9 Signs You Have Insulin Resistance & How To Reverse It

Insulin resistance is a stealth condition of the disease world. It creeps up on you and before you know it, you’ve gained weight, your cholesterol is through the roof and you are prediabetic, with your overall health going downhill. While this sounds ominous, the great news is you have the power to reverse insulin resistance and decrease your risk of chronic disease at the same time!

What Is Insulin Resistance?

Before understanding insulin resistance it’s important to know what insulin does. Insulin is a hormone that is produced by your pancreas when you eat foods. When you eat, insulin is released into the bloodstream where it helps to move glucose from the food you’ve eaten into cells to be stored or used as energy. It’s responsible for maintaining your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels.

Insulin resistance is where your cells resist the effect of insulin. Your muscle, fat, and liver cells no longer respond effectively to the insulin in your blood, meaning your cells can’t use glucose from your blood for energy. Eventually, consistently elevated blood sugar levels can lead to type 2 diabetes

Risk Factors & Causes of Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance can occur from a combination of genetics, lifestyle factors and other health conditions. The more risk factors you have, the higher probability you are already insulin resistant, without even realizing.

Overeating, weight gain and obesity: We all overindulge in our favorite foods occasionally, but when this becomes a habit it’s likely to lead to insulin resistance. Studies suggest that overeating increases fatty acids in your bloodstream, causing cells to stop responding properly to insulin.

Additionally, those with obesity and increased visceral fat (dangerous belly fat around organs) have higher levels of circulating fatty acids. This combined with the release of inflammatory hormones from these conditions drive insulin resistance.

While insulin resistance is very common in obese and overweight people, don’t think that being at your ideal body weight is an automatic safeguard. Insulin resistance can occur in all body sizes.

Inactivity, high sugar diet and poor gut microbiota: We all know that lack of exercise can lead to poor heart health and weight gain, but inactivity is also a major contributor to insulin resistance, high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and declining mental health.

The same applies for a high sugar diet. It causes a cascade of health issues from weight gain to imbalanced gut microbiota that contribute to inflammation, insulin resistance and other metabolic disorders.

Health conditions – Polycystic ovary syndrome and fatty liver disease: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) effects up to 20% of women and is the most common hormone issue seen in pre-menopausal women. It causes infrequent or prolonged menstrual bleeding, excess male hormone (androgen) levels and is strongly linked to insulin resistance via non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Studies suggest that if you have PCOS, you’re likely to be at higher risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Obesity, in particular belly fat, and insulin resistance are considered the main factors related to NAFLD in PCOS. The double whammy for those suffering with PCOS is the excess androgen production is interrelated to insulin resistance.

Other factors such as a family history of diabetes, gestational diabetes, smoking, being over 45 years old, poor sleep and steroid medications can also lead to insulin resistance.

Do You Have Any of These Signs of Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance can be a somewhat sneaky health issue. It can creep up on you, not showing symptoms until it’s quite advanced. The first signs you may be insulin resistant include an increase in your belly fat paired with a blood test showing high LDL (bad)/ low HDL (good) cholesterol and increased blood glucose levels. These signs are also indicators that your insulin resistance could be heading towards type 2 diabetes.

If this is the case for you, some of the symptoms of prediabetes (hence insulin resistance) you may notice include:

  • Extreme thirst or hunger

  • Brain fog – difficulty concentrating

  • Always feeling hungry, even after meals

  • Frequent urination

  • Tingling sensation in hands or feet

  • Lethargy

  • Frequent infections

  • Skin tags – harmless, excess skin growths

  • Acanthosis nigricans – dark, velvety patches of skin

Can You Reverse Insulin Resistance?

The simple answer is YES you can take steps to reverse insulin resistance!

Considering insulin resistance can lead to chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease it is worthwhile trying to beat it before it progresses. Not only will you improve your insulin sensitivity you will see gains in your overall health too. Win-win!

Exercise often: During exercise your muscles need more energy to function. They become more sensitive to insulin, allowing them to easily absorb the glucose from your blood, therefore reducing insulin resistance.

Research has found that a single bout of exercise can increase insulin sensitivity for up to 16-hours. While one bout of exercise is a good start, consistent physical training enhances insulin sensitivity through adaptations in glucose transport and fat metabolism, thus reducing insulin resistance.

Drop the belly fat: We all know this is harder than it sounds. And, as much as we’d like to put in an order to lose fat from a specific area, your body just doesn’t work that way. However, numerous studies have found that a high sugar diet, particularly added fructose, leads to excessive fat around your liver and abdomen which leads to insulin resistance. Reducing the added sugars – think sodas, candy, cookies and sauces, in your diet is a start to reducing that belly fat!

Cut the stress: There’s strong evidence that poor sleep and stress increase the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes. Some simple ways to improve sleep is following a bedtime routine, shutting off screens half an hour before bed, and taking natural supplements that promote a healthy sleep cycle and help you drift off quickly! Because insulin responds to the amount of glucose obtained from the food you eat, managing your diet can also play a huge role in reversing insulin resistance.

Fight insulin resistance with food: Strict diets are often hard to manage, unsuccessful in the long run and let’s be honest, they can take the fun out of food! So, managing your diet should always be about a balance of what’s good for you and what you enjoy.

Eating foods that minimize insulin stimulation can help insulin resistance. Foods high in dietary fiber (vegetables, fruits and wholegrain cereals) and animal proteins (eggs, lean meats) fill you up without spiking your insulin. Meta-analysis studies show that an increased intake of cereal fiber (insoluble oat fiber) results in up to 30% reduction of risk of developing type 2 diabetes, of which insulin resistance is a precursor.

Replacing saturated fats, often found in processed foods with healthy fats, like omega-3 from oily fish, can benefit both your insulin resistance and risk of cardiovascular disease.

Myo-Inositol - the not-so-secret weapon against insulin resistance: Myo-inositol is a natural sugar compound found in fruits, beans, grains, and nuts. It plays an important role in cell membranes; brain messaging; and influences the action of insulin.

Research has shown that myo-inositol supplementation can be particularly helpful for women with insulin resistance, demonstrating improved insulin sensitivity in conditions such as PCOS, postmenopausal metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. In fact, myo-inositol supplementation not only improved insulin sensitivity in PCOS, but it also restored spontaneous ovarian activity and consequently fertility!

The Bottom Line

As you can see, insulin resistance is one of the key forces of today’s chronic diseases. Its silent approach may take you by surprise, but the great news is that being informed can empower you to take action.


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