Insulin Resistance Signs and Ways to Manage This Condition
Insulin resistance is estimated to affect over half of the US population today. This huge problem is associated with obesity and the onset of chronic illnesses such as type-2 diabetes and heart disease. Being resistant to insulin can have a cascading effect on all of your hormones if not treated and managed correctly. Consequently, it can also make it difficult to lose weight. The good news, though, is that insulin resistance is not a life sentence and it can be reversed! Knowledge is power, so in today’s post we’ll go over how insulin resistance develops. Then we’ll point out some insulin resistance signs to look out for, and what you can do if you are insulin resistant.
What is Insulin, And What Does It Do?
In case you are not already familiar, insulin is a hormone that is primarily responsible for blood sugar management. It plays a huge role in how well your blood transports glucose and transfers it to cells. Mainly, it has two basic functions:
1) Let glucose into the cells for processing and;
2) Produce fat via a process called de novo lipogenesis.
Why do cells need glucose?
All the cells of our body use ATP as their source of energy. However, ATP is not readily available from food. Cells breakdown and convert glucose to create these energy molecules. It is akin to burning coal (glucose) to generate electricity (ATP).
Insulin as a Glucose Transporter
That first function above can be simplified as follows: When we eat a meal that contains carbohydrates, those carbohydrates are broken down into glucose. This simple sugar enters into your system, causing your blood sugar levels to rise. As a result of this rise, the pancreas releases insulin into the blood to funnel the excess sugar into cells. In particular, into the cells of the liver and muscle. But overall, the goal is to bring your blood sugar level back to base line.
When you eat, you store sugar. When you don’t eat, you burn sugar.
Insulin as a FaT-Storage Trigger
In addition to aiding the movement of sugar into cells, insulin also acts as a fat storage hormone. When the liver contains excess glucose, it converts that glucose into glycogen. It can then reserve that glycogen for future use. (When blood sugar levels are low, your pancreas releases another hormone, glucagon, which forces conversion of glycogen back to glucose. In turn, this causes your blood sugar level to rise again.) However, if blood sugar levels never decrease, insulin then stimulates a different reaction: It tells the cells to convert -and store- the glycogen as fat. This process is called De Novo Lipogenesis (DNL), and commonly occurs in both the liver and adipose (fat storage) tissue. Notably, it is stimulated by high-carbohydrate diets, especially those high in simple sugars.
What Stops Lipogenesis?
Lipogenesis is a complicated process that is influenced by a number of factors. And obviously, if it were to run wild you would pack on extra pounds of fat. Fortunately, there is a process that most people do every day that significantly curbs DNL: FASTING! Whether you had recognized it or not, that break between dinner and breakfast (even as you sleep) is a fast.
Fasting to Fight Excess Fat Storage
When you are fasting, your blood sugar and insulin levels naturally fall. This drop signals your body to pull some of that stored sugar fat back out of storage. It then burns this as energy, getting rid of excess fat stores. So as long as you balance your feeding and fasting, you should have a well balanced system. And usually, if you burn at least as many calories as you consume, you should not gain extra weight.
You can use this natural function to your advantage to prevent excess fat storage. Mainly you can positively influence and regulate your blood sugar levels by actively limiting your calorie intake. Both intermittent and prolonged fasting have beneficial impacts on blood sugar. Incorporate intermittent fasting into your day by limiting your feeding window to 10 hours or less. Fasting for multiple days can be difficult, but it has a multitude of benefits. This is where a product like ProLon’s Fasting-Mimicking Diet meal plan can be helpful. In addition to leveling out your blood, it stimulates cellular cleansing and rejuvenation. On top of this, you can improve your relationship with food. For example, after using the 5-day meal kit, you’ll likely have a smaller appetite and have less cravings for sugar and other simple carbs. All of these aspects will help you reduce extra fat storage.
Using Leptin to Limit Lipogenesis
Because insulin is a hormone that stimulates fat storage, it makes sense that your body would also have another hormone to fight fat storage. One of those naturally-occurring, lipogenesis-inhibiting hormones is leptin. Remarkably, this compound can help you fight fat in a couple ways.
As noted, leptin helps prevent the conversion of glycogen to fat. Additionally, this “satiety hormone” can help you curb hunger and resist those excess carbs in the first place. Whenever you eat, leptin is released to tell your brain “we’re full, so you can stop eating now.” If you increase your levels of leptin -and your body’s response to it- you will feel less hungry and have less cravings. This effect is so powerful, it is used in scientifically-formulated LeptoConnect. Use its all-natural blend to take control of your hunger and your weight.
What is Insulin Resistance? Where Does It Come From and How Does It Develop?
Despite its prevalence, Insulin Resistance is not yet fully understood, so does not have an exact definition. Rather, it is sort of an umbrella term for the phenomena where muscles, fat, and liver cells don’t respond well to insulin. This means they can’t accept and use glucose from your blood for energy. Therefore, blood glucose remains elevated despite normal or high levels of insulin.
Risk Factors for Developing Insulin Resistance
Regardless of how exactly insulin resistance develops, physicians agree there are a number of risk factors for developing this ailment. Some of these include:
- Family history of diabetes
- Polycycstic ovaries (PCOS)
- Diet high in refined carbohydrates
- Sedentary lifestyle
- BMI greater that 29
- Extra weight around your abdomen
Signs That You May Be Insulin Resistant
While the explanation for why this occurs is still evolving, insulin resistance signs and symptoms are also fairly-well agreed upon.
- Abdominal fat, aka visceral fat: When you are insulin resistant, your body will store excess fat around the organs in our abdomen.
- Swollen ankles: If extra insulin is not properly treated, fluid is unnecessarily retained and often results in swollen ankles.
- Hunger after eating: Since your body is not regulating blood sugar levels properly, the cells in your body are not able to absorb the glucose and use it for energy. Thus, they may still signal that they need food.
- Sugar cravings: This is related to #3 above. The result of the cell facing internal starvation, even after you have just finished eating. Your body knows sugar equals glucose, so it may crave it specifically.
- Dark skin patches: High levels of insulin in the blood can lead to areas of dark and dry patches on the skin. Usually these appear on skin folds such as armpits, neck and the groin.
- Frequent urination: Because insulin is not regulating blood sugar correctly, your kidneys have to make more urine to pass the sugar from your blood.
- Extreme thirst: If you are flushing all the water out of your body (due to #6) you are inevitably going to be more thirsty.
The Lock and Key Paradigm
This classic view of insulin resistance is so named because insulin acts as the key that unlocks the gate to allow glucose into the cell. Under this concept, either the lock or the key (or both) are malfunctioning. This prevents the gate from opening fully, so normal levels of glucose can’t be let into the cell. As such, glucose builds up in the blood outside, while the cell experiences ‘internal starvation’ inside. The elevated levels of blood sugar become detectable as the clinical diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. The standard treatment is to introduce more insulin and force more sugar uptake into the cells.
The Overflow Paradigm
Recent research indicates that there may be something else causing insulin resistance. In this new model, the cell is actually not starving for glucose. Rather, it is already packed full, so cannot accept more glucose regardless of the levels of insulin. (Or perhaps a malfunctioning mechanism makes it think it is full.)
Interestingly, this theory actually explains the shortcomings of the “lock and key paradigm”. Raising insulin forces glucose out of the blood, so blood glucose levels are improved. However, patients still gain weight and develop other complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness. Accordingly the treatment that offers the best results is fasting. This is because it empties the excess sugar out of the cells, and not just out of the blood.
Fatty liver is the key to understanding insulin resistance and usually precedes the diagnosis of type II diabetes. Importantly, eating fatty foods does not cause a fatty liver. Similar to glucose, dietary fat travels in the blood stream for tissues and organs to absorb and metabolize for energy. On the other hand, fructose (fruit sugar) is a different kind of sugar that solely gets metabolized in the liver and turns directly into fat. If this is not burned off quickly, it gets stored in the liver. When you overfeed on carbohydrates, sucrose and fructose, you are risking the chance of developing fatty liver and insulin resistance.
Think of it like this: As you fill up the liver cells with glucose, it gets increasingly harder to put any more glucose inside. As a result, you have to use more force and more insulin to get that glucose in. Over time, the cells eventually get ‘full’ of glucose, which gets converted to glycogen, and then to fat. Meanwhile, the pancreas is worn-out and weakened from all this extra demand for insulin. During this stressful process, the liver is actively trying to ‘decompress’ itself from all the fat that it has been storing. It starts pouring fat back out into the the system in triglyceride packages, leading to high amounts of fat in the blood along with very high sugar. This is usually the stage when one will hear the diagnosis for type II diabetes.
Pancreatic Beta Cells
We understand that at some point during the above scenarios, the pancreas gets burnt out with the high demand for insulin production. However, the good news is that studies have shown that procedures such as Gastric banding, Bariatric surgery, and fasting can, in fact, restore the function of the production of beta cells via the pancreas. Thus making type II diabetes is a reversible disease.
How To Reverse Insulin Resistance
Certainly, insulin resistance is a serious condition that deserves proper diagnosis from a trained physician. We always recommend consulting with your doctor before starting any treatment program. However, if you are diagnosed with insulin resistance -or want to prevent its emergence- here are some things you can do to reverse its course:
- Eat a low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet
- Exercise regularly
- Quit smoking
- Improve your sleep
- Practice fasting: Intermittent, prolonged, etc.
- Reduce stress
Hopefully the information above can help you understand how to avoid insulin resistance. But if you develop any insulin resistance signs, or are diagnosed, take heart in knowing there is much you can do to positively impact your situation.
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*ProLon is not a cure for diabetes or any disease. If you have any medical conditions, consult with your physician before starting.