Insulin Resistance is the precursor for other serious diseases. Most people may not even know that they have it since the symptoms are mostly silent, which makes it potentially very dangerous. The good news is that it’s completely reversible.
Chances are that if you have excess belly fat, you are already resistant to insulin. Insulin Resistance causes excess abdominal fat (also called visceral fat or belly fat). But as it turns out, this type of fat can also cause Insulin Resistance which can escalate into a vicious cycle.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin is the hormone that is produced by the pancreas whenever we eat. By ingesting food, blood sugar or glucose will automatically rise. The pancreas receives a signal telling it that glucose levels are higher than they should be, so it goes to work producing insulin and secreting it out into the bloodstream.
Insulin regulates blood sugar by moving it out of the bloodstream and into the organs and cells where it’s needed for energy. Once this happens and the excess glucose has been utilized, blood sugar levels go back to normal. The pancreas has done its job and stops producing insulin until we eat our next meal.
Because insulin production in the pancreas is triggered by digestion, the liver kicks in and produces small amounts between meals or during times of fasting.
The Cycle Begins
Problems arise when we eat diets that are high in sugars, processed foods, and bad fats. The pancreas produces insulin to move the glucose into the organs that need it, BUT glucose levels are still too high because of excess sugar/fat. This causes the pancreas to produce more insulin to stabilize blood sugar. When the strain on the pancreas becomes chronic, it gets worn out
and degrades. As a result, it then can’t produce enough insulin, leading to diabetes.
Additionally, a cascade effect starts to happen. Because blood sugar levels and insulin levels are consistently higher, the cells start to become resistant to insulin. Glucose can’t get to where they need to be, and cells become “starved.” When they’re “starving,” this signals the body to increase its fat storage which accumulates mainly around the abdominal area. Belly fat, or
visceral fat, accumulates on the organs, especially the liver, which leads to increased inflammation.
This type of fat also releases triglycerides (a fatty cholesterol) into the bloodstream. High triglycerides also can cause Insulin Resistance so you have a cause and effect situation going in both directions.
What Causes Insulin Resistance?
- A diet high in sugar, processed foods, and/or unhealthy fats Obesity, especially belly fat
- Physical Inactivity
- Imbalance in the gut (caused by eating the wrong foods)
- Poor sleep habits and/or sleep apnea
You are what you eat, literally. Sugars and processed foods turn into fat. Eating unhealthy fats increases triglycerides. Fat causes inflammation, which is at the root of many serious conditions including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Physical activity is extremely important because MUSCLES ARE METABOLICALLY ACTIVE. When we use our muscles, they actually become more INSULIN SENSITIVE, which is the opposite of
being resistant which helps to keep glucose and insulin back in balance.
Poor sleep quality is detrimental to our health in a myriad of ways, one of which is increased inflammation which can lead to Insulin Resistance. A body that is sleep deprived isn’t able to restore itself like it should, making it more prone to disease. Click HERE to read more about sleep and
its benefits: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/healthysleepfs.pdf
It Gets Worse
Insulin Resistance is both a metabolic and an endocrine disorder. Both processes affect the other. One of the things IR can lead to is a condition called Metabolic Syndrome, also sometimes referred to as Syndrome X.
This syndrome is a dangerous combination of four different conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and excess belly fat.
Metabolic Syndrome SIGNIFICANLY INCREASES risk for Cardiovascular Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes. In fact, Diabetes is one of the complications to occur if Insulin Resistance isn’t addressed. When the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin decreases, blood sugar can no longer be managed by the body and medication becomes necessary to regulate it. A person is considered to be Pre-Diabetic if fasting blood sugar levels measure between 100 and 124 and a full-blown diabetic if they exceed 125.
Chronic, elevated levels of insulin also cause cells and tissue to overgrow. This is why increased weight gain occurs – because fat cells both increase and become larger. Additionally, tissue overgrowth poses a much greater risk for cancer to form.
Insulin Resistance doesn’t have any symptoms other than perhaps excess belly fat and there’s no pill that can be prescribed to control it so lifestyle and dietary changes must be made. Because IR is a precursor for so many serious diseases, it should be taken seriously.
What You Should Do If You Think You Have Insulin Resistance?
First, see your doctor. This will provide you with a starting point. They can run blood tests to check your blood sugar and insulin levels. Ask them to also test your inflammation markers and your A1C. (The A1C test is for diabetes). If inflammation is high in your body, they can advise you about helpful ways to reduce it now before it leads to more serious disease.
Also, be sure and ask your doctor to check your Vitamin D levels since this is a pre-cursor hormone and a deficiency can contribute to many health issues. Physicians will usually run a TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) test as part of a check-up, however, ask them to go ahead and do a full thyroid panel since TSH isn’t always accurate for total thyroid health. Thyroid abnormalities are common and play a significant role in metabolic and endocrine health.
You have to be your own advocate with your physician. Don’t assume that they will automatically test for Insulin Resistance.
IR is both treatable and reversible
To handle IR it’s going to require some lifestyle and dietary changes including:
- This will help you to lose weight, and to make you more insulin sensitive so glucose gets to where it’s needed (this has the added benefit of lowering your blood sugar and insulin levels)
Avoid sugary or starchy foods, including alcohol.
- Avoid processed foods.
- Add good fats and proteins to your diet along with plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes.
- Get better sleep. Be proactive and create healthier sleeping habits. If you are suffering from insomnia, be sure and discuss this with your doctor to see if there may be other underlying causes that you’re not aware of.
- Supplements such as Vitamin D3, Fish Oil, Probiotics, and Magnesium are good basics for overall health.
- Studies have shown that taking a Chromium and Berberine supplement specifically helps with Insulin Resistance.
Exercise and eating right are the cornerstones of good health. We can’t control our genetics, but we do have control over other choices that affect how we feel and age. Eating healthier and exercising will require some discipline and commitment, especially in the beginning. However, after the initial adjustment period, they will become habit and you will feel exponentially better and have a lot more energy!