Insulin Resistance: A Silent Epidemic


Insulin resistance is an increasing common problem. The latest statistics are staggering. Approximately 1 in 3 Americans, and half of those over 60, have insulin resistance. What does that mean? An often-silent blood sugar issue, your body’s inability to maintain healthy levels of insulin can increase your risk for pre-diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, as well as a host of other health concerns such as heart disease, strokes, and cancer.


Insulin plays an important role in a healthy body. Produced by the pancreas, insulin allows your cells to absorb glucose (aka sugar). Insulin allows glucose to enter cells through the bloodstream, feeding directly into your muscles, fat, and liver, where it is stored until it needs to be used for energy.


As you eat your blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels rise. Your pancreas then releases insulin into your blood to help lower the blood sugar levels and keep them balanced. With insulin resistance, the cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond appropriately to the insulin and can’t easily absorb glucose from your blood. As a result, your pancreas ends up producing more insulin to assist glucose into the cells. Insulin resistance can leave you with chronically elevated blood sugar levels and this can become a vicious cycle.




Alternative Health Atlanta

Dr. Melodie Billiot

Over time, the beta cells in your pancreas may not be able to keep up with the continuously high insulin demand. When one develops insulin resistance, they may experience several physical symptoms. Some of which include:

  • Disrupted sleep cycles

  • Hormonal imbalance (in both men & women)

  • Weight gain (esp. around the mid-section)

  • Digestive issues

  • General fatigue

  • Frequent thirst and urination

  • High blood pressure and triglyceride levels

  • Sudden energy crashes (especially in the afternoon)


Too much insulin in the body promotes inflammation and weight gain. Chronically high levels of inflammation are the root cause of most chronic diseases and pain issues. If you are experiencing some of these issues your health care provider can test your blood. Two of the tests that are helpful to asses for insulin resistance are:


  1. Fasting Insulin Level (Optimal range 1.0 – 5.0 ulU/ml)

  2. Hemoglobin A1c Level – Measures your average blood glucose level over the last 2-3 months (Optimal 4.5 – 5.2%)


The good news: Insulin resistance is reversible.


If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, or you have been told by your health care provider that you need to make some adjustments with diet and lifestyle, then here are some suggestions:


  1. Get quality sleep. Being well rested is essential for your overall health. This can help stabilize your blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.

  2. Diet. Choose a low carb, anti-inflammatory diet. Carbs are the main stimulus that cause insulin levels to rise. Choose low-glycemic index carbs like sweet potatoes, brown rice, and quinoa. Pick low-glycemic fruits like berries, cherries, apples, and grapefruit. Other foods and herbs that help lower inflammation are wild-caught fish like salmon, as well as avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger. Removing toxic foods such as sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, processed foods, GMO’s, and hydrogenated oils will also help to lower inflammation levels.

  3. Regular exercise. Cardio and strength training are helpful in order to maintain a healthy weight and stabilize blood sugar levels. Aim for 30 – 60 minutes 4-5 days of the week. This not only helps with insulin sensitivity, but also strengthens your immune system and improves mood.

  4. Practice intermittent fasting. This can be an easy, effective way to help lower inflammation, burn fat, improve energy, help with digestion, and increase insulin sensitivity and stabilize blood sugar. One of the most popular methods is the 16:8. Meaning, you fast for 16 hours and have an 8-hour eating window during the day.

  5. Manage stress. Stress can affect your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. When you are feeling stressed your body’s reaction is to produce stress hormones like cortisol and glucagon. Glucagon is then broken down into glucose and released into the bloodstream, because your body thinks you may need a quick source of energy. Over time, this can decrease your insulin sensitivity. Things like meditation, deep breathing, journaling, exercise, and quality sleep can help to reduce stress.


More good news: Making these simple dietary and lifestyle changes daily can improve your insulin sensitivity, and start you on your path to reversing insulin resistance.


Meghan Punda, CRNP is a Nurse Practitioner and Functional Nutritionist. She works with women on lifestyle and dietary issues. Meghan is passionate about educating her clients so they can reach their full wellness potential.



References:

Insulin Resistance Causes and Symptoms, Endocrinweb.com, by Sari Harrar June 17, 2021.

14 Natural Ways to Improve Your Insulin Sensitivity, Healthline.com, by Ryan Raman, MS, RD, June 22, 2021.

Why Healthy Blood Sugar Levels Matter, Even if You Don’t Have Diabetes, by Julia Malacoff , March 1, 2021, https://www.parsleyhealth.com/blog/healthy-blood-sugar-levels-