What is insulin restistance? How do you know you have it? What symptoms does it cause?
After we eat any kind of food our pancreas secretes insulin. Its job is to ensure that the energy we consume – glucose – gets to where it needs to go. Our muscle, fat and liver cells need to absorb plenty of glucose, and insulin facilitates this process. In addition, our muscles and liver store any excess glucose, and insulin also helps with this. So what is insulin resistance? It’s what happens when this process stops working properly. Read on to learn about the symptoms and signs you may be affected, and some quick tips to help you nip the situation in the bud.
What is insulin resistance – what happens?
If you’re insulin resistant your body loses the capability of responding to the insulin it produces appropriately. This means your muscle, liver and fat cells don’t absorb glucose from the blood as easily as they should. Consequently the pancreas has to produce ever increasing levels of insulin to help glucose get to where it needs to go. A consequence of this is that your pancreatic cells struggle to keep up with the demand for insulin, and end up shutting down altogether. When this happens glucose builds up in the bloodstream and the result is pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance happens when your cells become less sensitive or receptive to insulin. They can’t keep up with all the carbs and sugar coming along. The insulin receptors on your cells shut down, and that leads to more insulin production to try to deal with the extra unwanted sugar.
What is insulin resistance – what causes it?
Obesity, high blood pressure and increasing levels of fats in the blood are all linked to insulin resistance. Most current research points to excess weight as being being the primary driver of insulin resistance. This is especially true for weight which accumulates around the waist, giving the classic apple body shape. The great news is that losing this excess weight drastically improves how the body responds to insulin. In fact, dietary changes can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.
Ensuring you’re eating a diverse diet can be a nightmare when you’re suffering with your gut, especially as so many of these ‘healthy’ foods are also big trigger foods. If this is the case for you I’d highly recommend downloading my online course The Ultimate Gut Health Programme to help you eat safely, whilst avoiding triggering symptoms.
It’d be impossible to include all you need to know in one blog, but the programme will have all you need to know to ensure you’re soothing your digestive system, whilst eating delicious and filling foods.
Here’s what to do
Watch your carbohydrate intake, and focus on good quality high-carb foods. Unless you happen to find a low carbohydrate diet very beneficial, I would avoid cutting back too far on carbs as this will negatively impact your gut microbiome. Instead focus on unprocessed, whole grains such as wholegrain rice, quinoa, rye, vegetables and fruits. If you feel your blood sugar control needs support stick to whole grains rather than grains made into flours – flours being much finer are rapidly absorbed into the blood stream and likely to cause more of a blood sugar spike.
Again, for more guidance around how to include all these foods into your diet, and for some inspiration check out the programme – it has loads of really simple recipes and meal plans – if that’s what you’d find useful. To really help you pull all this together – otherwise I know it can be overwhelming.
Avoid sweet drinks
For example, fruit juice seems healthy as it contains an array of vitamins but juice doesn’t contain much, if any, fibre so the sugar will be absorbed extremely quickly into your blood stream. Again this means stress for your pancreas which has to produce enough insulin to keep up with demand. Also avoid sugary fizzy drinks and any drinks with added sugars. Stick to water as your main drink and herbal teas, tea and coffee (if of course you tolerate caffeine OK).
High fibre foods
High fibre foods are essential for keeping blood sugar levels even – as you can see from the fruit juice example I just mentioned. Fibre isn’t broken down and absorbed by the gut, so it slows the release of sugars into the blood stream keeping things on an even keel and keeping pressure off your pancreas. Ensure you’re getting an array of fibre from different sources – fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and avocados are all great sources.
Finally, avoid overeating.
If you follow the guidelines I’ve already mentioned you’ll be much less likely to overeat as a combination of all those food groups will keep you feeling nice and full. Eat mindfully without distraction, listening to your body’s signals which tell you it’s full.
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