Insulin hormone imbalances
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas which regulates the amount of glucose in the blood.Hyman, M. (2008). The UltraMind Solution. New York: Scribner, pp. 148-58.
- Insulin helps muscle, fat, and liver cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream
- Working optimally, insulin prevents blood sugar from getting too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia)
Insulin and mental health
Insulin is an important hormone for mental health, and insulin imbalances can cause mental health issues, by contributing to the following disorders and imbalances.
Due to its importance in regulating blood sugar, insulin plays a key role in guarding against blood sugar imbalances which can cause mental health symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, mood swings and depression.
The brain contains insulin receptors. Too much insulin (due to excessive, regular sugar intake requiring chronically high outputs of insulin) can numb these receptors, so that they fail to respond to insulin, which is called ‘insulin resistance’. When insulin resistance affects the brain it can cause wide-ranging mental health issues.
Studies have shown that there is a correlation between insulin resistance and age-related diseases.
Possible mental health symptoms of insulin resistance
- Poor concentration and attention Amen, D. (2013). Unleash the Power of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 135.
- Poor memory
- Alzheimer’s Amen, D. (2013). Unleash the Power of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 134.
- Anxiety and panic
- Low grade inflammation
- Inflammatory cytokines can disrupt neurotransmitter balance by disrupting neurotransmitter production and/or function
- Raised levels of insulin can reduce levels of DHEA, which can then reduce the production of sex hormones, which, when out of balance, can cause mental health symptoms Amen, D. (2013). Unleash the Power of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 136.Reiss, U. and Zucker, M. (2001). Natural Hormone Balance for Women. New York: Pocket Books, p. 18.Pick, M. (2011). Are You Tired and Wired? Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, p. 23.
Possible contributors to insulin resistance
An excessive intake of refined carbohydrates such as sugars promote high levels of insulin. If the requirements for insulin are relentless due to a chronically high sugar diet, cells can become numb to insulin in order to protect themselves, resulting in insulin resistance.
More insulin is then produced to compensate for the lack of effectiveness of circulating insulin. Eventually, the pancreas can become worn out from over-producing insulin for an extended period of time, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Metabolic Syndrome (formerly known as Syndrome X) is characterised by insulin resistance, and can lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and some forms of cancer. Talbott, S M. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. 2nd ed. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, pp. 94-5.
Possible mental health symptoms of metabolic syndrome
- Brain fog and fuzzy thinking
- Depression, low mood
- Poor concentration and attention
- Poor memory
- Low libido Talbott, S M. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. 2nd ed. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 95.
Possible contributors to metabolic syndrome
- Diet high in refined carbohydrates
- Elevated cortisol levels (from chronic stress)
- Insufficient sleep Talbott, S M. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. 2nd ed. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 96.
While diabetes is very much a whole-body ailment, resulting from dysregulation of insulin levels or of cells’ responsiveness to insulin leading to an inability of the body to regulate blood sugar levels, diabetes can lead to depression and dementia. Amen, D. (2013). Unleash the Power of The Female Brain. New York: Harmony Books, p. 133.
The incidence of type 2 diabetes has risen significantly around the world, with numbers of cases set to double between 2000 and 2030.