What is insulin resistance?
It is a condition where the liver, muscle, and fat cells stop responding to instructions from a hormone called insulin to take glucose from the blood and use it for energy. The result is excess levels of glucose stay in the blood causing inflammation and damage.
What is glucose?
Glucose is sugar, a blood sugar. When carbohydrates are eaten, they are broken down into their simplest form and sent to the liver for processing. Some of the glucose is sent to the blood while the rest gets stored away in the liver and muscles to use at a later stage. However, there is only a limited amount of storage space available in the liver and muscles. Due to the limited storage space, the body converts any excess carbohydrates into fat and there is no limit as to how much fat can be stored.
Excess glucose = excess fat storage
What happens in insulin resistance?
Glucose is used by the body for energy. The amount of energy needed varies from time to time but the amount of glucose in the blood needs to stay consistent as too much glucose in the blood can be toxic. Insulin signals the cells to use the glucose for energy or the liver can take it out of the blood and store it as fat if there is too much. Insulin works very quickly to push the glucose out of the blood stream and into the cells. Unless there is a problem.
There is a catch, to get the glucose into the cells the storage tanks in the liver and muscles need to be empty, they get emptied by using the glucose for energy through exercise. Think of it like a petrol tank, once it is full no matter how hard you try you can’t put any more petrol in it. (Something we always wish we could do when the prices are cheap)
If work restrictions prevent a lot of physical activity and this is combined with a high sugar/ high fat diet, then the storage tanks will get quite full creating an excess amount of glucose in the blood stream. This triggers the pancreas to release more insulin to push it into the storage areas but they are full so the glucose has nowhere to go except to be converted and stored as fat.
If this process continues and there is more and more glucose entering the blood stream and the storage tanks are full, eventually the liver, muscles and fat storage tanks reach their breaking point and tell the insulin to STOP as they can’t handle any more. This occurs when fat stored in these cells blocks communication from insulin to the glucose transporter inside the cells. This will then leave a large amount of glucose in the blood as well as insulin with nowhere to go and is known as insulin resistance. Excess insulin and glucose create chaos in the body. With a long list of conditions resulting from this problem. See my post on Metabolic Inflammation and Insulin Resistance.
What happens to a body with insulin resistance?
The damage to the body begins and is shown in many different ways. The glucose attaches to protein molecules and handcuffs them, stopping them from doing their job and causing inflammation. The skin can change colour and dark patches start to appear usually on the neck, groin, and armpits known as Acanthosis nigricans. Skin tags can appear, under arms, on eyelids. Blood vessels get damaged which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. There is also a very high risk of type 2 diabetes if changes are not made quickly. Increased chances of fatty liver. Increased fat distribution around the midsection of the body. Elevated cholesterol and blood pressure. Reproductive abnormalities eg pcos and irregular period, it can increase levels of testosterone causing hyperandrogenism. Brain fogginess, depression, intestinal bloating, fatigue after eating. Insulin also effects growth as it is an anabolic hormone and can lead to a faster increase in growth than peers with a coarsening of features.
Can anything be done?
In my clinic I put patients through a program I have created which works on removing toxins that are preventing the body from working effectively, as well as making changes to food choices to improve insulin sensitivity and reverse this condition. Sometimes making these changes can be difficult so we also work on changing habits and mindset.
Improvements are seen so quickly which helps keep you motivated.
PLEASE NOTE: INSULIN IS NOT BROKEN, THE PROBLEM IS INSIDE THE CELLS CREATING METABOLIC INFLAMMATION AND PREVENTING INSULIN FROM DOING IT'S JOB..
Who am I?
I am a Bachelor qualified Naturopath who specialises in improving metabolic processes in the body and reducing metabolic inflammation. Major areas for improvement include gut health, thyroid, kidney, liver, weight loss and mental health. Conditions such as fatty liver, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, irritable bowel conditions, depression & anxiety. I help my patients by giving them symptomatic relief while working on repairing the underlying causes of metabolic stress and waste accumulation.
Melissa Callaghan ND, BHSc, BTeach
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