What exactly is insulin resistance (IR) and why is it so important to my health? On a technical note insulin resistance is defined as the inability of your cells to respond to the binding of the insulin molecule. The basic function of insulin is to take glucose (blood sugar) from your blood stream and to bring it to the cell for production of energy. Insulin resistance prevents the adequate usage of glucose by your cells, almost having the effect of “starving” your cells. This will alter the cell metabolism, and cause an increase in glucose (blood sugar ) levels. The main fuel for your cells is glucose, but they may use proteins and fats. However, the nerve cells rely on glucose exclusively for energy. This is why the brain and nervous system are particularly susceptible. As you can see, not having an adequate fuel supply can have devastating consequences.
Conservatively, it is estimated that 25-30% of the population in westernized countries suffer from IR. The US Dept. of Health and Human Services estimates that 1 in 4 US adults aged 20 years and older or approximately 57 million Americans have IR or prediabetes in 2007. The American Heart Association in 1996 reported a “landmark” study that showed IR was a key predictor of coronary artery disease. So, IR is more common than one would think and might explain the dramatic increase in diabetes.
SYMPTOMS OF INSULIN RESISTANCE
- Inability to lose weight especially around the waist.
- Waist size in men greater than 40” and in women greater than 35”.
- Fatigue and especially after meals.
- Craving for sugar/sweets and constant hunger.
- Brain fogginess and inability to focus.
- Inability to fall asleep at night.
- Intestinal bloating.
- Migrating joint/muscle aches and pains.
SIGNS OF INSULIN RESISTANCE
- Elevated fasting glucose over 100dg/ml or elevated hemoglobin A1C.
- Elevated fasting insulin.
- Elevated total cholesterol
- Elevated triglycerides
- Decreased HDL, or “good” cholesterol.
- Elevated blood pressure above 130/85.
- Elevated uric acid
- Excessive abdominal weight.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
- Inability to dissolve blood clots.
- Infertility issues
- Rapid mood changes
- Sleep disorders
- Acanthosis nigricans, a condition were dark, velvety, skin patches are noted along the neck , armpit and other skin fold areas.
- Skin tags
IMPACT OF IR ON HUMAN BODY
IR has such extensive effects on the body because, it effects the body at a very fundamental cellular level. We will outline some of these body and metabolic changes.
Elevated insulin levels alters internal sodium and potassium levels. These changes causes the blood vessels to constrict and leads to elevated blood pressure. Elevated insulin effects a protein in the blood that helps to breakdown fibrin which leads to clots. High levels of insulin interferes with this normal breakdown. Insulin when elevated effects an important enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase. This enzyme helps to manufacture cholesterol. Elevated insulin levels speeds up this enzyme causing increased cholesterol. Statin drugs decrease this enzymes activity. So, a logical approach to controlling cholesterol would be to reduce IR. Insulin also effects another enzyme which results in reduced HDL. HDL is considered the “good” cholesterol.
In women elevated insulin can lead to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). IR causes huge hormonal shifts leading to elevated estrogen, elevated testosterone and several other hormones. The end result is weight gain, fluid retention, fatigue, mood swings, acne beyond puberty, hair loss and unwanted hair growth. This is also the most common cause of infertility in the United States. Furthermore, IR can also cause a lot of menstrual irregularities. In men IR can lead to lower testosterone levels. The low T symptoms would be weight gain, lowered libido, decreased energy/vitality. There will also be a decrease in progesterone in men which has a protective effect on the prostate, effects brain chemistry and effects bone density.
With IR the cells are hindered from receiving glucose efficiently. This creates a shift in the cells causing them to convert a larger amount of glucose into fat called lipogenesis. When this happens less glucose is available for immediate energy and it is more difficult for it to be broken down. This will cause a patient to gain fat/ weight quickly and yet have low energy. Insulin along with elevated cortisol causes problems with a hormone called leptin. Leptin is released from the fat cells to decrease appetite and to encourage the burning of fat. However, IR prevents leptin from stimulating the cells properly which causes a person to feel hungry all the time and decreases fat burning.
Elevated insulin also interferes with several important enzymes found in the liver. These enzymes are critical to help breakdown and neutralize many substances found both within and from outside our bodies. This may lead to increased sensitivity to chemicals, medications, foods and allergens.
IR has an effect on fatty acid derived hormones called prostaglandins, eicosanoids and leukotrienes. The end result is increased inflammation and poor healing response. This can lead to chronic joint and muscle pains. There are some studies now linking colorectal and breast cancer with IR.
TREATMENT OF INSULIN RESISTANCE
Here at our office we approach such an imbalance by utilizing dietary recommendations, lifestyle changes, analyzing blood, saliva and hair analysis along with applied kinesiology reflex testing. Often a patient will have to be on various natural products for several months especially if they have had this problem.
Often many patients have had this problem for years never realizing why they had all these different symptoms. Patients with IR may not get the identical products as each person can have different main causes of IR or various levels of intensities. Some of the more common products are: A good basic product called Glysen, gymnema sylvestre, chromium, vanadium, alpha – lipoic acid, low levels of vitamin E, magnesium, biotin, zinc, inositol (especially for neuropathy), niacin and Lcarnitine.
Testing your body periodically and a follow up blood testing is important to achieve better health.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP IR?
The first thing would be to change your diet:
Remove refined carbohydrates from your diet, this includes cookies, cake, ice cream, pastries/ baked goods, white rice, white bread, soda, fructose corn syrup. Basically, reduce your carbohydrate intake and add lean meats, poultry, fish, plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits and raw nuts.
Always have a protein based breakfast and do not skip breakfast. Studies have found that regular exercise to be vitally important. Walking 30 min. 5 times per week is recommended. Losing just 5 to 7 percent of your current body weight can begin to cause metabolic shifts and reduce insulin and glucose levels.
Regular amounts of sleep of a minimum of 7-8 hours per night.