The way we absorb and metabolize sugars has a profound impact on our overall health.
Often used interchangeably, diabetes and insulin resistance are similar, chronic conditions.
Let's detail this as briefly as possible:
When we consume carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, processed grains (bread, pasta, bagels, chips, cookies, crackers, etc, candy, soda or other sugary foods) these foods are quickly broken down into their primary component which is sugar (glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc).
As we absorb these foods (sugars) our pancreas releases the hormone insulin.Insulin is necessary to help those sugars be absorbed into cells where they can be used for energy.
A Type 1 diabetic makes no insulin - they need to inject insulin into their bodies in order to absorb carbohydrates.This is a completely different condition than insulin resistance/Type 2 diabetes, which is the focus of this blog.
Another factor in the development of insulin resistance is the over-consumption of industrial seed oils - these are highly processed oils extracted from corn, soybeans, rapeseed (canola), sunflower, safflower and cottonseeds.
They are found in abundance in processed foods, and they tip the delicate balance of healthy fats in our bodies (the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio) toward a pro-inflammatory environment.
How it Happens
When we expose our bodies to excess carbohydrates over time, especially simple carbohydrates found in processed foods, two things begin to happen:
Our cells stop ‘listening’ to the signal coming from insulin
In response, our pancreas starts to churn out more insulin in order to make the signal ‘louder’
As we continue to consume those simple carbohydrates, it becomes tougher for the cells to absorb and metabolize them because insulin becomes less and less effective.
This condition is known as Insulin Resistance.If the diet and other health issues aren’t improved, insulin resistance can proceed to Type 2 diabetes.Type 2 diabetics often end up requiring prescription medications to boost the insulin signal and even may need to inject insulin like a Type 1 diabetic does.
For some people the progression to insulin resistance and then Type 2 diabetes can occur in a relatively short time span, while others may stay in a state of insulin resistance - every body is different.
As insulin resistance progresses, we begin to see other metabolic changes:
Triglycerides (a form of fat in the blood that’s linked to heart disease) rise to dangerous levels
Blood sugar levels stay at higher levels - this is damaging to the lining of the arteries
Weight gain occurs as the body begins to store all that excess energy in the form of sugars that aren’t able to absorbed and metabolized by the cells
As weight increases, blood pressure goes up
A person dealing with insulin resistance will have a much greater increased risk of heart disease due to the above factors.Insulin resistance is really a widespread metabolic health issue.
The good news is, however that insulin resistance is reversible.
It starts with diet.
The first step is to minimize the dietary effect of carbohydrates on insulin production.In short, simple carbohydrates have to be eliminated.Otherwise, the same cycle occurs as these foods continue to stimulate the release higher levels of insulin in the body.
Diet and nutrition have been made into very controversial topics - it’s not wonder so many people don’t know what to eat!
A great start is ridding the diet of simple carbohydrates - of course sugary, processed foods but also any processed grains - breads, pasta, bagels, cookies, crackers, desserts and the like.
Working with a dietitian can help you to increase your proteins, healthy fats and a limited number of complex carbohydrates - vegetables including legumes.
Exercise is A Must
Exercise also needs to be a part of the plan to reverse insulin resistance.Exercise works to lower the body’s burden of sugar in the bloodstream; thereby ‘resetting’ insulin resistance.
Exercising muscles will burn glycogen, a stored form of sugar saved as energy inside the muscles.When glycogen stores run low, they are replenished using the sugars in the bloodstream - thus there is an overall blood sugar lowering effect during and immediately after exercise.
Additionally, exercise leads to an increase in insulin sensitivity for roughly 24 hours. Therefore, it’s important to exercise at least every other day.
High intensity interval training (HITT) is a style of exercise that’s most effective for improving insulin sensitivity.Really, any exercise is ideal, but to get the most from your exercise work with a personal trainer.
There are 3 main nutritional medicines that can help to improve insulin sensitivity:
An extract taken from several different botanical medicines ( goldenseal, Oregon grape, barberry), it has profound effects on several metabolic dysfunction factors that are a part of insulin resistance.
Namely, it helps to increase insulin sensitivity thereby lowering overall blood sugar levels, lowers blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) and can even lower inflammatory chemicals like hsCRP (highly-sensitive C-Reactive Protein) in the body.
These nutritionally important fats work to reduce insulin resistance inside of the cells by reducing oxidation (which is a specific type of inflammation) and also limit the accumulation of inflammatory fats (lipids) inside of cells.Omega-3 fats are important anti-inflammatory compounds that have important uses throughout the body (wherever inflammation is an issue).
While dietary sources of omega-3 fats are ideal (cold water fish like salmon mackerel, tuna, sardines and herring) are always ideal, it’s difficult to approximate the clinical effects of obtaining omega-3’s through diet alone. In other words, clinically effective amounts of omega-3’s need to be obtained through supplementation as well.
This is a combination product that contains several of the most important blood-sugar regulating natural medicines. Bitter melon and Gymnema Sylvestre work to improve pancreatic sufficiency (insulin is produced in the pancreas).
Chromium is an essential trace element that plays a significant role in glucose (sugar) tolerance while vanadium, zinc and copper work in several areas to improve how glucose is absorbed and metabolized.
Insulin Resistance / Type 2 diabetes is a controllable and even reversible condition without the use of prescription medications.Strict dietary avoidance of simple carbohydrates and refined seed oils will reduce the inflammatory and insulin burden on the cells of the body while regular exercise and condition-specific supplementation will re-sensitize insulin receptors to normal functioning.