Insulin resistance is the precursor to diabetes and not something to take lightly. If you’ve been to the doctor, you might have heard the term pre-diabetic and your ears should perk up. The Standard American Diet (SAD) causes more people to hear this news from their doctors. Usually we think of someone who is morbidly obese or has obvious outward signs of poor health, but we are all at risk for this condition. In addition. our children are at an ever-increasing risk!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2016 approximately 29 million Americans (8% of the US population) are living with diabetes with another 86 million people (almost 25% of the US population) considered to be clinically pre‐diabetic or insulin resistant. These numbers have more than doubled since the 1980s and many of the people represented in these numbers remain undiagnosed and untreated. Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune condition typically diagnosed in childhood, represents only about 5% of the cases of diabetes in the US. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016) The International Diabetes Federation estimates that the number of people with diabetes will increase by 50% by 2040. In addition, diabetes is the third leading cause of death and accounts for 5 million deaths worldwide each year. (International Diabetes Federation, 2017)
Current statistics also point to a relatively new and troubling trend. The rate of newly diagnosed cases of diabetes in children ages 10‐19 rose 4.8% from 2002 to 2012 with Native American, African American, and Asian American/Pacific Islander races being heavily impacted. Numbers rose 6.2% for females and 3.7% for males in this age bracket. The SWEET Project based in Europe estimates that the life expectancy of a child diagnosed with diabetes (both Type 1 and Type 2) is reduced by up to 15 years and that diagnosis of childhood diabetes grows 3‐5% annually.
These numbers are overwhelming and call for action!
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin is the hormone made in the pancreas and assists in the cellular production of energy. Insulin acts as the key that opens the cell doors for glucose to enter and be used for energy production. When the cells become insulin resistant, the insulin receptors on the membrane wall that would normally accept insulin and allow glucose to enter the cells become impaired. The “key” no longer fits the lock and glucose can’t get into the cells. Glucose levels build up in the blood signaling the body to make more insulin. Insulin resistance is a pre‐diabetic state with elevated blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be labeled diabetes.
As insulin resistance continues, the body is less and less able to regulate blood glucose levels. This dysfunction further impairs the body’s ability to use the insulin that is produced by the pancreas and/or can wear out the pancreas leaving the body with no or too little insulin to keep the process functioning. As insulin resistance continues the body has nowhere else for excess glucose to go and fat cells begin their job of taking in the excess glucose and converting it to stored fat. This fat tends to be stored in the abdominal walls and creates poor metabolic conditions that increase inflammation, circulatory problems and poor health.
How Do I Know If I’m Insulin Resistant?
There are warning signs that you can indicate f you are at increased risk for insulin resistance. It’s important not to ignore these signs so that you can get to work reversing insulin resistance before it progresses to diabetes.
These are the signs to look for:
- Belly fat and waist dimensions – a woman with waist circumference exceeding 35 inches or a man with waist circumference exceeding 40 inches is considered higher risk for IR.
- Appearance of dark skin patches or skin tags at creases of skin including neck, elbows, armpits & knuckles. These skin changes don’t necessarily cause problems but are an outward sign that your body isn’t using insulin well.
- Strong sugar/carb cravings and excess hunger
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Water retention noticed by swollen ankles, feet and/or hands
- High blood pressure
- Elevated blood sugar
- Fatty liver
- Elevated triglycerides and/or high LDL cholesterol
If I suspect Insulin Resistance, What Should I do?
Don’t ignore it! Seek confirmation from your doctor or take action by moderating the way you eat and increasing exercise. This is a condition that we can control and stop the progression to diabetes even with a family history of diabetes.
There are blood labs that your doctor can run that test fasting insulin levels. This is not typically part of a regular lab work-up so you will need to ask them to run this specific test. If the above list gives you reason to stop and wonder, get to work. Do we really need blood work to confirm what our gut is telling us?
Word of caution. If the above list doesn’t completely describe you. Talk to your doctor. There are people who aren’t overweight and don’t have typical outward signs that are insulin resistant. It is a possibility.
How do I Turn This Ship Around?
It is possible to reverse insulin resistance. A healthy whole food diet with an emphasis on non-starchy vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats can do it. I was diagnosed as insulin resistant about 8 years ago and now follow a Ketogenic way of eating and have never felt better. I’ll share more about this in upcoming blog posts. Adjusting your habits and a commitment to your health make it happen!
Exercise is a key component to reversing insulin resistance. Exercise on a cellular level burns the excess sugar (glucose) in your blood, in addition to boosting energy levels, burning calories, increasing bone density and improving your mood. It’s good stuff.
Start small with walking or whatever activity (swimming, running, Zumba, etc.) you think you will stick with and build from there. Just move your body! Slow and steady wins the race. Even 15-20 minutes of walking has an impact. You don’t have to go run a marathon.
Finally, I must mention that caring for ourselves is a necessity, both mentally and physically. Stress is brutal on our bodies and can impact the amount of insulin produced and how it gets used. Take time to meditate or pray. Consider trying yoga and other types of slow relaxing movement. Find a hobby or activity that is just for you. Renew your commitment to care for yourself every day. Put it on a note card next to your bed or a sticky note on the bathroom mirror. “I will care for myself today.” Keep doing this even when you don’t feel it. Sometimes we have to fake it until we make it.
What if Getting Started is a Struggle?
Reach out to me! There is absolutely nothing wrong with needing help! Over the years, I too have sought help from coaches. It is extremely freeing and takes pressure off you. You have a guide that will help you each step of the way. You don’t have to depend on yourself to wade through the vast amounts of information on the web and figure out what’s going to work. I guide you based on your individual needs and circumstances. We quickly establish a plan that works and is livable for you and what’s important to you.
Contact me now and let’s get going! No time to waste. I want you to be strong and healthy and enjoying your life with family and friends. I want you to like what you see in the mirror and be happy taking selfies and family pictures. Let’s do this!
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