What Is Insulin Resistance?

Have you heard of Insulin Resistance? Not many people have but it’s estimated that over 5 million people in the UK have Type 2 diabetes and around 7 million people are prediabetic. Insulin resistance is the lead driving factor for Type 2 diabetes, pre diabetes and gestational diabetes and has been linked to almost every chronic disease so it’s important we all know about it so we can take action to improve our health. Insulin resistance has been linked to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, polycystic ovary syndrome, acne, infertility, cancer, Alzheimers and more. If you get sleepy after eating, crave sugar and starch, get shaky, lightheaded and hangry in between meals, have dark, velvety patches of skin or skin tags, frequent thirst or urination, then there’s a possibility you could already be insulin resistant but the good news, there’s lots we can do to reverse it.

When we eat, our blood glucose (sugar) levels rise. How much will depend on what we’ve eaten. Sugary foods and refined carbohydrates will spike our blood glucose the most and healthy fats tend to have the least impact. Insulin is then released from the pancreas to help usher the sugar from our blood into the cells of our body and our blood glucose levels return to a healthy range. When insulin is constantly being released to regulate blood sugar, our cells can stop responding to it and become resistant. When this happens, our pancreas starts pumping out even more insulin, enough to overcome the cells weak response to keep blood sugar in an optimal range but this will cause high insulin levels – hyperinsulinemia. We can have high levels of insulin for years before our blood glucose levels become high but unfortunately insulin is rarely tested and our blood glucose is.

Risk factors

  • A family history of Type 2 diabetes.
  • Overweight or obese (especially around the waist).
  • Age 45 or over.
  • History of gestational diabetes.
  • Physical inactivity.
  • Diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and vegetable oils and eating frequently.
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
  • History of heart disease or stroke.
  • High blood pressure or abnormal cholesterol levels.
  • Hormonal disorders such as Cushing syndrome, Hypothyroidism or Acromegaly.
  • Certain medications such as glucocorticoids, antipsychotics and HIV medications.
  • Sleep apnoea.

What can we do about insulin resistance?

Prevention is better than cure so taking action before insulin resistance develops into Type 2 Diabetes is really important. Avoiding or at least reducing foods that are going to cause a big blood sugar spike is the first step. These are foods with a high glycemic load such as white bread, pasta and rice, all baked goods such as cookies, cakes and pastries, soft drinks, chocolate, ice cream and sweets. Meals should consist of protein, healthy fats and non-starchy vegetables but if including starch of some sort then it should always be eaten last. All processed foods should be avoided as much as possible and fruit limited to once daily. Eating less frequently is very beneficial but if you feel shaky and lightheaded between meals then this should be brought in gradually and eventually you may be able to incorporate some intermittent fasting which is one of the best things you can do for insulin resistance. Muscles use up a lot of glucose so introducing some strength training on a regular basis will improve your insulin sensitivity. Our calf muscles especially like glucose so going for a walk after a meal will really help to use up blood sugar therefore reducing the spike and consequently, the amount of insulin needed. Poor sleep and stress are detrimental to our blood sugar so adding in breathing exercises, meditation and yoga can be extremely beneficial. I recommend investing in a Continuous Glucose Monitor so you can see which foods spike your blood sugar as we are all different and it could be something unexpected like blueberries.

I offer a 12 week programme to help balance blood sugar and will guide you through all these steps and more. If you would like to chat, you can book a non – obligatory discovery call here

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