An introduction to insulin resistance
by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
Insulin resistance is a greatly misunderstood health problem among women. Many women
have the mistaken belief that insulin resistance only happens in those who are overweight
or in those who eat too many sweets, or that it leads inevitably to diabetes, or
that there is nothing they can do about it if they’re insulin resistant. While
it’s true that all kinds of women are insulin resistant — or well on
their way — the wonderful news is that insulin resistance is something we
can prevent and even reverse naturally!
Reversing insulin resistance is really a matter of understanding insulin’s
role in the body. Insulin allows glucose to travel from the bloodstream into the
cells, where it is used for cell functioning. When we eat foods high in refined
carbohydrates, insulin levels surge to remove the sugar from the blood and get it
into your cells. This mechanism works very well for the most part. But if insulin
spikes too often from a diet rich in the high-carb foods that trigger insulin secretion,
your cells respond by decreasing the reactivity and number of insulin receptors
on their surfaces. Eventually, this prevents glucose from getting into your cells,
leading to high blood sugar and depriving your cells of the energy they need to
function. This is why many women with insulin resistance experience carbohydrate
cravings, fatigue and weight-gain — their cells are literally starving for
energy, even when plenty of glucose is available in the blood. Down the road, your
body’s capacity to generate insulin appropriately becomes depleted, and the
result is type 2 diabetes.
But that’s just the basics — there is so much more than that going on
here. The bigger problem is that insulin resistance lies at one end of a spectrum
of related disorders called metabolic syndrome, a serious health challenge
that takes on many different forms in the 21st century, leading not just to diabetes
but a whole host of equally or even more problematic health conditions. That’s
why it’s so important to pay attention to the signals your body sends you
when it is dealing with insulin resistance.
Our patients often ask why insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes
are on the rise. In many cases, the answer lies in the food we eat — and our
lack of movement. Our early ancestors focused on hunting and gathering food. This
simple act involved two key elements: they were obtaining whole foods straight from
their environment and getting a lot of exercise in the process. In modern society,
we sit parked at our desks and in our cars for so much of the day, and food is available
at almost every turn — much of which depletes the body rather than nourishing
it. Meanwhile, the research is mounting that shows how foods high in refined carbohydrates,
preservatives, pesticides, trans fats, toxins and super sugars like high-fructose
corn syrup all contribute to insulin resistance.
I’ve seen how, when women understand these factors, they have an enormous
capacity to improve their quality of life by addressing their insulin resistance.
How can they do this? By “turning back the clock” a little! Like our
ancestors, we have to “hunt” for good food in a world saturated with
unhealthy obstacles. We tell our patients to seek out whole foods, fresh from the
source, foods rich in protein, complex carbohydrates and nutrients — in short,
foods that take time to digest and allow for a more gradual, gentler rise in insulin
levels. We also know that incorporating exercise into your daily life is another
way to reverse or prevent insulin resistance because it increases the insulin receptors
on your cells. And there are many other natural options available for improving
insulin regulation and sustaining a healthy metabolism.
The following articles include information on preventing type 2 diabetes and metabolic
syndrome, controlling insulin with balanced meals, using the glycemic index, finding
nutrients and herbs to help insulin resistance and diabetes, and more. We hope this
information will help you on your way to understanding more about your body and
your choices when it comes to regulating insulin naturally.
Our most popular resources on insulin resistance:
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articles, use the search function below. Don’t see a topic that’s important
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A natural approach to insulin
Insulin resistance sits at the center of a web of health disorders such as hypertension,
diabetes, high cholesterol and more. And over a quarter of our population has it.
Learn the symptoms of insulin resistance, how it develops, and how to regain insulin
sensitivity through dietary changes and other natural methods.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Irregular periods, weight gain, infertility, and depression are all symptoms of
PCOS. This disorder is directly linked with insulin resistance and other forms of
hormonal imbalance. Though there is no one set cause or pathway to PCOS, we’ve
had great success with our natural approach to healing polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Do sugar cravings have you by the neck?
Learn about how sugar cravings, insulin resistance, and other health effects of
sugar can be resolved using Women to Women’s approach.
Our Personal Program is a great place to start
The Personal Program promotes natural hormonal balance with nutritional supplements,
our exclusive endocrine support formula, dietary and lifestyle guidance, and optional
phone consultations with our Nurse–Educators. It is a convenient, at-home
version of what we recommend to all our patients at the clinic.
Last Modified Date: 04/19/2011
Principal Author: Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP