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A friend comes knocking at your door. What do you do? You let them in, of course.
But what happens if you become hard of hearing?
Your friend must knock harder for you to hear them at the door.
This is kind of what happens to your body as you develop insulin resistance.
What is insulin resistance?
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that is crucial for converting food into energy or storing that energy for later use.
When your blood glucose levels rise after a meal, the pancreas responds by producing insulin. The insulin, in turn, helps sugar enter your cells so that the amount of sugar in your bloodstream falls back to a normal range.
The “knock at the door” is insulin telling your insulin-sensitive muscle, liver and fat cells that glucose needs to get in.
But changes in the body can cause those cells to become hard of hearing. They don’t respond as effectively as they should to take up or store glucose from your bloodstream.
What does the pancreas do? It produces even more insulin.
Your blood sugar level might be normal, but you need way more insulin to get it into a normal range because the cells have lost their sensitivity. At this point, you are insulin-resistant.
Eventually, the pancreas can’t make enough insulin to knock as loudly as it needs to, and blood sugar levels start to rise. At this point, if things are not corrected, prediabetes, then type 2 diabetes could be around the corner.
Who is at risk for insulin resistance?
Genes and older age can make us more prone to insulin resistance, but two lifestyle factors — excess belly fat and physical inactivity — are considered the two main contributing factors.
Other factors that may increase the risk for insulin resistance include:
- A diet high in processed, high-carbohydrate and high-fat foods requires more insulin. These foods tend to be high glycemic index foods.
- A family history of type 2 diabetes.
- Having high triglycerides, high LDL cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol.
Some hormonal conditions are associated with insulin resistance, including:
Cushing’s syndrome: Cortisol, best known as the stress hormone, is necessary in the conversion of blood sugar to energy. However excess cortisol (which can occur due to chronic stress or Adrenal fatigue) can counteract insulin and cause insulin resistance.
Hypothyroidism (or low thyroid): The thyroid plays a big role in regulating your metabolism. When it doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, it slows glucose metabolism which can lead to insulin resistance.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): People with PCOS are more likely to be overweight and have metabolic syndrome. That sets a great many of them up for insulin resistance.
Hypertension, heart disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are also linked to insulin resistance.
Some drugs can set you up for insulin resistance, including glucocorticoids (prednisone is one), some antipsychotics and some HIV medicines.
What are the early signs of insulin resistance?
- A waistline over 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women
- Blood pressure readings of 130/80 or higher
- A fasting glucose level over 100 mg/dL
- A fasting triglyceride level over 150 mg/dL
- A HDL cholesterol level under 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women
- Skin tags
- Patches of dark, velvety skin called acanthosis nigricans
- Eye changes that can lead to diabetes-related retinopathy
- Feeling hungry or tired all the time
- Extreme thirst
- Irregular menstrual periods
Get your insulin sensitivity back
Make no mistake: insulin resistance is a sign that your metabolism is seriously out of whack.
If your pancreas is showing signs of exhaustion, the sooner you start an all-out effort to get your metabolism back in line, the better. Starting here:
Lose a few pounds. Excess weight, especially belly fat, tops the list of causes of insulin resistance. If you need help finding the energy to exercise, enlist the help of the antioxidant, PQQ, found to go after visceral fat while delivering the energy the body needs to exercise.
Exercise more. Many studies have also found that resistance training can increase insulin sensitivity among men and women with or without diabetes.
Eat healthy foods. Add more soluble fiber and colorful fruits (like berries) and vegetables to your diet. The more colorful the better, as these contain antioxidants that have been shown to help with weight loss and curb insulin resistance. Cut back on high glycemic foods like carbs (which stimulate excess insulin production), sugars and processed starches. Also, eat much less red meat.
Keep your vitamin D levels healthy. Several studies have connected low vitamin D levels to insulin sensitivity.
Boost CoQ10 levels. Research has also shown that low CoQ10 levels correlate to insulin resistance.
Get more sleep. Give up night owl habits, like staying up late and getting less sleep. Getting more sleep can help reverse its effects.
Reduce stress. Ongoing stress keeps your cortisol level high, which stimulates the breakdown of nutrients and increases blood sugar.
Editor’s note: Are you feeling unusually tired? You may think this is normal aging, but the problem could be your master hormone. When it’s not working, your risk of age-related diseases skyrockets. To reset what many call “the trigger for all disease” and live better, longer, click here to discover The Insulin Factor: How to Repair Your Body’s Master Controller and Conquer Chronic Disease!
Insulin Resistance — Cleveland Clinic