October 21, 2021
Today we’re talking all about insulin resistance – who it affects, why you should care, and what causes it.
You don’t have to be overweight or diabetic for this condition to affect you. You can be slender but still suffer from a lack of energy, cravings, trouble sleeping at night, not being able to exercise as much as you want. Insulin resistance is often the root cause of these symptoms – it’s what makes it so difficult for people who are trying to lose weight and feel satisfied after eating.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin Resistance, also known as insulin insensitivity, is a condition in which the body’s cells have stopped responding to the effects of insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by beta cells in your pancreas to regulate blood sugar levels and inform cells what to do with the incoming sugar (burn or store).
Insulin resistance can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and other complications. It can cause cravings for carbs and sweets, weight gain around the middle of your body, fatigue after eating even small amounts of food, difficulty sleeping at night, and an inability to go many hours without eating.
Causes of Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is a condition of the body when both insulin levels are elevated and the cells have become less sensitive to its effects. Because of this situation, the pancreas is forced to secrete even more insulin into the blood in order to accomplish its purpose. When a person consumes a meal that contains carbohydrates, insulin action should promote the transport of glucose from the bloodstream into cells for storage as energy in the form of glycogen or into the active muscles to be burned. Once glycogen stores are full, glucose is then converted to triglycerides (fat) for storage. In this way, insulin promotes the storage of fat and actually blocks the release of fatty acids for energy (preventing fat loss).
Insulin resistance can develop into Type 2 diabetes if blood glucose levels remain chronically high without the ability of insulin to control them. This leads to a further increase in insulin secretion and a higher than normal level of circulating insulin, which may damage organs such as the liver, heart, and pancreas. As a result of this condition, Type 2 diabetics will be prescribed insulin or other blood sugar-regulating medications. These medications can be life-saving, but they do not reverse the disease or deal with the cause of insulin resistance.
Holistic Approach to Restoring Insulin Sensitivity
The first step is adopting a healthy diet. That means cutting back on sugars and refined grains like bread, pastries, cakes, potatoes, pasta, and sugary beverages; while increasing your intake of non-starchy vegetables, quality proteins, and healthy fats. It’s also important to minimize the intake of fruits (especially the higher sugar fruits like tropical fruits).
Aim to consume foods such as:
- Grass-fed/grass-finished animal proteins (meat, organs, eggs) and fats (butter, ghee, dairy)
- Wild-caught seafood
- Fresh or frozen (unprocessed) vegetables such as broccoli, leafy greens, bell peppers, cucumbers, squash, and cauliflower
- Properly prepared nuts and seeds (soaked, sprouted)
- Moderate amounts of low sugar fruits like berries (if desired, not required)
The second step is to moderate how often you’re eating. Every time you eat, you potentially increase blood sugars and therefore insulin. Eating every couple of hours means insulin is constantly being released by the pancreas. Chronically elevated insulin contributes to insulin resistance development. And as we’ve already established, when insulin is present, the body is unable to tap into stored body fat for fuel – meaning you’ll be hungry more often and you’ll continue to store the energy coming in (rather than burning it).
Eliminating snacking can help the body rebalance and reduce insulin levels. You can also implement intermittent fasting where you consume all foods within a narrower window throughout the day. This is a big topic that we will address in a future blog post!
And lastly, you should also practice stress management techniques (such as yoga, breathing exercises, or meditation) and strive to reduce your overall stress load. Stress causes the release of cortisol, which causes a release of glycogen (stored sugar) from the liver. This release of glycogen increases blood sugars and therefore insulin.
This process is a biological survival mechanism to provide you with the needed energy to fight or flee from whatever danger is looming. However, if you’re dealing with today’s common stressors (relationships, work, traffic, etc) – you don’t really need extra energy to fight or flee. This increase in blood sugar doesn’t get mobilized to the muscles to be burned but gets converted to fat instead.
Conclusions on Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is a serious health condition that if left untreated can lead to the development of Type 2 diabetes. Luckily, there are three steps you can take to reduce your risk of insulin resistance: adopting a healthy diet, reducing the frequency of food consumption, and practicing stress management techniques.
As always, we are here to support your health needs. Reach out to our office to schedule an appointment today.
Naturopathic Doctor Denver
Follow me on Facebook