What is Insulin Resistance?
Many factors contribute to insulin resistance (IR) including poor diet and stress. It develops over time as the body gradually looses the ability to control blood sugar levels effectively. Muscle, fat and liver cells slowly become less sensitive to insulin which is used to transport glucose into the cells for energy. When a person becomes insulin resistant the body produces more and more insulin in an attempt to compensate for the cells lack of response.
Insulin is produced in the pancreas. The pancreas can eventually lose the ability to keep up with the body’s ever increasing demand for more insulin (as the cells become less sensitive to it), when this happens it marks the transition from insulin resistance to type 2 diabetes.
Signs and Symptoms
Presentation can vary from person to person, not all people with insulin resistance will have all of these symptoms.
- Brain fogg and an inability to focus
- High blood sugar
- Intestinal bloating
- Sleep apnoea
- Weight gain especially around the middle
- Elevated cholesterol and triglycerides
- Elevated blood pressure
- Depression is a common in people diagnised with insulin resistance
- Headaches and irritablity
- Darkening or roughening of the skin and skin tags
- Irregular menstrual cycle, PCOS or infertility
What Causes Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance is most likely caused by a combination of contributing factors, these may include:
- Excess weight gain
- Not enough exercise
- Low protein high carbohydrate diet
- Systemic toxicity
- History of gestational diabetes
- Alcohol and some drugs
Insulin Resistance and Weight Gain
Weight gain results when there is an excess supply of glucose, which insulin is unable to transport into the cells for energy. The unused glucose rapidly converts to body fat, which is most often stored around the abdomen.
Only a limited amount of glucose will be transported intothe cells to be used for energy, the excess is stored as glycogen in muscle or liver cells and the rest is converted to body fat. A high carbohydrate, highly processed diet provides excess glucose and places a huge strain on the action of insulin. Over time our cells become resistant to insulin, making this type of diet one of the major contributing factors to weight gain and insulin resistance.
The Link between Stress and Insulin Resistance
Stress causes an avalanche of hormonal changes in the body, including elevating cortisol and norepinephrine and decreasing DHEA. When we are under stress our ‘fight or flight’ mechanism tells the body to ignore the storage effects of insulin so glucose is available to provide energy to ‘fight’ or ‘flee’.
Unfortunately when it comes to chronic stress we send the signal out repeatedly, but we don’t burn up the excess glucose, which is quickly converted to fat. Therefore chronic stress is a major factor in weight gain and insulin resistance.
Insulin Resistance can lead to:
- Thype 2 diabetes
- Fatty liver
- Weight gain and chronic obesity
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Peripheral vascular disease
- PCOS and infertility
- Gestational diabetes
How is Insulin Resistance Detected?
The Glucose Tolerance Test and Fasting Glucose are the standard medical tests for insulin resistance
What other tests/screening is useful?
- When you have been diagnosed with insulin resistance it is important to look at other risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
- Inflammation can be a comlicating factor for insulin resistance
- Hemaview Live Blood Analysis can detect inflammatory biomarkers
- Urinary Indicans Test can detect dysbiosis and leaky gut which is a major source of inflammation
- Checking systematic acid/alkaline can also be useful
Most Importantly – Can Insulin Resistance be Reversed?
Yes! The good news is that it can be reversed through corrective diet, physical activity and nutritional and herbal supplementation.
The most important thing to remember is that you have the opportunity to correct insulin resistance in its early stages before it proceeds to a more serious condition, such as diabetes.
My Top 10 Tips to Help Reverse Insulin Resistance
- Avoid all refined carbohydrates and sugar
- Increase fresh vegetables in the diet
- Eat fish at least 3 times per week
- Keep your protein lean! – trim the fat and choose lean cuts
- Avoid alcohol
- Address your stress
- Cut back on coffee, tea and caffeine
- Smoking and insulin resistance are a deadly combination – give up
- Avoid trans fatty acids and all fried foods
- See you naturopath today for professional advice and a comprehensive dietary and treatment plan
By addressing insulin resistance you can avoid chronic ill health later in life!