What Is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin Resistance – Do You Have Syndrome X?

If you’ve been told by your doctor that you’re pre-diabetic or have PCOS, then you’ve likely heard the phrase “insulin resistance,” but what does it mean?

This is a great breakdown of how your endocrine system works to keep your blood sugar level healthy by way of your internal hormone balance and the way your body handles anything you eat or drink. For some people, things get thrown out of balance and their body can’t process food and balance their blood sugar like it should.

Do you recognize any of the symptoms below as a part of your life?

You feel tired, hungry, and are gaining weight. The afternoon “blahs” are part of your daily life. Maybe you feel thirstier, or wake up at night and need to go to the bathroom. These symptoms may be a sign of insulin resistance – a precursor to diabetes, and other major health problems.

Over 80 million Americans suffer from insulin resistance, also known as “syndrome X.”  Many people do not even know they have it, so are likely unaware of the health problems associated with the syndrome.

So what is insulin resistance?

Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas. It helps control glucose, or blood sugar. Glucose is our body’s key source of energy, fueling our bodies to function. All of the food we eat is broken down into proteins and nutrients, which are used in metabolism, cell replacement, and immune function. The amount of fuel we need varies all the time, but our blood sugar levels need to remain stabilized. Insulin helps regulate those levels.

Normally glucose is carried by the bloodstream to individual cells, and insulin signals the cells to absorb the glucose that fuels our body. But when there is too much glucose in the body, cells become desensitized and the body continues to release more insulin, allowing blood sugar levels to become high. Prolonged high levels of insulin disrupts cellular metabolism, increases inflammation, and eventually the cells quit responding to the signal from insulin — creating insulin resistance. Diabetes is just one of the common diseases resulting from insulin resistance, and occurs when the body is unable to manage blood glucose levels.

The body works hard to balance what is digested, monitor blood sugar levels, meet cell demands, and release insulin in just the right amounts. Metabolism plays a key role in glucose functioning–it defines how the body regulates energy. Our diets affect our metabolism, and a diet consisting mostly of simple carbohydrates found in refined and processed foods, results in the fast break down of sugars that quickly enter the bloodstream. As this occurs, the body releases more insulin to try to control the glucose levels, creating a downward spiral. However, a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, aids metabolism and its relationship to insulin, tipping the scales in the right direction.

Signs of insulin resistance

It is estimated that over 30 percent of Americans have insulin resistance or syndrome X. A combination of factors can contribute to this condition:

  • Family history of Type 2 diabetes
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure – certain high blood pressure medications may mask symptoms)
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Dyslipidemia (an abnormal ratio of fats and cholesterol in the blood)
  • Acanthosis nigricans (darkened patches of skin at the neck, and sometimes the elbows, knees, armpits, and knuckles)
  • An apple-shaped body (carrying more weight around the mid-section)

Even without these factors, almost anyone can be insulin resistant because of diet. Refined carbohydrates, found in processed foods, white breads, bagels, pasta, sodas, sugary sweets, and many other foods on America’s grocery lists, contribute to syndrome X. When we eat processed foods, our body requires more insulin to metabolize it, and our cells become less responsive. As we get older, our sensitivity to insulin changes, regardless of our weight. It never hurts to be checked for this condition. Another factor that may contribute to syndrome X is menopause.
– via www.womentowomen.com

Healing Your Insulin Resistance

We talk a lot here about restoring balance in one way or another, and your endocrine system – your insulin in particular – is no different. You need balance in order to achieve health, and becoming insulin resistant means that your hormonal balance is out of whack.

But that doesn’t have to last! You CAN restore balance to your body and feel good, young, healthy, and happy again. Our bodies are beautiful, complex machines and they require special care. Below you’ll see some specific tips for people battling or verging on insulin resistance. Give your body the right care, and it will return the favor!

Insulin resistance amps up your risk for developing chronic disease

On top of contributing directly to obesity, diabetes and PCOS, insulin resistance appears to underlie many other dreaded health problems like hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, breast cancer and endometrial cancer. It has also been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.

Insulin resistance also lurks beneath two of the most common complaints we hear: fatigue and weight gain. Women notice these symptoms as they approach menopause mostly because their bodies can no longer tolerate the amount of carbohydrates they’ve been consuming. This results in weight gain, especially around the middle, along with afternoon blahs, sugar crashes and carbohydrate cravings. All of these are early insulin resistance symptoms.

How insulin sensitivity is lost

When our metabolism evolved eons ago our diets included fewer — and more complex — carbohydrates. But today most calories come in the form of simple carbohydrates — sugars that quickly enter the bloodstream as glucose. The body has to release high levels of insulin to keep glucose in the bloodstream from spiraling out of control. Over time, the cells simply can’t keep up. They stop responding to the insulin signal and the body becomes “insulin resistant.”

Now, the body is forced to release even more insulin because it cannot let blood sugar get too high. Having excess insulin in the bloodstream is called hyperinsulinemia, though the body can’t endure prolonged high levels of insulin, which disrupt cellular metabolism and spread inflammation. When the body is unable to keep blood glucose under control, diabetes occurs though it is only the most obvious disease caused by insulin resistance. Along the way, there are many serious negative health effects before full-blown diabetes takes hold.

Counter insulin resistance with the right food and lifestyle

Build a diet that consists primarily of lean meats and other proteins, high-fiber grains, vegetables and legumes, leafy greens, and fruit to help balance insulin levels. If you’re already insulin resistant, we recommend always eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks.

  • Manage carbs: each meal should have no more than 15 grams of carbohydrates in the form of vegetables and fruits (eliminating “white” food such as bread, pasta, and sugar) and some lean protein. Each snack should contain only 7 grams of similar carbohydrates.
  • Get healthy fats, or those rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs), as these are very important in an insulin-resistance diet. Find EFAs in avocados, cold-water fish like salmon and tuna, flax seed, and eggs or choose a good quality supplement.
  • Choose a pharmaceutical-grade nutritional supplement to help decrease carbohydrate and sugar cravings and normalize hormonal function, especially if you are perimenopausal or menopausal.
  • Get regular exercise of 30 minutes or more per day, 3–5 times a week to help regulate metabolic function and support hormonal balance.
  • Decrease stress to help shrink the strain on the adrenal glands and keep your insulin levels in check.

Finally, quit smoking, moderate alcohol intake, and get enough sleep to help with any blood chemistry surges. Insulin is so important to your overall health that when its metabolism goes wrong, everything else is thrown off. We believe that women with menopause symptoms must reverse any insulin resistance first before being able to find relief from those symptoms. Overcoming insulin resistance is a challenge, but it can be done!
– via www.womenshealthnetwork.com

Are you insulin resistant? Have you decided on a plan of attack with your doctor yet?