You need to know that estrogen, progesterone, DHEA and the thyroid hormones are all important for the regulation of glucose in the body. For instance, estrogen will lower blood sugar in a woman, testosterone decreases blood sugar in a man and progesterone will raise blood sugar if not balanced with estrogen! Insulin is classified as an anabolic or “building” ( aka “storage”)hormone. Its levels need to be neither too low or too high but just right for the hormone to function effectively. It counters the effects of cortisol in the body, helps the body to repair. It helps convert blood sugar into triglycerides when there is an excess of glucose in the system. Insulin keeps blood glucose levels from rising and at NORMAL levels increases the development of muscle. It plays a role in the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Insulin levels that are too high or too low indicate that insulin is not working very effectively in the body and are indicative of a pre-diabetic state. Symptoms of insulin deficiency include bone loss, depression, fatigue and insomnia. The causes of insulin deficiency are eliminating carbohydrates from the diet, not eating enough and over-exercising. remember, your body needs some carbohydrates. 25% of ingested carbs go directly to the brain for fuel.
Excess insulin levels are associated with acne, acceleration of the aging process, asthma, breast cancer, colon cancer, depression and mood swings, estrogen levels that are too low and heart disease. The association of excess insulin with heartburn, high cholesterol levels, hypertension, increased triglycerides, infertility, insomnia, irritable bowel, migraines and weight gain has been documented as has osteopenia and bone loss. Excess insulin production has many causes. The most important are high carbohydrate diet, soft drinks, diet pills, eating a low fat diet, increased consumption of trans fats, excess caffeine intake, excessive intake thyroid medication, increased testosterone levels, insomnia, lack of exercise, low estrogen, skipping meals, smoking, hypothyroidism, stress, artificial sweeteners and certain MEDICATIONS like beta blockers, birth control pills, steroids, thiazide diuretics and some antidepressants and antipsychotics.
Insulin is a key hormone in the regulation of metabolism. If its levels are allowed to get too high or too low, pre-diabetes, diabetes (Type 2), hypertension and cardiovascular complications will ensue. It will accelerate the aging process. In this day and age of “sugar addiction” it would be prudent to regulate one’s dietary habits so as to normalize insulin levels and avoid the dire consequences of too low or excess levels!
In our last installment on women’s hormones, tomorrow we will explore pregnenolone, the “mother” of all hormones, and melatonin, an important hormone AND antioxidant.