How much do you know about insulin resistance? Did you know you could have it right now and not even know it? It is believed that 60 to 70 million people in this country have insulin resistance, but many people are simply unaware they have a ticking time bomb inside of them.
I say ticking time bomb because, if left untreated, insulin resistance often turns into prediabetes which, if left untreated, turns into full-blown type 2 diabetes. And once diabetes sets up shop in your body, you’re at risk for developing other health issues like kidney disease, blindness, and vascular degeneration.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin is a hormone produced by beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin is the chemical that allows our cells to absorb glucose so we have energy. People who have insulin resistance are unable to use insulin effectively.
What happens when your cells cannot absorb glucose because your body is not using insulin like it should? The glucose levels build up in the blood, forcing your pancreas to make even more insulin, which of course your body can’t use properly. Before long, you develop prediabetes.
Who is Most Likely to Develop Insulin Resistance?
Individuals who either have genetic or lifestyle risk factors are more likely to develop insulin resistance and prediabetes. Some of these risk factors include:
- Being overweight or obese, particularly having adipose fat around the midsection.
- Being 45 or older.
- Having an immediate relative like a parent or sibling who has been diagnosed with diabetes.
- Being of African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander American ethnicity.
- Being physical inactive.
- A history of gestational diabetes.
- A history of heart disease or stroke.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome, also known as PCOS.
- Other health conditions such as hypertension and high cholesterol levels.
- Health conditions such as high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels.
Along with these risk factors, other things that may contribute to insulin resistance include:
- Certain prescription medications such as medicines for HIV, glucocorticoids, and some antipsychotics.
- Hormonal disorders such as acromegaly and Cushing’s syndrome.
- Sleep apnea.
While you may not be able to change your age, ethnicity or family history of diabetes, there are many lifestyle factors you can change. Let’s take a look at some of those now so you can reduce your risk of developing insulin resistance and maybe even diabetes.
Change Your Diet
Did you know that human beings don’t actually need carbohydrates to survive? Nope, you don’t need them. Your body actually prefers fat as a fuel source. And fat does not require insulin to power your cells.
It makes sense that cutting back on carbs, way back, can help your glucose levels decrease, eliminating the need for so much insulin in the first place. A ketogenic diet has been shown to help reverse type 2 diabetes and can therefor help to reverse insulin resistance.
The keto diet allows some consumption of carbs each day, but you’ve got to be smart about them. In general, you need to avoid the obvious sugary demons, I mean “foods”, such as candy, cookies, cakes, soda and ice cream. You know, the usual suspects.
You also need to stay away from fruit juices, alcohol, refined carbs like bread, rice and pasta, processed foods like chips, crackers, cereals and many frozen food entrees, and fried food.
Stick to low-glycemic fruits and veggies as your carbohydrate source.
Beyond changing your diet, exercise is one of the best things you can do to reverse insulin resistance. Exercise helps reduce body fat, especially around your midsection, and improves metabolism.
The good news is, you don’t have to train to run a marathon to have exercise count in your favor. Ideally you should try to get at least 30 minutes of walking in each day (this is a great reason to get a dog if you don’t have one already).
If you have severe insulin resistance or have already developed prediabetes, you may need a bit more vigorous exercise to reverse your symptoms. Sustained aerobic exercise for 60 minutes five to six days a week may be necessary to get your blood sugars under control.
Speak with your doctor to find out what exercise plan is best for you.
Stress plays a far bigger role in the development of insulin resistance and diabetes than most people know. Stress causes most of our body’s hormones to get out of whack, including insulin.
Stress also causes us to make bad health choices, like not exercising and eating comfort foods, which cause insulin spikes.
If you have a lot of stress in your life, it’s really important to your overall health that you eliminate as much as you can and learn healthy ways to deal with the rest. Exercising definitely will help you manage the effects of stress. Beyond walking or other aerobic exercises, try yoga and Tai Chi to help calm your anxious energy. Meditation is a great way to calm your mind and relax. Take a hot bath, get massages, whatever healthy ways you can manage stress will be very beneficial in reversing your insulin resistance.
There is a lot of misinformation out there about health. For instance, until very recently, eggs and other foods containing cholesterol and saturated fat were villainized. For decades we all went on low fat diets and used vegetable oils instead of butter and lard, and what happened? We all got fatter and sicker.
It’s important to try and find the best information you can about how to manage your blood sugar. Here’s another for instance: until very recently, doctors believed a diagnosis of diabetes was a life sentence. It is only recently that some medical professionals have come forward and said, “Yes, type 2 diabetes can be reversed.”
Well, some doctors knew this a long time ago and were helping their own patients make some important lifestyle changes to reverse diabetes and other chronic diseases. And those doctors have written a comprehensive guide called Simple Blood Sugar. This guide will help you and your family prevent or reverse diseases like insulin resistance, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.