Insulin Resistance. The human body is a complex system that functions through a series of interconnected neural, hormonal, and vascular pathways. Hormones play an incredibly important role in every one of these functions, and they’re called chemical messengers because they signal your body what to do.
Insulin is one of these important hormones, and when its production and release don’t go according to plan, it can result in a series of severe consequences that can be detrimental to your overall health and longevity. What is insulin resistance and how to prevent it? Here’s what you should know.
What is Insulin?
Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas when glucose is present in your bloodstream. Its role is to transport glucose to the cells in your body that need it to convert it into energy. If there is more glucose than your cells need, insulin helps transport it into storage for future needs.
When your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, glucose can’t get transported to your cells and instead, builds up in the bloodstream, causing hyperglycemia. This condition can cause chronic inflammation, toxin buildup, and even diabetic coma.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance is a term that’s used to describe a condition in which your cells can’t take up the glucose from your bloodstream. This sends a signal to your pancreas to produce more insulin, but unless your cells have the ability to take up glucose, it’s going to create a vicious cycle, resulting in insulin resistance. This condition can be temporary or chronic, oftentimes causing more serious diseases like type 2 diabetes and obesity.
The causes of insulin resistance are still not completely known, but scientists have discovered some lifestyle and genetic factors that can have a strong influence on its development. These include:
- Highly processed foods that are inflammatory and cause your blood sugar to spike too often.
- Excess body fat
- Lack of physical activity
- Medications such as steroids and blood pressure medications
- Medical conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome, hypothyroidism, and acromegaly
- Rare genetic conditions such as Type A insulin resistance syndrome, Donohue syndrome, and Rabson-Mendenhall syndrome
Symptoms of Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance doesn’t cause symptoms at first, it’s only after your pancreas has lost its ability to produce enough insulin that you develop hyperglycemia. This is when the symptoms start showing up, typically in the form of:
- Frequent urination and increased thirst
- Blurred vision
- Increased hunger and appetite
- Vaginal infections
- Skin infections
- Slow wound healing
People with hyperglycemia often develop prediabetes, a condition that showcases high blood sugar levels but cannot yet be classified as diabetes. It’s estimated that more than 84 million Americans have prediabetes, which shows how serious this issue actually is.
If left untreated, prediabetes leads to type 2 diabetes, a condition where your blood sugar levels are too high and your pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to deal with it. There is no cure for type 2 diabetes, but it can be managed with the right lifestyle choices and treatments.
How to Prevent Insulin Resistance?
With the right tools and lifestyle changes, you’re able to help prevent the onset of this serious condition. Unless you’re dealing with an existing medical condition or a genetic mutation, you can have a bigger impact on your health than you think. Here are some of the most important ways you can change your life and prevent insulin resistance:
- Clean up your diet: Limit or even better, avoid ultra-processed foods. Not only are they full of excess sugars, trans fats, and a plethora of chemicals, but they contribute to the overall inflammation in your body, putting too much stress on your pancreas, and making it hard to produce enough insulin. Instead, focus on real, whole foods that help manage your blood sugar levels. These include foods that are rich in fiber, lean protein, and healthy fats.
- Eat superfoods: Superfoods are foods that can help your body in a more powerful way than other foods. Focus on those that promote lesser blood sugar spikes and are rich in antioxidants like berries, maca root, yacon root, and raw cacao.
- Engage in regular physical activity: Moving your body helps use stored energy, builds muscle to be able to store more glucose, and helps lower inflammation. Whether you enjoy running, cycling, yoga, or CrossFit – it doesn’t matter as long as you’re consistent with it and you’re not succumbing to a sedentary lifestyle.
- Focus on your sleep quality: Science shows how lack of sleep can increase your risk for insulin resistance, so it’s important to focus on the duration and quality of your nightly rest. Try to go to sleep around the same time, leave tech in the other room, and ensure your bedroom is cozy, dark, and at the right temperature.
- Lose weight: If you’re dealing with excess weight or have been diagnosed with obesity, losing weight and getting to a healthy body mass index (BMI) is the first step towards preventing insulin resistance and its negative consequences. If you’re not sure where to start, consult with your healthcare provider before starting a drastic weight-loss journey on your own.
- Lower your stress levels: Stress is known as the silent killer as it increases inflammation from the background. It’s omnipresent in today’s day and age and it’s almost impossible to cut it out of your life completely. That being said, even though stress is a part of our lives, it doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to lower its levels. Engage in activities such as meditation, journaling, and self-care routines, and find the best ways to relax and de-stress.
No medications have been approved to prevent or treat insulin resistance. Today, certain anti-diabetic medications like Ozempic and metformin are gaining popularity amongst celebrities who claim they helped keep their blood sugar low while losing weight pretty quickly. Before you find a way to get Ozempic yourself, talk to your healthcare provider and educate yourself on all the potential side effects.
Insulin resistance is a serious condition that if left undealt with, can cause prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. It’s crucial to take a snapshot of your current lifestyle routines and do a deep dive into how you can transform your life to prevent becoming insulin-resistant. Clean up your diet from ultra-processed foods, move your body, sleep more, stress less, and maintain a healthy BMI.