Diabetic & Me

Insulin Resistance – What is it, How do we Prevent It and How do We Get Rid of It?

Insulin Resistance – What is it, How do we Prevent It and How do We Get Rid of It

Insulin resistance is a common health issue and one that can be treated if caught early. What exactly is insulin resistance? How do we prevent it? How do we get rid of it for good? You'll also find out how to take care of yourself once you have developed insulin resistance. Is insulin-resistant dangerous? Keep reading!

In this Diabetic & Me article you will learn about:

  • What causes insulin resistance?
  • How to reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance?
  • What are the symptoms and risk factors of insulin resistance?
  • What treatments and preventions are there for insulin resistance?

What Is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin Resistance is when insulin tries to move glucose (blood sugar) into cells, but the body can't use insulin as well as it should. Insulin is a hormone that helps convert carbohydrates and other food sources like sugars and starches into energy.

Insulin resistance prevents glucose from being taken up by our cells so they don’t have enough of this vital fuel for all their needs. Without insulin functioning properly, blood sugar levels rise in an attempt to get the needed fuel which leads to diabetes & weight gain, among other things.

Insulin resistance can be caused by a variety of factors and there is no single cause for insulin resistance that fits all people with this condition. Some causes are genetic, some environmental (like smoking cigarettes), while others are diet or lifestyle-related like eating too many carbs and not enough quality proteins or fats in your diet. Low physical activity levels may also contribute to insulin resistance. And of course poor diabetes management.

These complications can be life-threatening and can be prevented.

The good news about the risk factors for insulin resistance is there are things we can address! This means you have control over preventing it or getting rid of it if you already have insulin issues!

What Are The Risk Factor of Insulin Resistance?

The risk factors for insulin resistance, prediabetes, and diabetes are

  • Genetic Predisposition
  • Inactivity or Sedentary Lifestyle
  • Obesity and Overweight
  • Age (in children, insulin resistance is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes) 

Insulin Resistance and Weight Loss

The connection between insulin resistance and weight loss is that insulin resistance makes it harder for your body to metabolize sugars, which means you are more likely to store the excess sugar as fat.

Insulin Resistance and Weight Gain

It is not unusual for a person with insulin resistance to gain weight due to their inability to effectively process sugars in food. The insulin-resistant individual will have increased production of glucose from all forms of carbohydrates including starches and fiber-rich foods because there is less sensitivity or response at the cellular level when insulin binds these cells. These higher levels of blood sugar that have been produced by dietary intake then trigger the greater secretion of insulin if one’s genes do allow this action.

It's also worth mentioning that insulin-resistant people often have a higher appetite because of their increased hunger hormone production levels (Ghrelin). In turn, this will lead them to eat more food. This can be combated by watching calorie intake or cutting out certain foods altogether like refined flour products with high glycemic index ratings.

What Are The Causes of Insulin Resistance?

There is not a real known cause why insulin resistance and prediabetes occur, but being overweight or obese and not exercising enough are major factors.

Overweight

Being overweight is never healthy, especially if someone is insulin-resistant. Insulin resistance makes it difficult for the pancreas to secrete adequate levels of insulin, and this increases a person’s risk for Type 2 diabetes. Those who are overweight but also have high blood sugar (glucose), are considered prediabetic or pre-insulin resistant, which means that their body doesn't produce enough insulin to break down glucose into energy.

Not enough physical activity

In general, people with insulin resistance should exercise at least 30 minutes each day in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The more one exercises the less likely it will be that weight gain occurs over time because muscle mass burns calories faster than fat cells do. Being active can also help regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Sugars/carbohydrates

Eating too many sugary or high-carbohydrate foods may lead you down a path where your pancreas has trouble producing insulin and it could lead to insulin resistance. 

Stress

Chronic stress can lead to insulin resistance, either because it leads to obesity or for other reasons.

Genetics/Family history

If your family has a history of diabetes and you’re overweight as well, this could be an indicator that you have a higher chance of developing insulin resistance.

What Are The Symptoms of Insulin Resistance?

There might be no symptoms at all but, as they are not common. But possible symptoms of insulin resistance can include;

  • weight gain
  • fatigue
  • high blood sugar levels
  • increased appetite (especially for carbohydrates)
  • increased thirst/urination and elevated cholesterol or triglyceride levels

What Are Complications of Insulin Resistance

Complications associated with insulin resistance are prediabetes and type 2 diabetes which is more common in overweight individuals who also have a family history of this condition;

  • hypertension
  • cardiovascular disease
  • nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • certain cancers such as colon cancer.

Insulin-resistant people should consult their healthcare provider to make changes that will improve the body’s response to insulin so it doesn't get worse over time. Some treatment options may include changing dietary habits by cutting back on carbohydrate intake, losing weight through dieting & exercise when indicated, and taking prescribed medication.

Treatment and Prevention of Insulin Resistance

One way to get rid of insulin resistance is through exercise, even just 30 minutes can help lower one's risk factors for diabetes substantially. Exercise helps to keep your body healthy and your blood sugar levels under control.

Keep track of what foods are eaten each day; the number should come down from 20% carbohydrates (sugars), 35% fat (unsaturated fats); and 45% protein recommended in dietitian's plan based on individual needs. This will help keep blood sugar levels stable and reduce risk factors associated with insulin resistance such as high cholesterol and triglycerides.

Other treatments you can follow are to take insulin to manage blood sugar levels, and if needed, prescribe medications for cholesterol or triglycerides. These treatments are important in order to control insulin resistance because they help you maintain a healthy weight as well as promote good health of the heart

Insulin resistance is not dangerous; it just means that your body needs more time than average (or other people) to process sugars from food into energy. It's true: some individuals with insulin resistance do develop type 2 diabetes but most will only go on medication when necessary and still prevent diabetes by keeping up their workouts!

It is possible for someone who has been diagnosed with diabetes type II due to high AGEs/advanced glycation end products build-up also called diabetic complications, can reverse his prediabetes or diabetes type 2.

Conclusion

Insulin resistance can be caused by a variety of factors and there is no single cause for insulin resistance that fits all people with this condition. One way to get rid of insulin resistance is through exercise, even just 30 minutes can help lower one's risk factors for diabetes substantially. Exercise helps to keep your body healthy and your blood sugar levels under control. Eating healthy will also help prevent the onset of prediabetes or insulin resistance in some cases, so make sure you take care of yourself!

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About the author

Ely Fornoville

Hi, I'm Ely Fornoville and I am the founder of Diabetic & Me. Being a type 1 diabetic since 1996 I developed a passion to help people learn more about diabetes. I write about diabetes and share stories from other diabetics around the world.I am currently using a Freestyle Libre CGM and a Minimed 640G insulin pump with Humalog.

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