Insulin Resistance Syndrome, also known as Metabolic Syndrome, greatly increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death today. Insulin resistance is characterized by high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar levels, abnormal blood lipid levels, along with abdominal obesity according to a JAMA report on December 1, 2002. Research shows that men with metabolic syndrome were 3 to 4 times more likely to die of coronary heart disease than healthy men. Insulin resistance happens over time as people lose their sensitivity to insulin, which is largely due to the addition of sugar and refined carbohydrates in the typical American diet.
Are your cells sensitive to insulin? When they are not sensitive, the insulin levels go up. When your cells are sensitive to insulin and you eat carbohydrates, your liver will take up as much sugar as it can hold, and excess sugar will be turned into triglycerides and cholesterol. When all of the sugar and fats are deposited into your cells your blood sugar will drop and your insulin levels will go back down until you eat carbohydrates again. When you eat too many carbohydrates in a meal you may get symptoms of insulin fluctuations. The excess sugar causes insulin to increase rapidly. This excess insulin moves the sugar into the cells quickly leaving less in your bloodstream, and when your blood sugar drops you will become hypoglycemic. When your insulin levels fluctuate too often you may get one or more of the following symptoms: fatigue, insomnia, foggy thinking, irritability, perspiring skin, heart palpitations, light headedness, panic attacks, sugar cravings, and loose bowel movements.
If you continue to eat many imbalanced meals containing too much sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods, your insulin levels begin to remain higher than normal between meals. This happens because of the excess sugar and fats, stored in your cells, make your cells believe they have stored-up energy available that is not being used. When there is too much stored energy your blood sugar will not fluctuate and your insulin levels will remain higher causing partial insulin resistance. Now the food you eat will be stored as fat instead of being used as energy. Common symptoms of your insulin levels beginning to remain high are: depression, fatigue, decreased memory, irritability, water retention, burning feet, weight gain, loose bowel movements alternating with constipation, and fluctuation blood pressure readings.
When you have sustained high levels of insulin then you are insulin resistant. At this point your cells are overly filled with fats and sugar and they barely respond to insulin. Symptoms of insulin resistance are persistent high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol readings including high triglycerides and low HDL, type II diabetes, excess weight in the abdominal area, and plague build-up in your coronary arteries and brain. At this point your cells have become insensitive to insulin, similar to becoming insensitive to odors in a room. You notice odors when you first enter since you are sensitive, but eventually you become insensitive to odors until you leave and come back again. Your pancreas puts out insulin, but it will not produce excess insulin forever. When it slows down the production of insulin, the blood sugar level will go up, causing type II diabetes.
Insulin balance is important for other functions too. Insulin builds muscle and stores protein. Insulin also stores magnesium. Magnesium is important in maintaining a healthy blood pressure. But when your cells become resistant to insulin, you cannot store it and it is lost through urination. Magnesium is also important in creating cellular energy that helps to manufacture insulin. So even when you take excess magnesium it may not get into the cells if they are too insulin resistance. Insulin also causes the retention of sodium, which causes the retention of fluid, when combined with high blood pressure can cause congestive heart failure. Insulin is a stimulant to the sympathetic nervous system and heart attacks come on more often after a high sugar or carbohydrate meal due this quick increase in insulin.
There is a direct correlation between combined triglyceride and HDL levels, and insulin levels. You can control your cholesterol and triglycerides by controlling your insulin levels. Too much insulin will also raise the LDL cholesterol levels. Without a specific blood test for insulin levels you can divide your triglyceride level by your HDL level, and if the equivalent is greater than 4.0 then you probably have high insulin levels. Your triglyceride level is a direct correlation to how you use sugar in your system, and can be reduced by removing sugar and processed carbohydrates from your diet and by increasing resistance based exercise.
Different cells in the body become insulin resistance more quickly than other cells. The liver becomes insulin resistant first, then the muscle tissue, then the fat. When the liver becomes resistant it suppresses the production of sugar. Your blood sugar level is the result of two things, the sugar you have recently eaten and how much sugar your liver has made. If your blood sugar is high when you wake up in the morning then your liver is making sugar during the night, indicating insulin resistance. If you wake up dizzy in the morning that can be an indication of partial insulin resistance due to blood sugar fluctuations during the night.
The next tissue to become insulin resistant is the muscle tissue. Muscles store sugar to burn for energy. When you are insulin resistant you will have trouble burning fat, so you will have to burn sugar stored in your muscles. This will cause muscle weakness or pain.
Your fat cells take longer to get insulin resistant. That is why we gain weight in the abdominal area when we have partial insulin resistance. Insulin takes sugar and stores it as fat in your cells. So until your fat cells become totally insulin resistant you continue to gain weight. Then your weight will plateau as the fat cells protect themselves. Your linings of your arteries do not become insulin resistant, and as insulin increases, more plague will build-up in the lining. This is why coronary artery disease is much higher in people with insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance even affects the thyroid. The thyroid produces mostly the T4 hormone. This T4 hormone is converted to T3 by the liver. When the liver gets insulin resistant then is cannot convert T4 to T3 very well. Insulin helps to control other hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone as well. The adrenals are also affected by blood sugar and insulin imbalances. The adrenals control your stress hormones and the biggest stress on your body is eating a meal high in sugar and processed carbohydrates. It causes adrenal stress making you feel more nervous and stimulates your brain to crave more sugar. So you eat more carbohydrates causing your blood sugar to go up for a short time and crash later on. This continuous change in blood sugar stresses your adrenals causing cortisol imbalances, pancreas stress and insulin resistance.
To prevent osteoporosis we are told to take calcium. Yet when you are insulin resistant the bones do not absorb the calcium since your body now has trouble building new healthy tissues. Excess calcium can end up in the arteries causing plaque build-up. Another sign of aging caused by an increase in insulin resistance can be seen when skin does not heal as quickly as it used to, or leg sores develop on the lower part of the leg.
How can we reverse insulin resistance? Diet is a huge factor. The amount and type of carbohydrates in our meals can either increase insulin resistance or make our cells more insulin sensitive. Look for high soluble fiber in carbohydrates you eat. If we eat foods with no fiber, insulin will become out of balance more quickly. When we eat foods high in soluble fiber then our cells will become more insulin sensitive.
Learn to use the Glycemic Index or Glycemic Load charts available today. These charts are useful in helping you understand which foods translate to sugars in our system too quickly. Potatoes turn to sugar very quickly in our cells, grains also. Non-starchy vegetables have the lowest glycemic index or glycemic load values, and these are the only types of carbohydrates we should be eating to reverse insulin resistance.
The two reasons we need to eat are to create energy to be able to replace tissue, and to gather up nutrients for maintenance and repair. Proteins and essential fatty acids provide much of the nutrients we need to repair and build healthy tissues. Your body uses sugar and fat as fuel. Excess sugar is stored as fat since the body can store very little sugar. Sugar is meant to be fuel to be used in an emergency situation. It is a turbo charger, a very hot burning fuel. If you need fuel over and above what fat can provide, you will burn sugar from your muscle tissue.
You can increase insulin sensitivity by taking omega-3 oils. Essential fatty acids help to increase the level of nutrients getting into cells by increasing the fluidity of the cell membrane. When our cells are insulin resistant the cell membranes do not allow nutrients into the cells since the cell receptors are not able to function. The omega-3 fatty acids improve the circulation of nutrients into and energy out of the cells. Your primary energy source should be from fat. But do not eat a lot of saturated fat since most of the excess fat we store is saturated fat. When insulin levels go down the triglycerides will start releasing some of the stored saturated fat. Your cell membranes require a balance of saturated and poly-unsaturated fat, and keeping that balance is what helps improve the fluidity of the cell membrane. Good sources of fats are nuts like almonds and walnuts. Nuts are a great source of protein mixed with mostly mono-unsaturated fatty acids.
Supplementing with EPA-DHA fish oils is very beneficial in improving insulin sensitivity. EPA helps reduce inflammation in tissues, especially the arteries, and DHA is extremely helpful for circulation and brain function. Fructose is a type of sugar that can contribute to weight gain and insulin resistance. Fructose is metabolized to fat in your liver. In the past, fructose was considered to be beneficial for people with type II diabetes and insulin resistance. But in a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2002 it was found by testing hormonal factors that fructose actually promotes disease more than glucose.
Protein is used as an essential building block to repair damaged tissue and build healthy cells. All of your DNA are dependent on protein to keep your cells functioning properly. The amount of protein to consume per day depends on the activity level. We require around 1 gm. of protein per day for each pound of bodyweight. For example a 150 lb. person will need 150 gm. protein each day. There are about 6 gm protein per oz. of meat, so to get 1/2 your protein from meat (75 gm) you will need about 13 oz. total, or about 4 oz. each meal (an amount the size of a 1/2 chicken breast).
Resistance training is a better exercise than aerobic training for people with insulin resistance. By exercising certain muscles you increase the blood flow to that muscle, and one of the factors that determines insulin sensitivity is how much blood can get into the cell. By combining a low carbohydrate diet of mostly non-starchy vegetables, with low saturated fat protein and omega-3 fatty acids, and resistance training exercise, you will be able to increase your insulin sensitivity over time. This lifestyle change in diet is the best way to improve your chance of a healthy long life free from the many problems insulin resistance can cause.