What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance is a physiological condition in which cells in the body become less sensitive to insulin’s effects. Insulin is a pancreatic hormone that plays an important function in controlling blood sugar (glucose) levels. It enables cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream and utilise it for energy or storage. Cells, notably muscle, fat, and liver cells, do not respond as well to the presence of insulin in people who have insulin resistance. This means that, while the pancreas produces enough insulin, the cells do not absorb glucose as efficiently as they should. As a result, blood sugar levels continue to rise, resulting in hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
In order to compensate for insulin’s decreased efficiency, the pancreas may generate more insulin in an attempt to lower blood sugar levels. This can result in hyperinsulinemia, a condition in which there is an excess of insulin in the bloodstream.
Focusing on holistic health, “Striking a Balance” equips readers with individualized strategies to increase insulin sensitivity and restore metabolic balance. By understanding the complexities of insulin resistance, you will be able to make informed decisions and embark on a path to improved health.
Metabolic and Health Concerns
Insulin resistance is associated to a number of metabolic and health concerns, including:
Type 2 Diabetes: If insulin resistance persists over time, it can progress to type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition characterized by chronically elevated blood sugar levels.
Obesity: Obesity, particularly excess abdominal fat, is frequently related with insulin resistance, as a result, obesity can lead to weight gain.
Cardiovascular Disease: It is linked to cardiovascular disorders such as heart disease, abnormal cholesterol levels, and stroke. It can cause inflammation, high blood pressure, and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Common in Women: It is common in women with PCOS, a hormonal condition that can impact fertility, menstrual periods, and other aspects of health.
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD): It is a major contributor to the development of NAFLD, which is defined by fat accumulation in the liver.
Managing Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is normally managed with lifestyle modifications such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, keeping a healthy weight, and, in rare situations, medication or insulin therapy. Early detection and intervention are critical for preventing or managing health issues.
How do I reduce Insulin resistance in the body?
While insulin resistance is a hallmark of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, it can also affect those with type 1 diabetes (Some research has shown that insulin resistance, independent of diabetes, is associated with heart disease). Reducing insulin resistance is crucial for maintaining good health. This is extremely important for people who have prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, or metabolic syndrome.
Here are some strategies that can help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin resistance:
Regular Physical Activity: Engaging in regular exercise can significantly improve insulin sensitivity. A mix of aerobic exercises (like brisk walking, jogging, or cycling) and resistance training (like weight lifting) provides the best results. Exercise helps muscles use glucose more effectively and can lower insulin resistance over time. Start with 20 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity daily and slowly increase it. For two days or more a week, workout to include all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
Eat a healthy Diet: Consuming a balanced diet regularly (without exception) that includes:
- whole grain foods,
- lots of vegetables and fruits,
- lean proteins,
- healthy fats.
- refined carbohydrates,
- sugary foods,
- processed snacks (including highly and ultra-processed foods), as they can contribute to insulin resistance.
Instead, opt for foods with a low glycemic index to help stabilize blood sugar levels. Some studies suggest that spices like Cinnamon and Turmeric may have beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity. Consider adding them to your diet.
Increase Fiber Intake: Foods rich in fiber can help slow down the absorption of sugar and improve insulin sensitivity. Consume whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day, as dehydration can affect blood sugar levels.
Avoid or lower Carbohydrate Intake: carbohydrate consumption is to be avoided or regulated; carbohydrate intake can be distributed evenly throughout the day, and avoid large, carb-heavy meals that can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
Weight Management: For overweight or obese people, losing even a modest amount of weight can improve insulin sensitivity. Weight loss can help reduce fat accumulation around organs (visceral fat), which is associated with insulin resistance.
Limit or avoid alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol intake can disrupt blood sugar levels and contribute to insulin resistance. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
Quit Smoking: Smoking has been associated with insulin resistance, among many other health risks. Quitting smoking can have significant benefits for your overall health.
Prevent Sleep deprivation: Poor sleep patterns and insufficient rest can contribute to insulin resistance. We should aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. It is sleep per day (and not average sleep per week or per month) that counts.
Stress Management: Chronic stress can raise cortisol levels, which may interfere with insulin function. Engage in stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or spending time in nature.
Remember, individual responses to lifestyle changes may vary, so it’s essential to be patient and consistent in your efforts to improve insulin sensitivity. Always work with your healthcare provider to develop a plan that suits your specific needs and health condition.
Managing insulin resistance involves making lifestyle changes, such as adopting a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing stress. In some cases, medications may be prescribed to improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control. Early detection and intervention are crucial in preventing complications like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems associated with insulin resistance. If you suspect you have insulin resistance or related concerns, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.
Ref. 1: See here.