Metabolic Medicine – Guest Essay by Terri Lutes, ND

Gluten Metabolic

to all of you who have taken on the January No Grains challenge. I would
imagine by now, almost at the half-way point, that a lot of you are already
noticing improvements in your overall heath. Some of you may notice an
improvement in your digestion, less headaches, decreased joint pain, or
increased energy. However, other changes are occurring inside your body that
you might not realize are happening. Some of this is due to removing gluten
from your diet. Many people are gluten intolerant and don’t even know it. Other
changes are happening because you are better controlling your insulin levels.

resistance is the basis of many chronic diseases and of aging. What is the
purpose of insulin? Most would answer that it is to lower blood sugar (glucose)
by facilitating the transport of glucose from the bloodstream into the cell.
They would be right, but insulin has other actions in the body.

Insulin stores
excess glucose as fat. The body has a limited capacity to store glucose as
glycogen in the liver and muscles. Once that capacity had been surpassed, the
body converts the rest of it to fat.  There
is more bad news about insulin. Not only does it store excess glucose as fat,
but it prevents the use of stored fat as an energy source. Since fat can’t be
burned, the body burns glucose from muscles instead. So with high insulin, any
time a person ingests extra sugar it gets stored as fat, and any time there is
a deficit of sugar the body burns up glucose from muscle instead of fat. Not

That’s bad
enough, but insulin will also make you eat too much. Insulin stimulates
appetite by affecting the brain in two ways. First, it interferes with the appetite-suppressing
hormone leptin. Second, insulin causes a spike in dopamine, signaling our brain
to seek rewards. This can turn us into cookie monsters, since these rewards
often come in the form of a brownie or a bowl of ice cream.  

This is why
eliminating or limiting sugar and high carbohydrate foods like grains (which
will be digested into glucose) is beneficial for managing body composition. Limiting
the amount of sugar ingested limits the release of insulin, and therefore the
amount sugar that gets stored on the body as fat. Keeping insulin levels under
control also allows the body to burn fat instead of valuable muscle. It also
helps to keep us from being ravenous all the time, and having constant sugar

What else does high
insulin do?

It increases
blood clotting and atherosclerosis.

It increases
cancer risk by increasing IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1) signaling, which
stimulates cell proliferation and inhibits apoptosis (programmed cell death).

It decreases
intracellular Vitamin C. Vitamin C and glucose are very similar in structure. Since
the absorption mechanism for vitamin C and glucose are identical, when glucose
levels rise less vitamin C is absorbed by the cells. This results in a weakening of the immune system.

It decreases
intracellular magnesium. Magnesium relaxes muscles, so with decreased magnesium
the muscles around blood vessels constrict, increasing blood pressure.
Magnesium is also important for the action and manufacturing of insulin. 

It increases
sodium retention, contributing to fluid retention and high blood pressure.

It is linked
with an increased serum TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), which indicates poor
thyroid function. It also decreases the conversion of the thyroid hormone T4 to
the more active T3 in the liver.

The nutrition
plan you have been following for the past 2 weeks is metabolic medicine. It is
helping to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, poor thyroid function,
and depressed immune function. All that plus improving body composition. While
it may not always be easy to follow a grain-free diet, your efforts will reward
you with better health and vitality.
Terri Lutes, ND
Naturopathic Clinic



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