Hyperinsulinism occurs when the body produces too much insulin. According to Genetics Home Reference, this can happen as a result of genetics, called familial hyperinsulinism, or it can occur in response to insulin resistance, which causes the pancreas to overproduce insulin in an effort to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Insulin is a hormone that is released in response to glucose, or sugar, in the blood stream, making diet a major part of treatment.
The identification, or diagnosis, of hyperinsulinism often goes undetected by you or your doctor. Explained by the January 2013 "Gene Reveiw," hyperinsulinism does not usually present itself with signs or symptoms until low blood sugar occurs, also known as hypoglycemia. Even then, signs of hypoglycemia are somewhat generic resulting in fatigue, weakness, dizziness or irritability, which can point to a number of conditions. In infants, hyperinsulinism symptoms include poor feeding and seizures.
Significance of Diet
When combating abnormalities in glucose -- sugar -- or insulin regulation in the body, diet intake is always a concern and should be closely monitored. Sugar, especially refined sugars such as white or brown sugar, honey, jellies and syrups, will raise blood sugars quickly, stimulating the body to produce insulin in an attempt to regulate blood sugar levels. In hyperinsulinism, the diet should not promote or trigger insulin anymore than is necessary. To determine what you should eat with hyperinsulinism, you absolutely must speak to your doctor and/or a dietician. With some, low-carb and higher protein intake may work to keep blood sugar levels down, but according to the Congenital Hyperinsulinism Center, some people with hyperinsulinism have a sensitivity to protein. Therefore, your diet will depend upon the diagnosed cause of your hyperinsulinism.
Effects of Hyperinsulinism Diet
Following a hyperinsulinism diet results in stabilized insulin and blood sugar levels. There is no exact diet prescription for hyperinsulinism; however, it is acknowledged that no food group should be omitted. Symptoms from hyperinsulinism are usually caused by hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, and treatment involves measures to prevent low-blood sugar, according to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Once a hyperinsulinism diet is instituted, symptoms of fatigue, weakness, and irritability that are caused by hypoglycemia are much less frequent, if not resolved.
Emphasizing ways to stabilize blood sugar, the Nutrition Source, published by the Harvard School of Public Health, states most of the carbohydrates in your diet should come from “good” carbs. Good carbs refers to carbohydrates that have not been refined and are as whole as they can be. The Nutrition Source continues, “The bran and fiber in whole grains make it more difficult for digestive enzymes to break the starches into glucose. This leads to lower, slower increase in blood sugar and insulin.”
In the past, high protein and low carbohydrate diets use to be used in treating hypoglycemia or hyperinsulinism. However, as stated by the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, research does not support this approach as effective dietary treatment. Protein should be included at each meal, along with good carbohydrate sources in moderate amounts.
- Genetic Home Reference: Familial Hyperinsulinism
- Gene Review: Familial Hyperinsulinism
- Harvard School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source: Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes
- Institute of Medicine National Academy of Sciences: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: Hypoglycemia
- Children's Hospital of Philadelphis: Treatment -- Congenital Hyperinsulinism