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Insulin Resistance

Updated: May 9

Have you heard of Insulin resistance? It is a condition where excess insulin gradually eats away at your body without showing much in the way of symptoms until one day your pancreas gives up and you end up with full blown Type 2 diabetes because your glucose is now out of control. It is caused by a persistent high level of insulin which gradually causes insulin receptors in cells to become less sensitive to the hormone’s signal. This reduction in sensitivity forces the pancreas to manufacture ever higher insulin levels, to get the signal to work, which then reduces sensitivity further, and the cycle repeats.

This typically shows with some of the symptoms below:

1. Increased body fat levels, particularly in the central area.

2. Waist measurement greater than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.

3. Increased levels of facial and body hair for women.

4. Acanthosis Nigricans, which is a darkening of skin in folds and under arms.

5. Difficulty getting pregnant, (applies to women only of course).

6. Tendency to oily skin and hair.

7. Cravings for sweet or salty foods.

8. Skin tags.

9. Fatigue.

10. Increased hunger or thirst.

11. Erectile dysfunction.

A series of tests by the doctor can confirm IR, but it can be missed as there is a high proportion of the population which show these symptoms and the doctor may only be looking for elevated glucose. My study also highlights that most doctors tend to only treat what you complain about, rather than being proactive about your health. I have begun to realise that you need to do that yourself. If you have any concerns, Insulin resistance itself should be tested with both a glucose tolerance test and fasting insulin test, because of the ability of the excess insulin to keep glucose levels down, hiding the real problem and causing fasting glucose levels to appear to be OK.

One often failing of current medical testing for insulin resistance is that it focuses on your inability to get glucose into cells rather than how much insulin you are producing. The result is that people can be sent away from the doctor after being told all is okay, because the massive level of insulin in their body manages glucose down and hides the real problem. Unfortunately for them the doctor only realizes there is a problem when the “end stage” symptoms show up. Because serious micro-vascular damage is being done during this undiagnosed period by excess insulin, much of the damage to your body may be irreversible by the end-stage. If you have any concerns, you need to take a look at other signals yourself and insist on insulin resistance testing to avoid this disaster.

Chart of insulin resistance changing over the years

Family history can also be a clue. Check out direct relatives on both parents sides of your family tree, because some people are much more sensitive to this than others. Also don’t assume that because you are slim, you are in the clear. There is a body type known as TOFI (thin outside, fat inside) which presents as slim, but is still impacted by significant visceral fat around the organs.

If this is not reversed or treated in some way, your future health can be seriously impacted.

Here are some of the problems directly related to this condition:

1. Significantly reduced chance of getting pregnant, even with IVF treatment.

2. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

3. Non alcoholic fatty liver disease.

4. Metabolic syndrome.

5. Type 2 diabetes.

6. Kidney disease.

7. Cardio vascular (heart) disease.

8. Blindness due to damage in small eye blood vessels.

9. Nerve ending damage that can lead to amputations particularly in extremities.

10. Alzheimer’s (brain) disease.

People with Insulin resistance, Metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes are at high risk of cardiovascular disease. Insulin resistance doubles your risk for heart attack and stroke – and triples the odds that a heart attack or ‘brain attack’ (Stroke) will be deadly, according to the International Diabetes Federation. One single extra kilogram of visceral fat in a female is linked to a 4X greater risk for type 2 diabetes.

Meanwhile, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome are also linked with higher risk for cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, cervix, pancreas, prostate and uterus. The connection: High insulin levels early in insulin resistance seem to fuel the growth of tumors and to suppress the body’s ability to protect itself by killing off malignant cancer cells.

The longer that the condition goes untreated the less the ability to reverse it in the future. It used to be believed that Type 2 Diabetes was not reversible and in fact many doctors still believe this because they have no understanding of the capability of a low carbohydrate diet to counter this. I have read that doctors are not really taught about nutrition at medical school as the current medical model instead focuses on drug prescribing and surgery.

How to reduce insulin resistance? A most effective way is to dramatically reduce the level of carbohydrates in the diet. In other words, cut out sugars, grains and starches , replacing these calories with healthy fat and low carb vegetables. For proof, ask your doctor for a continuous glucose monitor and watch to see what foods raise glucose in your body, remembering that when glucose rises, insulin will then rise to manage the glucose level in your blood. Before making any changes, consult your medical professional and take the tests.

George Elder, Author, "Take Back Your Health", on Amazon

Insulin being administered

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