Community » Understanding Your Lab Work: Fasting Insulin Test

Understanding Your Lab Work: Fasting Insulin Test

Diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes and blood sugar issues like metabolic syndrome, hypoglycemia and obesity are epidemic across the world.

And while it can be easy to blame the victims for their own conditions (“she eats too much sugar”, “he never exercises”, etc.) this epidemic is indicative of a larger issue: standard medical tests are failing to detect the root causes of blood sugar issues before they become full-blown conditions.

Type 2 Diabetes, for example, doesn’t develop over the course of days or a couple weeks or even months.

It typically starts with a condition called insulin resistance, which can take years and years to show up on standard blood sugar tests; at which point you’d get diagnosed with pre or Type 2 Diabetes

At kNew Health, our mission to help you catch the early signs of chronic health issues—like diabetes—before they become diagnosable health hazards.

Enter the Fasting Insulin Test—one of the most important tests for predicting future blood sugar issues

The Fasting Insulin Test is truly one of the simplest, most affordable and most accurate tests available to detect a trend toward pre-diabetes.

We call it the pre-pre-diabetes test, because it measures your insulin levels, which typically becomes imbalanced long before glucose or HbA1C levels.

Here’s how that works: most doctors screen patients for diabetes with the fasting glucose test.

If that test comes back normal, which it so often does, they tell you you’re good-to-go.

But the truth is, your body in it’s infinite wisdom, will often compensate for blood sugar issues by raising insulin levels to keep your blood glucose and HbA1c in-check.

So when your doctor runs that fasting glucose test and everything looks fine, in reality you could be trending toward a blood sugar issue. And the Fasting Insulin Test is one of the best ways to detect this early on.

Plus, the Fasting Insulin Test Detects Another Epidemic Blood Sugar Issue

As we mentioned above, this test is one of the best ways to detect insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance takes root when your cells, either due to genetics and/or lifestyle factors, become less sensitive to the effects of insulin. This requires the pancreas to produce more, which drives up your insulin levels.

This condition has become common in recent years—according to the Centers for Disease Control up to 1 in 3 Americans have insulin resistance[note]https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2017/16_0287.htm[/note]—and it’s symptoms are such that many people can live with it unknowingly for years.

All the while, a bigger blood sugar issue, like diabetes, may be brewing.  And elevated blood sugar from diabetes—if unaddressed—can turn into metabolic syndrome, a major cause of cardiovascular disease.  

Common Symptoms of Insulin Resistance Include:

  • Weight-gain, especially around the middle
  • Obesity
  • Fatigue or lack of energy after eating
  • Feeling best eating frequently (e.g. every few hours) to keep optimal energy
  • Hormone imbalances, including PCOS and infertility in women
  • Acne
  • Craving carbohydrate foods (e.g. pasta, bread, sweets, sweetened beverages)
  • Hypoglycemic episodes (feeling shaky, weak, emotional from low blood sugar)

To be clear, blood glucose and HbA1C testing are valuable, but the Fasting Insulin is ideal for predicting early signs of blood sugar trouble.

At kNew, for example, we look at your Fasting Insulin with your HbA1c to give us a broad picture of how your body is handling sugar.

Who Should Get the Fasting Insulin Test?

Considering one-third of Americans have insulin resistance[note]https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2017/16_0287.htm[/note], we highly recommend everyone have an annual Fasting Insulin Test.

And it’s offered to all kNew Health members as part of their initial lab work.

What Your Fasting Insulin Lab Marker Ranges Mean

As usual, when it comes to your insulin levels, we aim for “optimal/functional levels”, not just “normal” or “high-normal” levels (and after what you’ve just learned you can probably see why).

Optimal Fasting Insulin Levels:

  • Less than 8 (or even better, around 4 or 5) — this means you’re not creating a high insulin demand, creating inflammation, or promoting fat storage. Your body is producing insulin at optimal levels.

Higher levels than 8 definitely indicate some degree of insulin resistance.

This means the cells in your body have become resistant to insulin’s effort to get sugar inside our cell (where it can give us energy).

The pancreas tries to overcompensate by flooding the body with increasingly higher levels of insulin in order to force your cells to open up and take the sugar.

This is another marker whose standard reference range (which remember, is just a statistical norm capturing the average American’s status) reflects the epidemic of dis-ease currently present in our culture. 

We want to help you get your markers to optimal levels to give you the greatest protection from future issues.

Our goal is to help you uncover and address the dysfunctional dynamics now, in an effort to help you to avoid diagnoses later on.

What to do if your Fasting Insulin Ranges are Sub-Optimal

First off, don’t beat yourself up. Because in this scenario, even “bad news” can be good news.

Why?

Because you’ve caught a trend toward pre-diabetes early on, which means there’s still time to turn this ship around.

And make no mistake, plenty of research has shown insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes and even Type 2 Diabetes can be addressed through diet and lifestyle changes[note]https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/prediabetes-insulin-resistance[/note], [note]https://www.ncl.ac.uk/magres/research/diabetes/reversal/#publicinformation[/note].

First off, we want to focus on your diet

Unless there’s a purely genetic issue at play, one of the best things you can do is reduce your intake of carbohydrates and increase your intake of healthy fats.

Typically, you’ll want to cut way back on carbohydrates from sugars, certain grains and starches, sweetened beverages, and even artificial sweeteners—which have been recently shown to affect insulin levels[note]https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/261179.php[/note].

That doesn’t mean you have to eliminate carbs completely (and in terms of weight loss, that approach is often counter-productive). Your kNew Health Coach will help guide you in this regard for your unique case.

As far as fats go, you’ll want to increase your intake of healthy, stable fats such as:

  • Fish oil—either as a supplement and/or from wild-caught salmon
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Virgin coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Walnut oil
  • And moderate amounts of butter or ghee from grass-fed cows, if you tolerate dairy foods well.

Second, you need to flex those muscles!

Believe it or not, muscle-building exercises are one of the best ways to get your insulin levels down.

How it works is, when you build muscle, it forces glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells, which naturally decreases your body’s insulin level.

You’ve probably heard the phrase: the more muscle you have, the more fat your body can burn—the same type of principle holds true for insulin.

Examples of effective muscle-building exercises include:

  • High Intensity Interval (HIT) or “burst” training—where you workout intensely for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then rest for 3-5 minutes, then do it again.
  • Weight lifting
  • Yoga

If you’re squeezed for time, interval training may be your best bet, as you can complete a super-effective workout in as little as 15-20 minutes.

In fact, a recent study showed that while both moderate and high-level intensity training had positive impacts on subjects’ blood sugar levels, the moderate-level group experienced only half the benefits of the high-intensity training group[note]https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170407103559.htm[/note].

Exercise less for more benefits?! It appears so.

Third, take steps to ensure you’re getting 7.5-9 hours of sleep per night

This isn’t just good wisdom from grandma.

We now know that sleep, or lack thereof, plays a massive role in your body’s ability to maintain balanced metabolism and insulin levels[note]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2084401/[/note].

So, if your insulin levels come back too high despite a healthy diet and exercise regime, a lack of deep, lengthy sleep could be the culprit.

For optimal health and blood sugar levels, we encourage members to aim for between 7.5-9 hours of restful sleep per night.

If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, that’s an issue you want to address right away.

Your kNew Health Coach has a powerful, practical toolbox to help guide you in this regard for your unique case.

For some helpful starting points, check out our previous article: Trouble Sleeping? Try These 5 Simple Sleep Hygiene Tips.

Finally, stress management must be a priority

There are many different ways chronic stress can affect your blood sugar levels—from causing excessive sugar binging as a way to regulate your stress response[note]https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/100/6/2239/2829606[/note], to disrupting your sleep which leads to more blood sugar issues.

Bottom line: you need to burn off and manage stress every day to get your insulin levels down and maintain your health.

Some of our members’ favorite ways to reduce stress include:

  • Journaling
  • Laughing
  • Meditating
  • Spending time with friends, family and community
  • Gardening
  • Exercising
  • Reading
  • Enjoying a hobby
  • Drinking herbal tea
  • Spending time in nature

However you choose to do it, make it a point to practice at least one stress-relieving exercise every single day.

These seemingly simple lifestyle choices are actually quite powerful in combating blood sugar issues and optimizing your whole health.

Making them a daily habit is something our kNew Health coaches help our members to do every week.

To Recap:

  • Diabetes doesn’t happen overnight, it takes years to develop and most standard tests fail to detect the signs of pre-pre-diabetes
  • The Fasting Insulin Test offers critical information about pre-pre-diabetes risk and insulin resistance
  • Optimal levels are below 8
  • You want optimal levels, not just “normal” or “high-normal” to prevent future, chronic blood sugar issues
  • While genetics can play a role, typically high insulin can be remedied through lifestyle changes
  • Diet, exercise, sleep and stress management all play key roles in keeping insulin levels balanced
  • Studies have also shown, working with a Health Coach—like those at kNew—significantly helped people dealing with chronic conditions, like blood sugar issues, improve their outcomes[note]http://www.annfammed.org/content/13/2/130.full[/note],[note]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20860506/[/note].

Do you need help with a blood sugar issue or suspect your may have one brewing? If so, we encourage you to reach out.

Visit: knewhealth.com/membership to learn more about how our functional medicine-trained, medically-supervised Health Coaches can provide customized support for you.

To your good health,

-The kNew Health Team

References:

<a href="https://knewhealth.com/author/joshua-rosenthal/" target="_self">Joshua Rosenthal</a>

Joshua Rosenthal

Author

Joshua Rosenthal MScED is a visionary in health and wellness. He is founder of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, an online higher education school where students are trained as Health Coaches. Founded in 1992, the school has a global community of 100,000 graduates in 155 countries worldwide. Joshua is the author of many books and holds a Masters of Science degree in Education.