Aside from meeting Dana Linn Bailey, my favourite part of BodyPower was watching Phil Learney’s seminar on metabolic damage. The topic is one which affects almost everyone, and you may not even realise it. If you’ve ever eaten foods contain preservatives, drank alcohol, taken medication or tried a low-carb diet, I really hope you will take the time to read this.
I have spent the past two years recovering from metabolic damage, and try to guide most of my clients through the same process, so it’s a topic that is very close to my heart. I am also insulin resistant and suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome, which were two topics covered in the presentation.
Phil Learney is a strength coach and Director of Education at Ultimate Performance, which is, in my opinion, the best gym in the UK. I have been following him for a long time, and knew I couldn’t miss his speech as his philosophies are very much in line with my own. His blog can be found here but he updates his Facebook page much more regularly.
The first half of Phil’s speech focused on how our bodies are affected by the toxic environment around us. Although humans have remained structurally the same over time, our diets, lifestyles and environments have changed. Our digestive systems are disrupted by alcohol, additives, drugs and pesticides to name a few. These things produce bad bacteria and can lead to infections, fungal growth and irritable bowel syndrome.
Leaky gut syndrome (a common condition that I believe I suffer from) occurs when the stomach wall has been damaged so frequently by these toxins, that the body learns to attack similar protein structures in the bloodstream. Even if you have eliminated toxic foods from your diet, your body cannot process the good nutrients properly. This leads to deficiencies and toxins circulating in the blood stream.
The vicious cycle occurs as follows: ‘bad’ food weakens the intestinal wall which increases pathogens and toxicity. Bad bacteria thrives on bad food, so your body craves it more. The level of good bacteria lowers, which again weakens the intestinal wall. Furthermore, from a behavioural point of view, your body starts to crave these foods and creates bad habits.
The endocrine system and insulin resistance
All of this is linked to your hormones. Hormones control everything within your body, from how you feel to how you look. Eating bad foods disrupts your endocrine system, and tricks the body into over-stimulating or responding at inappropriate times. The example Phil gave was when you smell food and instantly want to eat, even though your body wasn’t naturally hungry.
Insulin is the master hormone in your body. It is produced and released by beta cells in response to carbohydrate intake. More and more people are becoming insulin resistant as processed, carb-heavy foods continue to dominate our diets. Overeating leads to excess insulin being released, and your pancreas continues to produce insulin.
This causes the beta cells to malfunction, meaning your body cannot tolerate carbohydrates. As a result, your body keeps releasing insulin to lower blood glucose levels, but the situation only gets worse and worse as it causes a lack of production over demand.
Phil outlined the five stages of beta cell dysfunction/insulin resistance as follows:
1. The ideal level of secretion, where your body can properly process carbohydrates.
2. Glucose levels start to rise, coinciding with diminished insulin secretion. This results when there is too much sugar being ingested. Phil emphasised that this stage is reached by people making bad signals, NOT bad food choices. For example, when you eat one high fat, high sugar meal, you are more likely to choose a second ‘bad’ meal. Maybe this is why I am so quick to throw in the whole weekend when I have one off-plan meal?!
3. Glucose levels rise rapidly and it sits in the blood stream instead of entering the cells.
4. Severe beta cell dedifferentiation.
5. The beta cells are so damaged that the body is in constant ketosis and has no way of responding to glucose.
The good news is that you can reverse beta cell dysfunction by eating natural foods and training your body to process carbohydrates, so even if you have reached stage five hope is not lost.
I will cover the second half of the presentation tomorrow. This is where things got interesting! This includes why it is critically important to never eliminate carbohydrates, how cheat meals can dramatically help some but hinder others, the long-term effects of following a caloric deficit, the role insulin plays in body composition and how to prevent your body becoming insulin resistant.
Although I do believe in moderation, and I love having treats occasionally, this seminar really made me reconsider my indulgences. I am still paying the price for growing up on a diet of unhealthy food by dealing with a compromised digestive system and PCOS – do I really want to extend the healing process by further fuelling the bad bacteria?
Have you shown any signs of insulin resistance?