Do you want your skin to look smooth and youthful for as long as possible?

Do you want your brain to be sharp?

What about losing weight and maintaining a slender, sleek body?

These are just some of the reasons to care about keeping your insulin and blood sugar levels balanced—even if you don’t have prediabetes or diabetes. Yet, when many people hear about insulin sensitivity they think it’s only relevant to diabetics.

That couldn’t be more wrong. 

There are good reasons for everyone to care about how their body is handling insulin. And surprisingly, it’s your gut that plays a major role in keeping this blood-sugar-balancing hormone in control. 

If your gut is unhealthy, your body won’t handle insulin well, which means your blood sugar will get out of whack. 


What Is Insulin Sensitivity?

Insulin is a hormone that’s made when our blood sugar (glucose) levels rise. It pushes extra glucose into the cells of our muscles and liver, where it’s stored as glycogen. But when our muscles or liver run out of closet space to store the glucose, the excess is converted into fat and stored in our fat reserves. 

When muscles and the liver run out of glycogen they should be able to tap into fat stores to replenish themselves, causing weight loss. 

However, if insulin is present in excess amounts, it blocks your body from tapping into those reserves.

What causes high insulin levels? Usually the culprit is high blood glucose in the form of glucose spikes that often happen even in people without diabetes.  

Insulin sensitivity refers to the body’s ability to respond to the blood-sugar-lowering signals that insulin is broadcasting. If the body can’t respond to those signals, it starts making more and more insulin to try to “hear” what insulin is saying. Kind of like talking louder when someone can’t hear you. Reduced insulin sensitivity is known as insulin resistance. In other words, your body isn’t as sensitive to insulin anymore so it needs to make more and more.  


Why You Should Care About Insulin Sensitivity

Poor insulin sensitivity and glucose spikes are to blame for a number of health problems, not just diabetes. For example, they’re linked to:

  • Accelerated skin aging and more rapid development of wrinkles
  • Acne and other inflammatory skin conditions
  • Adrenal stress
  • Arthritis and other inflammatory diseases
  • Cravings
  • Depressive episodes
  • Digestive symptoms like leaky gut, heartburn, acid reflux
  • Fatigue/chronic fatigue
  • Heart disease
  • Increased cancer risk
  • Increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
  • Infertility and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Memory problems
  • Migraines
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
  • Poor sleep (waking during the night)
  • Suppressed immune response
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Worsening of hormonal hot flashes and night sweats


How The Gut Controls Insulin Sensitivity

Problems in the gut lead to problems with blood sugar and the way your body uses insulin. Usually people don’t connect the gut with insulin problems, but there is a HUGE connection between the two.

Here’s the deal: The gut affects insulin sensitivity in five ways. Some of these might sound kind of technical, but bear with me for a moment as I’ll explain them all in a minute.

  1. Leaky gut
  2. Endotoxemia 
  3. Production of short-chain fatty acids like butyrate
  4. Alterations in bile acid metabolism
  5. Effects on the secretion of gut hormones

The common denominator in all five of these factors is an imbalance in the gut microbiota. The gut microbiota are the little organisms that live in your intestines, both good and bad bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Scientists call an imbalance in the gut microbiota dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is common in diabetes, suggesting the gut microbiota and blood sugar problems are connected. In diabetes, levels of beneficial bacteria are decreased, whereas many harmful bacteria are increased. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is also common in diabetes.  


Leaky Gut

Gut microbiota dysbiosis can lead to leaky gut, otherwise known as increased intestinal permeability. Leaky gut is the name for what happens when a person’s intestinal lining is weakened. This weakened lining allows toxins and bacteria to slip through into the bloodstream, causing problems throughout the body. Leaky gut creates inflammation and reduces insulin sensitivity. There’s also a link between leaky gut and diabetes.  


Low-Grade Endotoxemia 

Bacteria in the body produce a type of toxin known as an endotoxin, primarily a bad guy known as LPS. It’s a component of bacterial cell walls found mostly in gram-negative bacteria. When LPS escapes the colon during leaky gut and becomes a fugitive on the run throughout the body, it triggers an inflammatory response known as endotoxemia. 

LPS also does a number on the way your body uses insulin. LPS triggers an inflammatory cascade in every type of tissue it comes into contact with in the body. In insulin receptors, this inflammation leads to reduced sensitivity to insulin—or—insulin resistance. 

Endotoxemia and leaky gut go hand in hand. Since the intestinal lining is weaker, it allows these toxins to escape into the bloodstream, causing problems that at first glance don’t seem as if they’re linked to the gut. 


Butyrate and Short-Chain Fatty Acids

Short-chain fatty acids like butyrate are important for gut health and insulin sensitivity. Bacteria in the gut, especially those that belong to the phylum Firmicutes, make butyrate. If your gut isn’t making enough butyrate it spells trouble for the way your body uses insulin. 

In studies of obese mice, butyrate supplementation increased insulin sensitivity and improved weight loss. Fasting blood glucose, fasting insulin, and insulin tolerance remained normal in mice given butyrate.

In humans, if there aren’t enough butyrate-producing bacteria, it boosts the risk of metabolic disorders like diabetes. 

Butyrate repairs the intestinal lining and reduces inflammation, helping to get rid of leaky gut, which in turn promotes healthy blood sugar levels.  


Bile Acid Metabolism

Another way in which the gut controls insulin sensitivity is by regulating the way the body produces bile acids, which stimulate insulin secretion. People with leaky gut don’t recirculate bile acids efficiently. So they wind up with bile acid deficiency over time, which leads to inefficient detoxification as well as changes in how your body regulates fat and carb digestion.


Secretion of Gut Hormones

A healthy gut equals healthy amounts of gut-derived metabolic hormones called glucagon-like peptides (GLP-1), which are linked to blood sugar balance. GLP-1 boosts insulin levels when there’s glucose in the blood, helping to push glucose into your cells to improve blood sugar levels.  

GLP-1 also keeps you feeling full and satisfied after eating so that you can stay away from desserts and other unhealthy foods.  


How To Know If You Have Blood Sugar Issues

One of the best ways to monitor your insulin and blood sugar levels is to work with a functional medicine provider, who will order lab tests. The lab tests to measure insulin sensitivity and blood glucose include:

  • Fasting glucose, optimal range 70 to 85
  • Fasting insulin, optimal below 5
  • Fasting uric acid, optimal less than 5.5
  • HBA1c (a measure of blood sugar control over time), optimal range 4.8 to 5.2

Also important: Finding out if your gut is healthy by using a stool test. I like the BiomeFX panel.

The second way to see how your body is coping with blood sugar is to monitor glucose spikes. Everybody has glucose spikes to a certain extent. But when insulin sensitivity is low, blood sugar spikes are often too high since insulin is unable to control your blood glucose. 

The best way to monitor glucose spikes is by using a glucose monitor for two to four weeks. Monitor readings should be 70 to 120 the majority of the time, but even more ideal is 70 to 100. Lots of people spike above 140, even if they’re not diabetic, but most of us shouldn’t be going over 120 most of the time.  


What To Do About Glucose Spikes and Reduce Insulin Sensitivity

Eat Foods That Support Butyrate and Probiotic Bacteria

The main goals of balancing blood sugar and insulin are to raise butyrate levels and to get rid of any gut microbiota imbalances. 

From a dietary perspective, there are certain foods you can eat to increase butyrate levels.

Butyrate foods include:

  • Apples
  • Leeks
  • Onions

To support a healthy gut microbiota, eating high-fiber foods rich in prebiotics is a good first step. These types of foods can also help butyrate-producing bacteria flourish. Research has shown that eating fermentable fiber was linked to an increase in the beneficial bacteria Bifidobacteria. This type of fiber also normalized LPS and improved glucose tolerance and insulin secretion, while reducing inflammation. 

Prebiotic foods include:

  • Apples
  • Beans
  • Bran
  • Chicory root
  • Garlic
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Oat bran 
  • Onions
  • Psyllium husk
  • Tomatoes

It’s also a good idea to limit sugar and saturated fat, since these can cause butyrate levels to tank. 


Butyrate Supplements and Other Solutions

Another way to increase butyrate levels is through using certain dietary supplements. In animal studies, giving mice butyrate supplements blocked the development of insulin resistance caused by eating a high-fat diet.

Probiotics containing Bacillus bacteria endospores such as MegaSporeBiotic can increase butyrate-producing bacteria in the gut. 

Certain supplements can also boost butyrate production directly. These include:

I have found that it’s possible to boost butyrate by 140% in four weeks using a combo of MegaSporeBiotic and MegaPre—which only feed selectively the keystone bacteria species, not the bad guys—along with MegaMucosa to heal and repair leaky gut with essential nutrients as building blocks.  


Balancing Blood Sugar By Improving Gut Health

I have seen so many patients experience an improvement in their health after addressing gut issues, restoring butyrate levels, and balancing insulin and blood sugar levels. They’ll often have improved energy, clearer skin, better sleep, less hot flashes, and many of their other health complaints go away. 

You’re going to have the greatest success working with a functional medicine provider who can tackle all the bases.  That’s why I invite you to reach out to me for a free 15-minute call to find out the best course of action for you. 

If after the call you come on board as a patient, I’ll order the right tests for you. Based on the results and your symptoms, I’ll start you on a protocol to balance blood sugar, improve your gut health, and help you look and feel your best.