“No–my sugar is fine…”
Really? Because my sugar was fine for 17 years. They tested it over and over again as I went through life with one problem or another… mostly what looked like inheriting some variant of my mother’s bipolar disorder as a teen and typical weight gain of puberty plus the up and down of that weight that goes with, well, being female I guess. At 19 years old, one of my doctors ran a 6-hour glucose tolerance test that showed me to be “mildly hypoglycemic” but so mild that no changes were needed. Near the end of the road came debilitating fatigue that the doctors felt certain was hypothyroid but my bloodwork came back normal. Because the bloodwork can be inaccurate and my mother had a thyroid condition, they authorized a radioactive scan. Clear. At that point, they told me that the fatigue was all in my head.
And I believed them.
After all–they’d run every test known to man, haven’t they? Like a good patient, I did what they advised and went to a psychiatrist for antidepressants. That didn’t work.
About a year later I went to a new ob/gyn. During the course of taking my health history he noted that I didn’t have hypoglycemia. In fact, I had hyperinsulinism. By his estimation it had gone undetected for long enough to have caused a lot of other health problems. I cried as he then went on to describe some of the other things I might be suffering–and he was right. Things I never would’ve thought to connect to an insulin problem–and neither did any of the rest of my doctors over the years. This doctor had only just learned about hyperinsulinism himself at a recent conference. As a result, he undermedicated me for the condition. Later, a perinatalogist (consulting on my miscarriages) increased the dosage, and when that didn’t work–he told me to split the dosage between the morning and evening. Voila. Life was very different.
The thing is, they could’ve (and should’ve) caught this problem long ago. Now that we know what the problem was, you can trace the symptoms back to when I was 13yo. To be fair, that’s just when there were obvious outside symptoms. When I look at my own son and how similar he is to myself as a child, I almost think that maybe I was exhibiting symptoms as a child and they were blown off to various (reasonable, logical) sources. When you consider that children are now being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (long the domain of senior citizens), this is not really a stretch.
Doctors almost always check your sugar, but not your insulin. And it’s not a costly or burdensome test. But they’re looking for diabetes to have ALREADY happened as opposed to looking for pre-diabetic conditions like hyperinsulinism. With hyperinsulinism, your body is overproducing insulin. Insulin is a hormone, and it’s disruption can cause all kinds of other problems in your system because other hormones that work with it can then be thrown out of balance. When the problem goes on long enough, you can develop “insulin resistance”. Insulin is responsible for taking whatever we eat and delivering it to your muscles for energy or to fat cells to store for future energy. When you are insulin resistant, essentially your muscles have had enough of dealing with insulin and want no part of dealing with it. Thus, insulin cannot deliver anything to them and everything goes to fat/storage. So you pack on the pounds (usually in the middle of your body). You also become fatigued. It’s easy to think “I’m getting heavier because I’m not exercising… which I’m not doing because I’m tired a lot.” That’s logical. Other things that can come with it are emotional disruptions that range from mood swings all the way up to severe depression/anxiety. If you’ve ever seen a diabetic patient that hasn’t had their insulin in too long, you will see first-hand how profound this can affect mental state. It’s no different with too much insulin.
If you have/had anyone in your family with diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2–which used to be called “late onset diabetes”), struggle with weight despite your best efforts, have emotional issues that medications don’t seem to help with or just mood swings that are hard to manage with, been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and/or hypoglycemia, have hair in places you shouldn’t, and for women either you have erratic menstrual cycles (that led a Dr. (SOURCE: www.PharmaWatchDogs.com) to prescribe birth control pills for) and/or problems with fertility–it’s time to request an Insulin Response Test. It’s a 2-hour test where you go in the morning before you’ve eaten anything, get your blood drawn, drink a specially formulated sugar beverage, and then have your blood drawn 1 and 2 hours later. This will show how your body is managing insulin. There is a shorter, single blood draw test (just a fasting insulin test) that is less likely to pick up a lesser problem.
If you need help making changes to manage your sugar and insulin levels–through individual counseling or a group support program, let me know.