Ever get that “hanger” feeling or unexplained foot cramps?Here’s what your weird ailments could be trying to tell you.
First, a very quick, simplified science lesson (it’s important, we promise).
You’ve probably heard of the relationship between insulin and diabetes, and perhaps know a little bit about the difference between type 1 and type 2.
The thing is, type 2 diabetes doesn’t just happen overnight or as a result of bad luck, and more and more research is looking into the role of modern diets and lifestyles in the development of other conditions known as insulin resistance and prediabetes.
Unfortunately, the parameters in blood tests are usually too wide to pick up on blood sugar conditions before they become a real problem, and many mainstream health practitioners believe that insulin resistance and prediabetes carry no symptoms.
However, chronically elevated insulin levels often cause inflammation and other sources of discomfort in the body, which you can use as possible warning signs to turn things around before it’s too late – here are seven of them:
Irritability, cravings, hollow hunger and weakness
Okay, so four symptoms in one – but they’re all linked and chances are you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about when we say the word “hungry”.
Basically, a healthy liver is able to produce and store fat and glucose, which helps to control your weight as well as your blood sugar level.
If you haven’t eaten in a while,your liver should be able to release some stored glucose into your bloodstream to keep your energy levels up and your hunger at bay.
However, if you have a “fatty” liver from a diet too high in carbohydrates, besides weight gain you might find that you often feel extremely hungry, weak or irritable, so keep an eye out for these feelings – regardless of your weight.
And those sudden cravings for junk food? You may have heard that when you’re craving chocolate your body is actually trying to tell you it needs magnesium.
Magnesium is vital for healthy insulin performance, and suffering from cravings for sugar or carbohydrates is a common complaint in people with high blood insulin who – ironically – eat way too many carbs.
Insulin promotes higher levels of the male hormone testosterone and increases the sensitivity of your face to testosterone, so if you’re insulin resistant you’ll be more likely to get acne and greasy skin.
While other factors such as your personal care products can influence how much sebum (oil) your skin produces, a good test can be to give yourself a DIY honey face mask or sugar scrub – if you’re particularly sensitive to insulin, you’ll more than likely break out within a day or so.
Poor circulation and cramps
Poor circulation isn’t actually a condition in itself, but the result from other health issues – including, believe it or not, diabetes.
Diabetes is known to cause poor circulation in your extremities which can lead to cramping in your legs, calves, thighs or buttocks.
People with advanced diabetes usually have difficulty identifying poor circulation as their sensitivity has become so damaged, but if you regularly suffer from cold extremities and cramps (especially after sugar or a carbohydrate-heavy meal), don’t ignore them – you may be in the early stages of insulin resistance.
Is it really insulin resistance?
While you should check with your doctor as your first port of call, they may be reluctant to test your blood sugar levels, or may feel that your levels are within the normal parameters.
However, there are plenty of home testing kits to help get you started with self-monitoring your blood glucose.
You want your blood sugar first thing in the morning to be between 75 and 95 mg/dL, and you should aim to keep it above 75 mg/dL throughout the day and below 120 mg/dL two hours after a meal.
You can find a great guide on why you should aim for these levels here with some excellent further reading on related issues of thyroid health and hyper- and hypoglycaemia.
How to banish your symptoms for good
To get rid of these weird ailments, you need to bring your blood sugar levels to within a healthy range primarily through diet and exercise.
If it is indeed insulin resistance you’ve got, you won’t be able to handle normal levels of sugar or carbohydrates, so you’ll need to massively reduce your intake.
The right amount looks different for each individual, but your blood sugar will remain above 120 mg/dL two hours after a meal if you’ve eaten too many carbs for your own personal tolerance, so you’ll need to adjust your diet accordingly.
Sugar and carbs make up an enormous part of our modern diets, but you can fulfill your particular needs from a diet rich in vegetables with very small amounts of fruit, nuts and seeds.
You also want to hugely increase your protein, which amazingly is the most important nutrient for weight loss, feeling fuller longer and reducing your insulin levels – you can buy protein online but just be sure to look for low-carb products.
A simple way to overhaul your diet quickly and avoid withdrawal symptoms is to avoid any premade, packaged foods, opting instead for whole foods that are as close to their natural state as physically possible.
Some people also find it helpful to eat small meals every 2-3 hours instead of three large meals a day,giving their bodies a continuous supply of energy and avoiding those mid-afternoon crashes.