Insulin is an essential hormone that regulates blood sugar. When we eat carbohydrates, our blood sugar rises, and this sugar must be brought into the cells to burn as energy or to store as fat or a complex starch called glycogen. Insulin is the hormone that allows this to happen. The pancreas will respond to carbohydrates in the diet and produce insulin. Insulin guides sugar into cells to burn giving you energy and giving the cells in your body life.
Many things get in the way of the insulin response. One of them is insulin resistance. When your cells are insulin resistant, they stop responding to the signal and more and more insulin is required to get energy into the cells.
The causes of insulin resistance can be excess weight, belly fat, a high simple, refined, or processed carbohydrate diet, sugar, stress, lack of sleep and toxins, too much caffeine and high cortisol. Belly fat can cause insulin resistance and it can also be a result of insulin resistance due to unburned sugar getting stored as fat. Therefore, to avoid insulin resistance, we must modify our intake of sugar as well as simple carbohydrates and processed foods that are broken down into sugar.
Signs and Symptoms of Insulin Resistance
There are no signs of insulin resistance, however there are signs and symptoms that indicate you have poor regulation of blood sugar. Signs and symptoms of high/low blood sugar include:
- low energy levels
- fatigue carbohydrate or sugar cravings
- weight fluctuations
- mood swings or feeling “hangry” which is irritable and hungry when skipping meals
- tension headaches.
Generally overt diabetics may have the same symptoms as well as:
- excessive thirst
- weight loss
- Increased urination
- slow healing of wounds
- a poor immune system triggering frequent infections
- heavy breathing
- trouble exercising
Hidden Dangers of Insulin Resistance
While some of these symptoms are easy to ignore or feel “normal,” there are danger to allowing insulin resistance to persist. One is the development of diabetes. The hidden danger is developing any or all of the signs of metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome has 5 characteristics – increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist (increased waist to hip ratio), and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
A myth is that you must be overweight or have high fasting insulin levels to have insulin resistance. Even thin people get insulin resistance! You can be thin but have a body composition of excess fat in comparison to muscle. Two people with the same weight can have a very different body composition. The scale is not an accurate measure. A body fat scale can give you a better indication of your body composition by giving you the percent fat and percent muscle.
Insulin resistance and/or hyperinsulinemia promote:
- High cholesterol and triglycerides
- Increased body fat especially around the belly and in the liver
- Hardening of the arteries
- Sympathetic nervous system response
- High blood pressure
High blood pressure is common in people with insulin resistance. Increased insulin in insulin resistance can make you retain salt, activate the stress response, and cause a thickening of blood vessels. High blood pressure impairs sugar uptake into the cells and impairs the ability of blood vessels to dilate and allow for good circulation. High blood pressure constricts blood vessels, and this makes the blood vessels thicken to endure the pressure. It also makes it harder for the heart to pump against that resistance, so the heart thickens, requires more blood yet the arteries feeding the heart and other organs are narrower. Lack of blood flow can induce heart attacks, stroke, and other organ failure.
Treat Insulin Resistance
- Limit simple, processed, inflammatory carbohydrates such as sweetened beverages, juices, sweet alcoholic beverages, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, or dextrose, and refined or enriched flour.
- Eat healthy anti-inflammatory fats such as fish high in Omega 3 such as mackerel, salmon, herring, tuna, white fish and sardines, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds, chia, hemp and flax, and avocado.
- Add more fiber to your diet. Go low and slow to avoid gas and bloating. High fiber foods include artichokes, sweet potato, avocado, peas, acorn squash, brussels sprouts, broccoli, berries, legumes and beans, flaxseeds, chia seeds, quinoa.
- Add Sugar stabilizing foods such as apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, green tea, herbal teas, fresh herbs and spices.
- Add blood sugar stabilizing supplements such as magnesium, alpha lipoic acid, fish oil, berberine, chromium, fenugreek, bitter gourd, gymnema and vanadium.
- Exercise for 30 to 60 minutes daily and use a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise.
- Manage stress with deep belly breathing, yoga, meditation, relaxing essential oils such as lavender, rose and frankincense, spending more time in nature, meditating, practicing mindfulness and/or relaxation techniques and connecting with positive, upbeat family and friends.
- Get enough sleep for 6 to 9 hours and sleep in time with a normal circadian rhythm to be in synch with hormones and to alleviate the stress response.
- Maintain normal weight; lose some if you have to, and all of the above-mentioned items will help you lose and maintain normal weight.
While the body is complex, some simple changes in your diet and lifestyle will help you avoid the hidden dangers of insulin resistance. If you need help to get your insulin and other hormones as well as lifestyle factors in control, apply for a free, no obligation clarity call to see if we are the right fit.