Insulin resistance is becoming a widespread health condition, as each year, an increasing number of people are diagnosed with it. It is essential to know that IR is not a harmless medical problem that can be neglected or ignored. It can be cured, but if left untreated, it can lead to diabetes type 2 and cause you many other health issues along the way. In this article we won’t tackle the topic of treatment, but you can find out how to cure insulin resistance in our dedicated article.
Let’s dive into the topic.
What is insulin resistance?
Before we explain what insulin resistance is, it is important to tell what “insulin” is. This is a hormone that is excreted by the pancreas. It helps the glucose to penetrate from the blood into the body cells so that they can start using it as fuel to create energy.
Every food that you consume contains certain amounts of glucose, and that is why when you eat, your blood sugar rises. This is the time when the insulin comes in function. The pancreas starts excreting the hormone to stimulate the glucose to quickly leave the blood, enter the body cells, and create energy. When the blood sugar levels come into balance, the pancreas stops the insulin production, until the next time glucose comes into the blood.
So what does it mean to be insulin resistant? Well, this is the health condition when your body cells react abnormally when insulin tries to interact with them. They either have limited or almost no response at all, which means that the glucose cannot fully penetrate the cells. This lack of reaction to insulin stimulates the pancreas to produce even higher levels of the hormone to “attack” the cells so that the glucose can be absorbed properly.
However, in the long run, the cells adapt to the increased doses of insulin and become even more irresponsive to it. As a result, the blood sugar level increases to reach a constant dangerous range. On the other hand, the long term overproduction of the hormone leads to malfunction of the pancreas. In such cases, when the IR is not treated for a long time, it becomes a prediabetes condition.
What causes IR?
Several factors are related to developing insulin resistance. They may have an impact on this health condition either separate, or all together.
Lack of physical activity
Numerous studies show that regular exercising, walking, or stretching keeps the blood sugar level healthy and improves the sensitivity of the body cells to insulin.
This is a prerequisite for developing insulin resistance. However, obese people with “Apple” body shape are more prone to suffering from IR because of the concentrated fat tissue layers around the abdomen. Such belly fat can interrupt the pancreas functions and stimulate IR to evolve into prediabetes condition.
Keep in mind that if you are overweight, obese, or have “Apple” body shape, you are in a risk group of easily developing IR.
Oxidative and Chronic stress
Those two types of stress increase the risk of developing IR because they directly harm the cell’s protective barrier and damage their functions. As a result, their sensitivity to insulin decreases, and they start absorbing limited amounts of glucose from the blood.
Eating lots of carbs and sugar
Sugar and carbs cause sharp spikes in the blood sugar levels, as they quickly increase the glucose in the blood. As a consequence, they stimulate the increased production of insulin. With long term overconsumption of sweet, high-carb foods, the body cells regularly interact with insulin, and at some point, they get used to this process. As a result, they continuously start demanding higher and higher amounts of insulin to absorb the glucose properly, and eventually, they become insulin resistant.
What are the symptoms of IR?
There are many speculations that IR is not a medical condition, but a symptom caused by other health problems. However, this statement is absolutely not true!
IR is a condition that can cause various symptoms at one time, which can have no visible connection one to another. Let’s see what those symptoms are:
- Weight gain. As the body cells cannot use glucose as energy fuel, it is being stored as fat tissue.
- Tiredness. If your diet is based on carbs and you have IR, your body won’t be able to use the glucose for energy, and as a result, you will feel constantly tired, exhausted, and sleepy.
- Polycystic ovaries. Storing glucose as fat tissue does not only mean that you will gain weight. At some point, you may develop cysts, which will block the normal function of your ovaries.
- High blood pressure. IR leads to low HDL levels (good cholesterol), which causes arteries buildup. As a result, people suffer from high blood pressure and increased risk of cardiac diseases and strokes.
- High triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are lipids that the body creates when it is supplied with excessive amounts of calories. Those calories are being transformed into triglycerides and are stored for the creation of energy in-between the meals. Having high levels of those lipids mean that you consume more calories than you burn on a daily basis.
- Dangerous blood sugar range. If you are not a diabetic and your blood sugar levels are more than 5.9mmol/L, this may be a sign of advanced IR. In this case, it is crucial to seek medical advice.
- Hormonal imbalance. IR can cause an imbalance in the levels of hormones other than insulin, such as estrogen and progesterone.
- Thyroid gland damage. Medical studies show that there is a link between IR and damaged thyroid functions (either hypo or hyperfunctions). Besides, this health condition stimulates the formation and boosts the growth of thyroid nodules. The severity of thyroid issues directly depends on the severity of IR.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and I do not aim to give any medical advice. The information presented in this article is based on scientific research and personal experience and aims to give information about the topic.