted burger and fries meal, and how much blood sugar can your system use at any given time?
A Teaspoon Of Sugar
To answer this, we first need to know that the average human has about 5 liters of blood, or 1.32 gallons. That’s a lot of blood! Most people are pretty surprised to learn that we have so much blood, and they’re even more surprised to find that in such a massive amount of blood, there’s a really small amount of total sugar—less than 5 grams of total sugar per more than 1.3 gallons.
To be precise, a healthy person will have between 3.75 and 4.95 grams of sugar in approximately 5 liters of blood. 3.75 grams of total blood sugar equals a blood sugar reading of 75 mg/dl, and 4.95g of blood sugar comes out to a reading of 100 mg/dl. These values define the healthy range of fasting (haven’t eaten for a while) blood sugar. To be even more precise, a fasting blood sugar reading above 85 is getting too high, but that’s a topic for another post.
Once you’re over a baseline of 5 grams of sugar in your blood while fasting, you’re exhibiting blood sugar and insulin issues—the signs of metabolic syndrome. If you have 7 grams of sugar in your blood while fasting, or 90 minutes after eating, your blood glucose value is 140 mg/dl, and you’re unquestionably banging on the door of full-on diabetes.
For those who’re metric-challenged, 4.95 grams of blood sugar is less than a level teaspoon of sugar. That’s all. A healthy adult has less than a level teaspoon of sugar dissolved in 1.3 gallons of blood. We put at least that much in our coffee each morning. So. If you inhale 93 grams of carbs in one sitting, something’s gotta happen to all that sugar, and it’s gotta happen pronto. Why? Because the amount of sugar (carbohydrates) in said burger meal is about 19 times the amount of sugar you currently have in your blood if your blood sugar is at 100 mg/dl, which is already a bit of a high reading.
It’s Just Your 19th Nervous Breakdown
When you add 19 times more sugar than your body requires, it goes berserk. And the way it goes is berserk is by releasing copious amounts of insulin into the bloodstream in an attempt to talk the cells into taking up all 93 grams of that sugar, which is not about to happen. 19 teaspoons of sugar is way more than the average person’s cells can use at once, even if they’re eating their burger meal halfway through an Ironman triathlon.
None of this would be a problem if the body could allow all the excess sugar to remain in the bloodstream for hours, but it can’t. Blood chemistry is very tightly regulated, and an increase from 5 to 7 grams of glucose dissolved in 5 liters of blood—we’re talking an increase of only two grams of sugar in 1.3 gallons—is enough to throw your entire life into a tailspin. The body can’t tolerate extra sugar in the blood, and it can’t talk the cells into taking all of it up, either. Therefore, it has to resort to other measures, and many of those measures are handled by insulin, the hitman that’s only doing its job.
A big takeaway here is that the range of healthy blood sugar is very, very narrow. A gram of sugar is a pretty small thing, and the difference between being healthy and spiraling into all the issues we’re describing in this series of posts happens over a few grams of blood sugar. Again, overfeeding of carbs is a powerful contributor to all the health issues we’re attempting to resolve.
Here’s A Simplified Explanation Of What Takes Place When You Eat More Carbs Than You Can Use For Fuel In The Present Moment:
1. For starters, your pancreas dumps a pile of insulin into your blood, and insulin talks your muscle and fat cells into eating as much glucose (blood sugar) as they can stand.
2. All that insulin has another effect: it causes your liver to decrease its production of blood sugar, a point we’ll get back to in point #8.1, as it’s an important piece of our health/weight loss puzzle.
3. Insulin converts excess blood sugar into glycogen, a storage form of glucose the body can set aside in small amounts of for future use.
4. Insulin increases fat storage, especially in the abdominal region. Insulin talks fat cells into taking up fats, thereby making us fatter. We become fat by eating carbs which convert into fat, not from eating fat. More on this in point #8.
5. Insulin signals your liver to convert excess blood sugar into saturated fat. Some of it is stored in the liver—think nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
6. Insulin decreases fat burning—it’s not possible to burn fat as fuel so long as insulin levels are high. Insulin has the double whammy effect of increasing fat stores in the body and the liver, and then makes it impossible to tap into the fat and burn it as fuel. That’s why if you go on a diet, you’ll won’t be able to burn fat unless your insulin levels drop first: to access fat, you first have to lower insulin levels, and that’s not possible so long as carbs remain a part of your diet.
7. Insulin causes your body to manufacture more fat cells to store the extra fat generated from eating the wrong combination of macronutrients.
8. As you repeat this burger/fries/beer extravaganza through the years, your body adapts by keeping your insulin level high 24 hours a day. That’s part of insulin resistance. Your insulin levels have to increase and remain elevated, because greater and greater amounts of insulin are needed to regulate your blood sugar as your cells become increasing resistant to the affects of insulin.
What happens as your insulin levels increase and remain high? You crave carbs like they’re going out of style, and as soon as you eat them, the high levels of insulin clear so much glucose from your blood that you become reactionarily hypoglycemic—you wind up with too little blood sugar. And when that happens, you crave more carbs, which spikes insulin even more, which leads to further hypoglycemia, and the pattern continues.
8.1 In point #2, I mentioned that high insulin levels tell your liver to stop producing blood sugar. This can be a good thing, but it inevitably causes problems. When you overfeed on carbs, your liver slows down its production of blood sugar, as there’s already too much blood sugar pouring in from the burger and fries. High insulin levels tell the liver to stop producing blood sugar, but the very same high insulin levels also clear too much glucose from the blood, inevitably leaving you in the hypoglycemic state just described. Once insulin levels remain high, the liver’s ability to regulate blood sugar is impaired, generally leading to chronic reactionary hypoglycemia.
9. High insulin levels mess with your cholesterol and triglycerides. This is an enormously complex subject that I won’t go into here, but suffice it to say that even in the early stages of insulin resistance, issues are developing with your HDL, LDL, and VLDL cholesterol, especially in relation to the number and size of the cholesterol particles in your blood. These issues show up even before your blood sugar shows signs of being too high and/or too low.
10. There’s a lot more to the story, but that’s enough to describe the basics of what happens when we eat too many carbs at once. By now, you’re starting to get the big idea, and it’s becoming clear that eating more carbs than you can turn to fuel in the present moment is inseparable from darn near every health issue you can think of.
That Was Only The Carbs—What About The Rest Of The Meal?
What happens to the rest of the burger and fries meal? We’ve only described what happened to the carbs, and there was plenty of fat and protein thrown in for good measure in our burger, fries and beer extravaganza. Let’s now turn our attention to what happens to the other macronutrients we ate: protein and fat.
Carbohydrates tend to digest relatively quickly. The simplest ones will hit your bloodstream within minutes, while the more complex ones take longer to digest. The protein in the burger takes 3-4 hours to digest and begin entering your bloodstream. Our bodies need protein to build tissue, hormones, neurotransmitters and various other things. And just like blood sugar, if you take in more than you need at any given time, it causes problems. How does the body handle excess protein intake? It converts whatever it can’t use in the moment into—you guessed it—blood sugar.
Yep. So if you had a bacon cheeseburger and your body only needed a moderate amount of protein, the excess protein from the beef, bacon and cheese will be converted to blood sugar. So just like carbs, excess protein also causes an insulin spike and all the same issues associated with carbohydrate overfeeding, especially when it’s eaten along with carbs.
As the excess protein from the bacon, cheese and beef is being converted to blood sugar, insulin once again has to be the bad guy and coerce the cells into having another meal that they really don’t need, and all the points listed above recur, because the cells were still full from all the carbs that just hit the bloodstream.
And now here comes all the fat from the burger and fries, a total of about 56 grams. Remember our old friend, insulin? As you might have guessed, it’s going to factor into what happens to all this fat that’s now making its way into your bloodstream. Fat doesn’t cause insulin to raise (an incredibly important point!), but high levels of insulin make it impossible to burn fat as fuel, meaning it’s got to be converted into…fat.
Once excess carbs are ingested, fats and excess protein become a liability, because the cells can’t take these macronutrients up as fuel very effectively, and they’ll be stored as fat in some way, shape or form.
- Weight issues stem from overfeeding on carbs, because blood sugar that can’t be used as fuel is stored as fat
- Carbs cause hyperinsulinemia (excess insulin) and insulin resistance
- Hyperinsulinemia causes numerous health issues
- Hyperinsulinemia causes cholesterol/triglyceride issues
- Mixing excess carbs with other macronutrients compounds our health issues
- There’s only a tiny bit of sugar in a large volume of blood
- We’ve been educated and marketed into overfeeding on carbohydrates
- You don’t need carbs to live—only fat and protein are required for life
We’ll wrap this series of posts up in the next post, Part III. Click here to read Part III of this series.
Click here to read Part I
Have issues you’d like to get help with? Send Dr. Teagarden an email. firstname.lastname@example.org