How to Know if You Have Blood Sugar + Insulin Issues

clues you have blood sugar + insulin issues
I'm Dr. Mamie!

I'm trained in naturopathic medicine + Chinese medicine + functional medicine, and I teach women how to transform their health using natural therapies + a root-cause approach! I share the truth as I know it.

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Blood sugar dysregulation and insulin resistance causes a LOT of health issues—and I’m not just talking about pre-diabetes or diabetes! 

There are over a dozen ways that blood sugar and insulin problems affect your health! (You can read about that here.)

And because insulin dysregulation affects your other hormones, it can also lead to adrenal dysfunction, thyroid problems, and sex hormone imbalances over time (more on that hormone connection here).

Almost everyone I work with is dealing with blood sugar and insulin issues on some level. And it’s no surprise given that 88% of American adults are metabolically unhealthy!

That’s why I’m sharing some of the main ways you can figure out if insulin imbalances are part of YOUR health picture!

Clues You’re Dealing with Insulin Resistance

When I’m working with a patient, my biggest focus is on listening to the story their body is telling. 

Labs can be very helpful (more on that in a minute), but what your body communicates through symptoms provides the most important insight.

There are actually several clues you’re dealing with insulin resistance, and these are related to how you feel, your lifestyle choices, and where your body gains weight:

  1. Waking up with sugar cravings
  2. Craving sweets throughout the day or after meals
  3. Eating sweets doesn’t relieve cravings
  4. Fatigue after meals
  5. Needing stimulants after meals, like coffee or other forms of caffeine
  6. Difficulty falling asleep
  7. An energy dip or fatigue in the afternoons
  8. Waking up unrested or unrefreshed
  9. Having high-sugar or high-carb foods or beverages during your first meal
  10. Lack of physical activity
  11. Feeling hungry soon after a meal or difficulty feeling satiated
  12. A lack of adequate protein and healthy fats in your diet
  13. Difficulty losing weight and weight gain that occurs primarily in your mid-section (abdominal weight gain)

These are all clues that you’re dealing with blood sugar dysregulation that’s leading to insulin resistance!

So if any of these apply to you, check out my my free guide: 4 Steps to Skyrocket Your Energy, where I teach you some of the most effective ways to support happy blood sugar and insulin!

Chronic Stress Causes Insulin Issues

When you’re under stress, which is the case for SO MANY of us, your adrenals respond by secreting cortisol and adrenaline. 

And that’s actually going to cause your blood sugar to rise. 

This is because your body is anticipating that you’ll need to fight or flee (that’s basically what stress means to your body). So it’s mobilizing glucose so that your cells will have the energy they need to deal with that stressor. 

You see, your body doesn’t really distinguish between stress that’s related to a deadline at work, or a fight with your significant other, or being stuck in traffic vs. stress where your life is actually in danger. So all perceived stress is going to result in a release of glucose so you can rise to the challenge. 

This means that over time, chronic stress leads to chronic blood sugar spikes, which leads to insulin resistance (in addition to causing adrenal dysfunction—read more about that here and here).

This is one of the major ways that chronic stress can lead to significant health issues (remember, insulin imbalances impact your health in a number of ways), and this is a big reason why stress management techniques are CRUCIAL to health and healing.

Expanded Labwork Can Identify Insulin Problems Earlier

fasting glucose

If you see a doctor for annual labwork, you’ve probably had a fasting glucose drawn as part of a Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP) or a Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP).

Fasting glucose will start to rise above normal when you’re dealing with insulin resistance, but the reality is you can actually be developing insulin resistance long before your fasting glucose is out of the normal range. 

This is one reason why functional lab ranges can be so helpful! I like to see a fasting glucose around 80-86 mg/dL, although I will expand this range depending on the rest of the picture.

BUT, it’s also why there are a few more labs you want to get annually to assess your insulin resistance status. 

fasting insulin

The most important lab to get is a fasting insulin. If this marker is above the normal range, you definitely have insulin resistance going on. 

But if your fasting insulin is over 5 uIU/mL, which is still in the normal range, then your body is on the road to insulin resistance, and it’d be smart to make some changes.

hemoglobin a1c

Another important lab is hemoglobin A1c, sometimes written as A1c or HbA1c. This marker is often described as a representation of your average glucose over the last three months (and it does indirectly tell us about that).

But really what it’s measuring is how “glycosylated” your hemoglobin is. 

Hemoglobin is inside of your red blood cells, and it’s what carries oxygen to all your cells and tissues.

When hemoglobin becomes glycosylated (which means a sugar has been attached to it; this happens when it’s exposed to high levels of blood sugar), it damages the ability of your body to deliver oxygen to your tissues. 

So a HbA1c level that’s above the normal range not only indicates blood sugar and insulin issues, it also means that your body’s ability to deliver oxygen to your tissues is being impacted.

I like to see a HbA1c level that’s between 4.6-5.3%.

fasting triglyceride to HDL ratio

If you divide your fasting triglyceride level (it HAS to be a fasting value for this ratio to be useful) by your HDL value, you want to get a number that’s less than 2. Values greater than 2 are one of the best predictors of insulin resistance (and heart disease).

Your doctor should be running a lipid panel on you annually, so you should have this data. Hopefully they told you to fast at least 10 hours before your blood draw! If they didn’t, make sure you’re fasting before your next draw.

Blood Sugar + Insulin Issues Are a Very Common Problem

Now that you know some important ways to spot blood sugar dysregulation and insulin resistance, be sure to check out my article How to Reverse Insulin Resistance to learn what you can do to fix this very prevalent and impactful issue!

Also check out my free guide: 4 Steps to Skyrocket Your Energy, where I share some important fundamental changes you can make to regulate your blood sugar and insulin.

Want personalized guidance? Learn how my approach can help you transform your health here.

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tree hugger, potato lover, health detective, empath, NATURE + science

Hi, I'm Mamie.
I'm a different kind of doctor.

I'll take the time to listen to your concerns, understand your whole health picture, teach you what your symptoms mean and why they're happening, and empower you to rebuild your health and care for your body. I'll help you reclaim your rightful place as the leading expert on YOUR health!

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