How Estrogen Causes Insulin Resistance

As we discussed in our last entry: insulin causes you to store fat — regardless of how healthy your diet may be. It doesn’t matter how many calories you cut out of your daily eating habits: high insulin retain stubborn weight that won’t go away. And as we touched on: diet is not the only factor that affects your insulin. So why may someone with a healthy diet have high insulin, and consequently, stubborn weight that won’t go away?

Our years of lab-work have shown us that when estrogen is too high it stimulates ErbB receptors in the pancreas. ErbB receptors cause that pancreas to make more insulin. This clearly demonstrates that the more estrogen you have, the higher your insulin level. In a woman’s normal cycle there is a balance between estrogen and progesterone. In the beginning of the month estrogen levels are usually normal. Ovulation occurs around day 12 and increases progesterone production. If ovulation does not occur estrogen remains high throughout the month. And it is common for women to not ovulate.

When we have patients come in with high insulin, we test their estrogen and progesterone levels. And we test those levels after day 12, when most women should have begun ovulation. If we find high estrogen and low progesterone, we know we’re on the path to discovering the root of the problem. The next question is: how do we manage these abnormal hormone levels?

Remember the ErbB receptor in the pancreas? That receptor is modulated by progesterone. Giving a woman progesterone during the second half of her cycle calms down the ErbB receptor, and in turn the ErbB releases less insulin. Less insulin, means less stored fat. Our next step is to address dietary habits to help holistically treat insulin resistance caused by high estrogen. Everybody is unique, and every body is unique. That’s why we run in-depth labs, and consult with you on your diet. Together, we can get to the root insulin resistance, and solve stubborn weight-gain.

Why Insulin Resistance is Important to Understand

Insulin resistance is important to understand, but few people do understand it. There are three main points to digest, figuratively speaking. Those three points are: 1) Your body’s regulation of insulin has a lot to do with how you store fat. 2) Abnormally high insulin levels can cause stubborn weight gain. 3) Your insulin levels are regulated by other hormone cycles.

It’s crucial to understand that insulin is a hormone, and it is created in the pancreas. Insulin’s purpose is to help your body’s cells absorb glucose and use it for energy. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) clearly defines insulin’s role in blood glucose control:

  • Insulin helps muscle, fat, and liver cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream, lowering blood glucose levels.
  • Insulin stimulates the liver and muscle tissue to store excess glucose. The stored form of glucose is called glycogen.
  • Insulin also lowers blood glucose levels by reducing glucose production in the liver.

A Women to Women article states, “Over 80 million Americans suffer from insulin resistance, and it appears to sit at the center of a web of related health problems. Women who are insulin resistant are at much greater risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, high cholesterol, breast cancer and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).”

At Protea we run extensive labs on our patients, and we find that some women who have healthy eating habits still can’t loose weight. The red flag we find most often is abnormally high insulin levels. Not only does high insulin result in weight gain that won’t go away, but the NIDDK states, “Some experts believe obesity, especially excess fat around the waist, is a primary cause of insulin resistance.” It’s clear to see that insulin and weight management are inextricably linked. It’s also important to understand your insulin levels are regulated by other hormone cycles.

Your body is a complex ecosystem, and it sends you signals that aren’t always easy to understand. The fact is: a woman with high insulin, who has a healthy diet, is going to store fat. If your insulin is high, and unable to be controlled, it doesn’t matter what you’re eating. So what’s going on here? That question is answered by dedicated lab work, the results of which we’ll discuss in our next entry: How Estrogen Causes Insulin Resistance.