Understanding Insulin Resistance and High Glucose Levels
Are you struggling with unexplained fatigue, constant hunger, or difficulty maintaining a healthy weight? These could be signs of insulin resistance, particularly if you are overweight and feel particularly hangry if you don’t eat.
To understand insulin resistance, we need start with glucose..
Glucose is a type of sugar, and an indispensable source of energy for our bodies to function effectively. Even if we don’t eat sugars, out bodies will convert fats and proteins to glucose so we always have enough available.
Our bodies work tirelessly to maintain a safe and consistent level of glucose in our bloodstream because an excessive or inadequate amount of glucose can lead to severe health issues.
When we have insufficient glucose (hypoglycaemia), our organs may malfunction, and we may experience exhaustion and tiredness. At the other extreme, excessive glucose can be dangerous, causing inflammation and cell damage.
Insulin resistance is a condition that arises when our bodies can no longer regulate glucose levels appropriately, leading to reduced sensitivity to insulin, a hormone that assists cells in pulling glucose out of the blood and into our cells to use for energy.
Insulin resistance is usually caused by there being an excessive amount of sugar in the blood for an extended period of time, often due to a diet high in sugars and refined carbohydrates such as baked goods and chips. These excess sugars, cause an increase insulin in the blood, and when a diet like this is followed for several years, the cells of the body become resistant to the message of excess insulin, and insulin resistance develops.
Symptoms of insulin resistance
- Fatigue: People with insulin resistance often feel tired and lack energy, even after a good night’s sleep.
- Weight gain: Insulin resistance can make it difficult to lose weight or cause unexplained weight gain, particularly around the abdomen.
- Frequent hunger: Insulin resistance may cause a persistent feeling of hunger, even shortly after eating.
- Difficulty concentrating: High blood sugar levels can impact cognitive function, leading to difficulty concentrating or “brain fog.”
- Skin changes: Insulin resistance may lead to skin issues, such as acanthosis nigricans, which is characterized by dark, thick, and velvety patches on the skin, typically in the neck, armpits, or groin area.
- High blood pressure: Insulin resistance can contribute to increased blood pressure, which can put additional strain on the heart and blood vessels.
- High cholesterol levels: Insulin resistance is often associated with high levels of triglycerides and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Women with insulin resistance may develop PCOS, which can cause irregular menstrual periods, excessive hair growth, and fertility issues.
It is also essential to note that insulin resistance can be present without any obvious symptoms, and so it is recommended to regular check your fasting glucose levels (and ideally HbA1C and insulin) through your GP as an initial screening tool. This regular testing is especially in individuals who have risk factors for developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. These risk factors include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, a family history of diabetes, or a personal history of gestational diabetes.
Reducing Insulin Resistance
There are several ways to manage insulin resistance. Regular exercise can enhance our cells’ responsiveness to insulin as can intermittent fasting (time to skip the midnight snack!). Nutraceuticals, which contain natural compounds that can regulate blood sugar, may also be helpful.
Diet is, as you would expect, the most important change you can make to balance your blood sugar. Reducing carbohydrate intake, particularly sugars and processed flour (in the form of baked goods, bread, bagels) is very important. In the West, we also tend to not enough fibre. Increasing your fibre intake also helps to balance you blood sugar – a supplemental fibre may be needed.
Additionally, it is essential to keep track of our blood glucose levels, which can be done through various tests, such as HbA1c, fasting glucose, blood glucose levels, continuous glucose monitoring. Continuous blood sugar monitoring is particularly useful as it shows how your unique body responds to eating particular foods (it caries greatly from person to person). Elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance if left unchecked, it can develop over several years into prediabetes and type 2 diabetes and so it’s important to get these under control if this is an issue for you.
I suggest working with a Nutritionist to track your blood sugar and develop a way of eating that works for you and your case.
In conclusion, maintaining healthy blood glucose levels is vital for overall health, and managing insulin resistance is crucial to prevent a range of health problems. By regularly exercising, reducing simple sugar consumption, and monitoring blood glucose levels, it is possible to get this under control!