Insulin resistance, also known as pre-diabetes, has now become a pervasive health concern. It is estimated that over 80 million Americans may have insulin resistance, largely the result of obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. The human body regulates blood glucose levels to maintain the stability and balance that is necessary for bodily processes, including vital brain, liver and kidney function. Insulin resistance generally occurs with no noticeable symptoms, but it can silently damage your blood vessels, raise your risk of heart disease and stroke, and very often precedes the development of type 2 diabetes. Some may want to consider learning their own blood sugar levels in order to pre-empt a problem or take control of their health.
The pancreas plays an essential role in converting the food we eat into fuel for the cells by producing key digestive enzymes that aid in digesting fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Foods we consume are converted into sugar molecules or glucose, which circulate in the blood stream until taken up by muscle or fat cells to be stored and used for energy. Additionally, the pancreas secretes very important hormones including insulin, which acts to lower blood sugar, and glucagon, which acts to raise blood sugar. Insulin binds with insulin receptors within the cells, which then activate a series of enzymes to allow glucose transport into the cells. With insulin resistance, your body produces insulin but is unable to use it effectively, resulting in poor glucose absorption by the cells and a rise in blood glucose levels.
When cells do not respond properly to insulin, the demand for insulin increases, which results in higher insulin secretion to maintain normal glucose and lipid homeostasis. As the volume and frequency of insulin release causes receptor cells to become less sensitive, the resistance of cells to take in glucose continues to increase over time. When the pancreas can produce enough insulin to meet the increased demand, blood glucose levels might stay in the normal healthy range. Eventually however, the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin to meet the demand. Without sufficient insulin, glucose cannot enter the cells and remains in the blood stream, steadily rising and increasing the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
Insulin resistance plays a major role in the development of metabolic syndrome, which may include abdominal obesity, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Insulin resistance can also be linked to fatty liver, type 2 diabetes and arteriosclerosis. You are more likely to develop insulin resistance if:
- You are overweight or obese
- Are physically inactive
- Are over 40 years of age
- Have poor nutrition
- Have a close family member who has diabetes
- Have had gestational diabetes
- Have a history of metabolic syndrome or polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Have certain hereditary factors that may negatively affect insulin receptors, glucose transporters or signaling proteins
If you are diagnosed with insulin resistance, consider it a warning. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can improve, reverse or prevent the onset and progression of insulin resistance. Altering the diet by reducing or eliminating refined carbohydrates and added sugars can improve the cells’ sensitivity to insulin and decrease the amount of insulin released by the pancreas. Additionally, weight loss and aerobic activity can increase the rate of glucose uptake by the muscle cells. Losing weight and exercising regularly are two of the best ways to improve and maintain your health. Improving your insulin sensitivity gives you more control over your current and future health by reducing the risks of developing chronic but largely preventable age related diseases.
Fasting blood sugar levels under 100 mg/dL are considered normal. Levels between 100 and 125 mg/dL may indicate pre-diabetes, and levels 126 mg/dL or above are diagnostic for type 2 diabetes.
Products that aid in blood sugar balance include:Berberine-500 (SF800) by Thorne Research – This versatile botanical compound contains 1 g of berberine extract per serving in support of glucose metabolism, healthy lipid levels, insulin sensitivity and cardiac support plus additional health benefits. Gluten, soy and dairy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formula. Chromium (Picolinate) 500 mcg by Pure Encapsulations – This highly bioavailable form of chromium promotes healthy glucose and lipid metabolism and may aid in reducing the risk of insulin resistance. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formula. Ultra Glucose Control by Metagenics – Formulated for the nutritional management of sustained glucose and insulin responses, this product delivers a ratio-balanced combination of slow-release complex carbohydrates, high quality pea and rice proteins, monounsaturated fats and branch chain amino acids. Non-GMO formula. Available in Chocolate and Vanilla flavors. Lipoic Acid Supreme by Designs for Health – This product contains biotin, taurine and alpha lipoic acid in support of blood sugar and insulin balance. Gluten, soy and dairy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formula. References: Insulin Resistance. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/insulin_resistance/article_em.htm The Pancreas and Its Functions. http://pancreasmd.org/education_home.html What is Insulin Resistance. http://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/insulin-resistance-symptoms#Overview1 Insulin Resistance Syndrome. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2001/0315/p1159.html Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/insulinresistance/