What Is Insulin Resistance? Causes, Symptoms & Remedy
To understand the concept of insulin resistance, one needs to understand what insulin is and what it does.
WHAT IS INSULIN?
Insulin is an anabolic peptide hormone secreted by b cells of the pancreas. Insulin works as a signaling molecule/key that unlocks glucose channels to promote the uptake; of glucose from the bloodstream. Insulin acts through insulin receptors present on the surface of target cells, the major ones being in the liver, skeletal muscle, and fat.
HOW DOES INSULIN FUNCTION IN THE BODY?
By performing as a key to unlocking the glucose channel, insulin regulates blood glucose levels in the body. When we consume food, the carbs get converted into glucose by the digestive system, and the sugar enters the blood. When blood sugar/glucose levels increase, our pancreas release insulin into the blood. Insulin binds to the insulin receptors which, are located on the outer part of the cells. When insulin binds with the cell, it allows the glucose channel to open so that glucose molecules can get into the cells to be used; as energy. When blood glucose enters cells, levels of glucose; in the bloodstream decrease; this signals the pancreas to stop secreting insulin. When there is more glucose in the bloodstream, the liver is; stimulated to secrete more insulin which encourages the storage of glucose as glycogen in the liver, muscle, and fat cells for later use of energy.
When insulin levels go down, it alerts the liver to release stored blood glucose to enable the body to use that as energy. Even if we have not eaten for a while, glycogen is what keeps us going.
So, Insulin’s chief function in the body is to keep the blood glucose in the normal range and prevent hyperglycemia.
WHAT IS INSULIN RESISTANCE?
Insulin resistance means impaired biological sensitivity to insulin. This condition results when the liver, muscle, and fat cells become insensitive; to the signals of insulin and do not allow the sugar to enter them. Now the cells will not have the substrate they need to make energy.
A signal is sent to the brain to consume more carb/sugary items.
When cells show less sensitivity to insulin and you; consume more carbs, it makes; the matter worse. The condition puts pressure on the pancreas to release more insulin to get the blood glucose into cells. If the extra insulin produced can overcome the insensitivity of the cells, the system is under control; and your blood glucose level will be in a healthy range.
Over time, when insulin production is; maxed out, insulin receptors on the cells stop responding to all that insulin and show resistance to insulin.
Eventually, the blood sugar level in the bloodstream stays high, and the pancreas goes overdrive to produce more insulin to move the glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells where it’s needed.
1. High insulin levels 2. High blood glucose levels 3. Starved cells are the three outcomes of insulin resistance.
CONSEQUENCE OF INSULIN RESISTANCE
The direct cause of insulin resistance is hyperglycemia (excess blood sugar), which; is the hallmark of type II diabetes mellitus. At first, the excess glucose gets shifted to the liver and muscles to store as glycogen, but when the liver becomes saturated with glycogen, the liver sends excess blood glucose to fat cells to be; stored; as body fat. Insulin resistance creates a vicious cycle that can make you feel fatigued and causes metabolic syndrome.
1. Visceral fat accumulation can cause the liver and other organs to become fatty and inflamed.
2. Chronic hyperglycemia sets the stage for diabetes mellitus and if continued without treated, can lead to complications like damage to the nervous system, eyes, kidneys, numbness in the extremities, hypertension, high blood pressure, elevated levels of triglycerides, and cardiovascular complexes.
3. Will reduce the ability of the body to use glucose as energy and will; rely on fat stores as the sole source of energy. The breakdown of fats can release ketone bodies into the bloodstream, which can lead to ketoacidosis.
WHO IS MORE LIKELY TO DEVELOP INSULIN RESISTANCE?
The exact cause of insulin resistance cannot be determined. Yet, a few conditions can be listed out to be risk factors for the development of insulin resistance.
People who have a genetics or family history of diabetes
Those who consume excess carb/sugary diet
People leading an inactive lifestyle
People who are obese (particularly with visceral belly fat) – belly fat releases higher levels of triglycerides into the bloodstream. This increases the production of inflammatory hormones which cause insulin resistance.
People with imbalances in the gut microbiome
People over 45 years of age
People suffering from long term sleep deprivation
People who are constantly facing stress
SYMPTOMS OF INSULIN RESISTANCE
Insulin resistance can sometimes go unrecognized, and typically has no symptoms. However, increased blood sugar can cause large appetite, obesity, trouble losing weight, craving sweets after meals, feeling more exhausted, brain fog, high cholesterol, frequent thirst and urge to urinate, absence of menstruation in ladies, acne, skin tags behind the neck and face, excessive darkening of the armpits, tingling in hands or feet.
POSSIBLE REMEDY FOR INSULIN RESISTANCE
1. Avoid high glycemic foods that break down into glucose more rapidly and cause sugar spikes. (like processed foods, cakes, cookies, potatoes, fries, white bread, ice cream, sweetened dairy products, white rice, soda, alcohol).
2. Avoid foods high in saturated fats like chips, full-fat cheese, milk, bacon, biscuits, fatty cuts of meat, palm oil, sausages, butter, processed meat, pastries, white chocolate, red meat, pasta, whipped cream.
3. Cutting down on calories/weight loss through regular exercising, brisk walking, and strength training is suggested. Strength training can increase muscle mass and cause you to be more insulin sensitive.
4. Swapping refined grains for whole grains (include oats, barley, brown rice, millets, buckwheat) is associated with increased insulin sensitivity.
5. Consume more fiber-rich food (black beans, avocados, chia seeds, flax seeds, and lentils, which may slow the digestion of absorption of carbohydrates and contribute to the slowing of gastric emptying leading to reduced demand for insulin.
6. Consume nutrient-dense, non-starchy vegetables without being carb-rich (like carrots, beans, leafy greens, tomatoes, turnips, asparagus, radish, celery, cucumbers, mushrooms, beets).
7. Work on reducing stress and adopt healthier sleeping habits.
8. Include lean sources of protein like fish, skinless white meat poultry, nut butter, seeds, granola, yogurt, and eggs which help stabilize blood sugar.
9. Consume berries like cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries which are low in calories, and contain a good range of micronutrients, antioxidants, and polyphenols that ameliorate inflammation, postprandial hyperglycemia, and hyperinsulinemia.
10. Supplementation with magnesium, chromium, alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin D3, multivitamin, and probiotics is suggested.