What Is Insulin Resistance?
All of the trillions of cells in your body need sugar (glucose) in order to function. Although each cell contains many “doors” through which that sugar might pass, those doors are all locked. Insulin is the hormone “key” that opens the doors so sugar can get into the cell. Each time you eat a meal sugar is absorbed into your blood which causes your blood sugar to rise. This stimulates the pancreas to release insulin in order to move that sugar out of your blood and into your cells (elevated blood sugar levels are toxic to your body). Any excess sugar that is not needed for energy is stored for future use.
When the storage capacity of the cell gets full, that cell takes some of the excess energy, makes a gum and gums up some of the locks of its doors so they won’t operate. Therefore, insulin, the key, is unable to open the doors.
After the next meal your blood sugar rises as usual. But now there are fewer doors that insulin is able to open to put sugar into the cells. So more insulin is now required to return your blood sugar to a normal level. As this process is repeated over and over with each successive meal, your need for more insulin gradually increases.
This condition, caused by more and doors of the cells being gummed up, results in high demand for insulin and increased work for the pancreas. It is what we call insulin resistance. It is the leading cause of diabetes. Eventually, so many door locks become gummed up that your body is no longer able to produce enough insulin to get the sugar out of the blood and into the cell, so, your blood sugar rises. When that happens, your doctor will tell you that you have developed type 2 diabetes.
What Causes Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance is caused by:
- Eating refined foods containing fructose without the fiber
- Eating a high-fat diet—especially one that contains trans fats (partially hydrogenated vegetable oil) or saturated fats (animal foods)
- Being inactive
What Is Fructose?
Fructose is a simple sugar commonly found in nature as the primary sweetener in fruit. It is also made by chemically altering starch molecules from corn or the agave cactus to make High Fructose Corn Syrup or Agave Syrup. Table sugar contains 50% fructose by weight.
Fructose is a toxin to the body if eaten in a refined form. In nature, fructose is always present with fiber. Fiber is a natural antidote to fructose. The problem with fructose comes when we separate it from fiber. For instance, an apple is a healthful food. But, separate the fiber from the apple and you have apple juice. As a result, the apple juice becomes a toxin that will increase insulin resistance and over time, can give you diabetes. Fructose-containing sweeteners are added to approximately 80% of processed foods. Fructose causes significant weight gain and insulin resistance.
How Can I Know If I Am Insulin Resistant?
The best way to know if you have developed insulin resistance is to have your doctor test you for it. Outside of that, there is no specific indicator that tells you that you have it. However, if you are experiencing three or more of the following symptoms you may have developed insulin resistance:
- Upper abdominal obesity
- Migrating aches and pain
- Cravings for sugar
- Inability to lose weight
- Hormone imbalance
- High cholesterol and triglycerides
- Low thyroid
- Constant hunger
- High blood pressure
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Increased fat storage
Can I Reverse Insulin Resistance?
Yes! To reverse insulin resistance, you must make the cells hungry again. The approach that works the best and is most sustainable is to change your lifestyle in the following ways:
- Increase your intake of whole, plant-based foods to at least 9 servings a day.
- Eat a significant portion of green leafy vegetables every day.
- Exercise for 20 minutes following every meal. Moderate exercise like walking works best.
- In addition, do 20 minutes of burst training three to six times a week.
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The Bottom Line
Insulin resistance is caused by eating high-sugar, high-fat food combinations and lack of exercise. Therefore, it can be reversed by eating lots of plant-based, whole-foods that are high in fiber combined with regular exercise. The best form of exercise is burst training or interval training.
Watch this video by Dr. Jason Fung to learn more.
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