First things first: what is insulin resistance? Many of you may have heard insulin resistance, Syndrome X, Metabolic Syndrome, and pre-diabetes used interchangeably. However, in contrast to popular opinion, they are actually not the same thing. Insulin resistance and pre-diabetes are, but Syndrome X and Metabolic Syndrome are different. The common thread with all four is that insulin resistance can be a part of the issue with these illnesses. Insulin resistance can lead to Syndrome X and Metabolic Syndrome, but insulin resistance in of itself is the precursor. This is the stage where you can usually still turn it around.
Insulin is a hormone our body produces to help our body use the glucose (sugar) in our system for energy. By sugar I do not mean just obvious sugars, but rather breads and pastas as well as whole grains and starch vegetables like potatoes, yams and squash. So the insulin is the vehicle for our bodies to use this sugar for energy.
How does this process work normally in our systems?
When we eat a sugar or carb, it gets broken down into glucose in the small intestine. Following this, a signal is sent to the pancreas that says we need insulin. The pancreas, then, complies and dumps insulin into our body. As a result, the insulin acts like a key for the cells of your body to unlock a door that allows the sugar in so that it can be used for energy. This glucose is the energy our body uses for everything from exercise and daily work, to healing.
When you are dealing with insulin resistance, the process above still happens, except the insulin cannot unlock as many of the cells to let the sugar in. It is almost like the lock got changed and no one told the insulin. When this happens, as you can guess, there is a much more limited amount of glucose getting into the cells, which means that less energy is being transported and there is more sugar floating around not getting used.
Insulin resistant individuals are that way because only some of the insulin is doing its job; thus, a decline in energy. If your insulin was not working at all, you would be in a lot more trouble than just lowered energy. The pancreas has to work harder to produce the right amount of insulin so that your body can get enough sugar for the cells to create into energy. Each part works very closely together. However, when there is a flaw, the pancreas will create so much insulin until it cannot keep up anymore, flooding sugar into your system and causing diabetes.
When we have a lowered amount of insulin working we get a buildup of glucose in our systems, which can increase our risks for many other types of illnesses like:
- Metabolic Syndrome (also known as Syndrome X)
- Heart Disease
- Fatty Liver Disease
- Reproductive Disorders
...and many others.
There are varying reports on the amount of people who have insulin resistance. But it is reported that as many as 1 in 3 people have some level of insulin resistance. The ultimate kicker is that it can affect people who are healthy, lean and active as well as people with unhealthy lifestyles. Think about that for a minute. An estimated 1 in every 3 people have this blood sugar issue, and the majority doesn’t even know they have it! That’s a really scary thought, when put that way. the silver lining, though, is that is can be reversed or avoided.
Insulin resistance is classified in the medical industry as a blood sugar that is over 100 mg/DL. But many alternative health doctors are claiming that there is a risk with anything over 85 mg/DL. I think it really depends on your lifestyle and health. If you are a super healthy person who works out regularly and doesn’t eat sweets or a lot of carbs, and wind up having a reading in the 90's your doctor may say that is high for the lifestyle you live. This should always be discussed with your doctor. Do not self-diagnose serious issues such as these.
We have taken a look now at what insulin resistance is and hopefully you are a little bit clearer about what it actually is. Be knowledgeable about insulin resistance is only the first step of working with this ailment. We must also know what puts us at higher risks and what we can do to prevent or reverse it. In the next article, we will be looking at risk factor and symptoms of insulin resistance so be on the lookout for the next in this series.