Are you one of the 10% of people worldwide living with diabetes?
World Diabetes Day coincides with the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, one of the discoverers of insulin.
Read on to learn about the connection between insulin resistance and diabetes, and how to reduce your risk.
Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas. Its most famous role is to encourage sugar to move from your blood into your cells to be used for energy. This is important not only so you have enough energy for your needs, but also because blood sugar then decreases, and high levels of sugar in your blood can damage your cells and tissues.
Type 1 diabetes is connected with damage to the pancreas, meaning it can no longer produce enough insulin. It’s largely irreversible because insulin simply isn’t available.
Type 2 diabetes on the other hand develops due to lifestyle factors and is ofen preventable and even reversible. This type of diabetes accounts for 90% of diabetes sufferers.
It’s estimated over half of people living with Type 2 diabetes don’t know they have it, a worrying statistic because if diabetes is uncontrolled it can lead to complications like heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and even blindness.
Although lack of insulin is to blame for Type 1 diabetes, in Type 2 diabetes the problem is more commonly a situation called insulin resistance, otherwise known as prediabetes. If you suffer from insulin resistance, insulin will be plentiful or high, but your body’s cells no longer act on its orders.
Cells in your body have receptors sitting on their surface acting a little like a lock and key mechanism for insulin to latch onto. Once the receptor is activated by insulin, the cell’s door is opened and sugar is allowed inside.
If you’re insulin resistant, these receptors no longer respond. It’s as if insulin is knocking on the door and the cell refuses to answer. Because sugar then stays in the blood, the pancreas will constantly pump out insulin to try and reduce it. All this achieves is the receptors becoming more and more deaf – a little like when you’re bombarded with promotional emails from the same company – after a while you won’t bother opening them.
In the long run, the pancreas can’t sustain this output of insulin, and it effectively becomes too tired to function properly. Low insulin means blood sugar continues to rise.
Many factors can contribute to insulin receptors becoming deaf.
The food you eat influences how much your blood sugar fluctuates. Food containing added sugar along with processed, refined foods lacking their natural fibre release sugar rapidly into your bloodstream. This needs a quick burst of insulin to bring blood sugar back down. Repeated surges of insulin can lead to those receptors ignoring the insulin.
The sugar in whole foods containing natural fibre is absorbed far slower into your bloodstream, meaning a more restrained release of insulin.
Tell-tale signs of unbalanced blood sugar include sugar cravings, a mid-afternoon energy slump or jittery, shaky feelings and headaches if you go too long without food.
Carrying extra weight is a recognised risk factor for diabetes. In a programme from the US National Diabetes Prevention Programme, participants at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes who lost an average of 6% of their body weight reduced their likelihood of developing diabetes by almost 60%.
A particular risk is a type of fat lodging around your belly and internal organs known as visceral fat. This fat is believed to manufacture chemical messengers encouraging inflammation, interfering with how cells react to insulin. In turn, excess insulin encourages visceral fat to be laid down.
Even otherwise skinny people can have a tendency to deposit fat here. If your waist measurement is more than 40 inches for a man and 35 inches for a woman, you’re at increased risk of insulin resistance.
Lack of exercise also is connected with insulin resistance – as little as 15 minutes of exercise three times weekly has been found to insulin sensitivity significantly.
Research has found ongoing job-related stress is associated with decreased insulin sensitivity.
Finally sleep is strongly connected with insulin resistance. Scientists discovered just one night without sleep reduced insulin sensitivity by one third. People sleeping between seven and eight hours per night have the lowest risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
The first step is to balance your blood sugar with a personalised dietary programme alongside lifestyle modifications to reduce factors which may be contributing to your insulin resistance. Functional testing can help pinpoint any imbalances playing a role.
Contact me to start your journey to better insulin sensitivity.
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