The Trouble with Insulin Resistance

Posted on: October 16th, 2015 by Brandon No Comments

Although most of us have heard of diabetes and know that it has serious consequences for our health, very few of us are familiar with its precursor, insulin resistance, and the havoc it can cause inside our bodies.

Insulin resistance is even more prevalent than diabetes (though, like diabetes, many don’t know they have it) and comes with a similar set of signs and symptoms.

Insulin resistance affects more of us than we might think. Although it is hard to know exactly how many people suffer from insulin resistance, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that up to 1 out of 3 Americans could be insulin resistant since more than 29 million Americans are diabetic and another 86 million have what is called prediabetes.

What is particularly troubling, though, is that many of these 115 million people are unaware that anything is wrong. In this article, I want to explain what you need to know about insulin resistance and share ideas you can use to help improve your odds of preventing this life-long chronic disease that is silently affecting millions of Americans.

What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin is a hormone that binds to a cell’s receptors that makes it possible for glucose to enter into our cells to be used as fuel. When insulin resistance occurs, the pancreas is signaled to increase production of insulin to meet the cells’ requirements for energy. A common metaphor for this concept is that insulin knocks on the door to the cells so that glucose can get in. When insulin resistance occurs, it takes more insulin to knock louder for the cell to get the energy it needs. The pancreas compensates for this condition and produces more insulin. Long term, this over-compensation by the pancreas can lead to “burnout,” ultimately resulting in the pancreas’ inability to produce sufficient insulin for the body’s demands. The result is increased, unused sugar in the bloodstream and cells fail to get the energy they need.

What are the Potential Effects of Insulin Resistance?

Although symptoms can vary from person to person, many go years without being aware of the underlying condition. The most accurate way to evaluate your resistance to insulin is through a simple blood glucose test called an A1C test. This test measures the percentage of your hemoglobin that is coated with sugar and gives you your average blood sugar levels over the past 2-3 months. Normal levels are below 5.7%. A result between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is considered prediabetes and an A1C level of 6.5% or higher on two different tests indicates you may already have diabetes.

If you do have overt symptoms, they typically include increased thirst, an inability to focus (also called “brain fog”), feeling bloated, fatigue (especially after eating), dark patches on the back of the neck, armpits, or groin (called acanthosis nigricans), depression, and increased hunger. Treating insulin resistance early (or better yet, taking steps to prevent it from occurring in the first place) is important to keep it from developing into something even more serious. Here are some of the more common conditions insulin resistance can lead to if left untreated:

High Blood Pressure: Unused, excess insulin in the body can affect biological processes in adverse ways, such as increasing salt and water retention that can lead to high blood pressure.

Fatty Liver: Insulin resistance is believed to affect the liver by causing a condition, known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (or simply fatty liver), in which fat represents over 5-10% of the weight of the liver. Fatty liver can result in the formation of scar tissue that eventually prevents the liver from functioning as it should. While other factors, such as malnutrition and obesity, can also cause fatty liver, a study from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism concluded that insulin resistance is a major contributor of fatty liver. If left untreated, fatty liver can eventually lead to cirrhosis of the liver and even cancer.

Heart Function: Insulin also plays a significant role in powering the heart. The heart requires a constant, tightly-regulated supply of energy to function properly and it struggles to get this when the body is insulin resistant. A recent study, published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, investigated the physiological role of insulin resistance in the heart and found that, although fatty acid oxidation is the heart’s primary source of energy, glucose oxidation is a major source of energy for the heart and the contribution of glucose is decreased in insulin-resistant states.

Skin Tags and discoloration: Although the mechanism is not completely clear, an increased frequency of skin tags has been noted. As previously mentioned, acanthosis nigricans often affects the folds of your skin; particularly on the back of your neck, armpits, or groin. This causes discoloration, thickening, or darkening of the skin.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome: This is a set of symptoms related to hormonal imbalances affecting menstruating women. These can include, but are not limited to, infertility, periods that are heavy, irregular or non-existent, facial hair, acne, weight gain, and pelvic pain.

Types of Diabetes

Prediabetes is the medical term for when insulin resistance has led to elevated blood sugar levels, but the levels are not yet at the point where is it officially considered diabetes. Prediabetes is essentially the “warning zone” one enters when approaching diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes (often called “juvenile diabetes”) occurs when the body does not produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes, which is the most common form, occurs when the body either resists the effects of insulin or is unable to produce enough insulin to maintain a normal glucose level within the blood stream.

The Importance of Insulin to the Brain

The brain uses glucose as its primary fuel and insulin is believed to play a significant role in regulating how the cells in the brain receive glucose. It appears that when brain cells are unable to get enough sugar to make neurotransmitters, due to insulin resistance, the result is the breakdown in communication between neurons.

Previous research has demonstrated that insulin promotes glucose uptake in the neurons of the hippocampal formation and the frontal lobes, which are involved in memory. Insulin also strengthens the synaptic connections between brain cells, which helps the brain form new memories. Additionally, insulin is involved in the brain’s blood vessel formation and function. This means that when the brain can’t properly use insulin, there are obvious cognitive impairments.

The Debate Over a New Type of Diabetes 

A new study, published in the medical journal JAMA Neurology, even claims to have found a link between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s disease. While this is a new study that certainly needs to be confirmed by future studies before we jump to conclusions, it just goes to show how important many researchers believe insulin is to cognitive function. These researchers have been proposing that Alzheimer’s should be a new classification of diabetes called type 3 diabetes, because Alzheimer’s may stem from the brain’s inability to use insulin to deliver glucose. In the case of type 3 diabetes, it is the inability of the cells in the brain to use insulin that is the problem, whereas the rest of the body may have sufficient insulin.

In Summary 

One of the most effective ways at managing insulin resistance is reducing your body’s need for insulin. To reduce your body’s need for insulin you must minimize and be selective in the type of carbohydrates you choose to eat, which can be difficult living in our fast-paced world of fast food and the American diet. However, with a bit of knowledge, making positive food choices can go a long way towards improving your health.

When carbohydrates are absorbed and broken down, some tend to absorb faster than others. This rate of absorption is known as the glycemic index of a food. There are refined and complex carbohydrates, but we also need to be aware that refined carbs are digested and absorbed much more quickly in our blood stream than complex carbohydrates are. While we may want quick bursts of energy just before exercise, there are consequences tied to quickly-absorbed carbs and the blood sugar spikes associated with them. In the short-term, quick absorption of refined carbs can spike insulin levels and make us feel tired or sick after the “sugar high.” In the long term, repeated spikes in our blood sugar can lead to insulin resistance.

Carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index (refined carbs) are the ones that rapidly raise the blood sugar levels within your body, such as white bread, juices, potatoes, most instant meals, and fast foods. Carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index (complex carbs) are digested much more slowly and tend to cause a very gradual rise in blood sugar levels. Examples of these complex carbohydrates are foods with high fiber content such as grains and non-starchy vegetables.

Ultimately, being proactive and adopting healthy eating habits is the most effective way to minimizing your risk for the numerous health conditions associated with unregulated blood sugar. Remember, even though we may feel fine and don’t notice any unusual initial symptoms it is always wise to put “premium fuel” in the body’s engine for optimal long term performance. Knowing how to minimize your risk factors through lifestyle changes and natural supplementation (and actively using this information to your advantage) can go a long way toward helping your odds of staying healthy for the long haul.

As a physician, one of my favorite sayings from Benjamin Franklin is: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

The 5 Step Plan to a Healthy Body and Mental Longevity 

Step 1: First, reduce your simple carbs intake. If you are eating fast food or sweets, drinking soda, or routinely indulge in chips and other junk food, simply eliminating these will go a long way toward keeping the body properly sensitive to insulin. It can be hard to break our addiction to these foods, but it can be the key to ensuring longevity. Just remember what my father-in-law says, “You eat the junk, you look like the junk.”

Step 2: Move to a “hunter-and-gatherer diet” (low glycemic index diet). This essentially means eating foods that you can hunt or gather. Increasing our intake of high-fiber foods, such as lentils, black beans, broccoli, artichoke, and high-quality protein helps keep blood sugar levels steady and eliminates big jumps of insulin that can lead to resistance. . If you want to be more aggressive, consider a ketogenic-type diet which is very similar to the hunter-gatherer diet but you limit your carbohydrate intake to 20 – 50 grams or less per day. You can start by replacing some blood sugar-spiking carbs in your diet with healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) from nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fish to properly regulate blood sugar.

Step 3: Get more sleep. As simple as it seems, getting more sleep can help us better use insulin because poor-quality sleep makes the body less effective at using insulin and can lead to bad food choices that only exacerbate the problem.

These bad food choices stem from the body signaling that it needs more food to extract glucose from to stay awake. This causes us to want high-glycemic food that is usually bad for our health, but helpful for powering through times of sleep deprivation. 

Step 4: Take the time to exercise on a consistent basis and work to reduce belly fat, which is the kind of fat that commonly serves as a warning for increased risk of insulin resistance. While this is easier said than done, it really is worth the effort. Regular exercise keeps our metabolism up, which helps us control our weight and resistance to insulin, and has the added benefits of improving mood and boosting energy. A study from the International Journal of Sports Medicine reached the conclusion that physical training plays an important, if not essential, role in the treatment and prevention of insulin insensitivity.

Step 5: Supplementation can help. In addition to making these relatively small lifestyle changes, you can also use the power of natural medicine to rein in the excess sugar in the bloodstream that insulin-resistant cells can’t use, boost the body’s ability to use insulin more efficiently, and help burn fat.

Alpha-lipoic acid: A study published in Saudi Medical Journal found that alpha-lipoic acid significantly decreases fasting blood glucose levels and insulin resistance. For those with type 2 diabetes, a study from Free Radical Biology & Medicine found that alpha-lipoic acid provided direct help in improving insulin sensitivity in patients. Since it is a powerful antioxidant, alpha-lipoic acid can also help reduce inflammation that is believed to be a significantly harmful symptom of insulin resistance. You can read more about long-term inflammation by reading my previous article, How Long-Term Inflammation is Hurting You Now.

Chromium picolinate: Studies published in medical journals such as The Diabetes Educator and Diabetes Care have found that people with type 2 diabetes, the common result of unchecked insulin resistance, tend to have lower levels of chromium than those without the disease and that chromium picolinate can increase insulin sensitivity and improve the body’s ability to control glucose levels. While there are different kinds of chromium out there, the study in The Diabetes Educator found that chromium picolinate is the most effective for producing the desired results in people with insulin problems.

UltraLean Body Composition Formula: Made by Nutra BioGenesis, it is formulated to nutritionally support the management of conditions such as obesity and insulin resistance by supporting a healthy body composition, boosting fat loss, and helping to maintain lean muscle. It is essentially a low-carb meal replacement product that includes a comprehensive array of vitamins and minerals to help with metabolic issues.

Between proper lifestyle changes and natural supplementation, it’s never too late to improve your health and reduce your risk for insulin resistance, diabetes, and possibly even neurological concerns. Additionally, these steps can also reduce your risk of conditions such as heart disease and obesity, and provide extra energy that can lead to positive changes in all aspects of your life.

I hope this information is useful to you, and if you have any questions regarding the concepts discussed here or anything else, you can reach our customer service team at: customerservice@oakwaynaturals.com.

Until next time, stay healthy!

Yours in health,

Dr. Gregg Gittins

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Although most of us have heard of diabetes and know that it has serious consequences for our health, very few of us are familiar with its precursor, insulin resistance, and the havoc it can cause inside our bodies.

Insulin resistance affects more of us than we might think. Although it is hard to know exactly how many people suffer from insulin resistance, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that up to 1 out of 3 Americans could be insulin resistant since more than 29 million Americans are diabetic and another 86 million have what is called prediabetes.

What is particularly troubling, though, is that many of these 115 million people are unaware that anything is wrong.

What is insulin resistance?
What is insulin resistance?

Insulin is a hormone that binds to a cell’s receptors that makes it possible for glucose to enter into our cells to be used as fuel. When insulin resistance occurs, the pancreas is signaled to increase production of insulin to meet the cells’ requirements for energy.

Long term, this over-compensation by the pancreas can lead to “burnout,” ultimately resulting in the pancreas’ inability to produce sufficient insulin for the body’s demands. The result is increased, unused sugar in the bloodstream and cells fail to get the energy they need.

What are insulin resistances potential effects?
What are insulin resistances potential effects?

Overt symptoms may include: increased thirst, an inability to focus (also called “brain fog”), feeling bloated, fatigue (especially after eating), dark patches on the back of the neck, armpits, or groin (called acanthosis nigricans), depression, and increased hunger.

Possible conditions may include: high blood pressure, fatty liver, decreased heart function, skin tags and discoloration, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Insulin and your brain
Insulin and your brain

The brain uses glucose as its primary fuel and insulin is believed to play a significant role in regulating how the cells in the brain receive glucose. It appears that when brain cells are unable to get enough sugar to make neurotransmitters.

Previous research has demonstrated that insulin promotes glucose uptake in the neurons of the hippocampal formation and the frontal lobes, which are involved in memory. Additionally, insulin is involved in the brain’s blood vessel formation and function, this means that when the brain can’t properly use insulin, there are obvious cognitive impairments.

One of the most effective ways at managing insulin resistance is reducing your body’s need for insulin. To reduce your body’s need for insulin you must minimize and be selective in the type of carbohydrates you choose to eat.

Carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index (refined carbs) are the ones that rapidly raise the blood sugar levels within your body, such as white bread, juices, potatoes, most instant meals, and fast foods. Carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index (complex carbs) are digested much more slowly and tend to cause a very gradual rise in blood sugar levels.

Ultimately, being proactive and adopting healthy eating habits is the most effective way to minimizing your risk for the numerous health conditions associated with unregulated blood sugar.

Remember, even though we may feel fine and don’t notice any unusual initial symptoms it is always wise to put “premium fuel” in the body’s engine for optimal long term performance.

5 Step Plan to a Healthy Body and Mental Longevity
5 Step Plan to a Healthy Body and Mental Longevity

Step 1: First, reduce your simple carbs intake.

Step 2: Move to a “hunter-and-gatherer diet” (low glycemic index diet).

Step 3: Get more sleep.

Step 4: Take the time to exercise on a consistent basis and work to reduce belly fat.

Step 5: Proper supplementation, in addition to making these relatively small lifestyle changes, you can also use the power of natural medicine to rein in excess sugar in the bloodstream.

A couple of helpful supplementation examples include, alpha-lipoic acid which has been shown to support healthy glucose uptake and helps the body use glucose more effectively. One study found that alpha-lipoic acid significantly decreases fasting blood glucose levels and insulin resistance, another found that alpha-lipoic acid provided direct help in improving insulin sensitivity in patients.

Chromium picolinate can also help in the battle against insulin resistance by can increasing insulin sensitivity and improve the body’s ability to control glucose levels.

Nutra BioGenesis UltraLean

Perhaps the most useful tools for those struggling with weight and insulin issues are supplements like UltraLean Body Composition Formula by Nutra BioGenesis. It is formulated to nutritionally support the management of conditions such as obesity and insulin resistance by supporting a healthy body composition, boosting fat loss, and helping to maintain lean muscle. It is essentially a low-carb meal replacement product that includes a comprehensive array of vitamins and minerals to help with metabolic issues.

Between proper lifestyle changes and natural supplementation, it’s never too late to improve your health and reduce your risk for insulin resistance, diabetes, and possibly even neurological concerns.

We hope this slide show was helpful and informative. Should you have questions, or suggestions, please feel free to fill out our Ask the Doctor form found at the Doctors Corner.

Yours in health,

Dr. Gregg Gittins
www.oakwaynaturals.com

References:

Abel, E. Dale, M.D., Ph.D., et al., Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology: Insulin Resistance: Metabolic Mechanisms and Consequences in the Heart. 2012 Willette, Auriel, Ph.D., et al., JAMA Neurology: Association of Insulin Resistance With Cerebral Glucose Uptake in Late Middle-Aged Adults at Risk for Alzheimer Disease. 2015 Borghouts LB, Keizer HA, International Journal of Sports Medicine: Exercise and insulin sensitivity: a review. 2000 Jacob, S., Ph.D., et al., Free Radical Biology and Medicine: Oral administration of RAC-alpha-lipoic acid modulates insulin sensitivity in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus: a placebo-controlled pilot trial. 1999

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