Insulin Resistance – I
When your metabolism is shot you have those famous underlying conditions!
The first thing to understand is your body really doesn’t come in parts that operating independently of each other. The number of organ and disease medical specialties might lead you to believe that.
Examples include endocrinologists (having to do with hormones – this is where diabetes belongs), nephrologist (kidney), neurologists (brain and nerves), cardiologists (heart), podiatrists (feet), oncologists (cancer), dermatologists (skin), pulmonologists (lungs), surgeons with many sub-specialties – the list goes on.
If you have a PCP (primary care physician) he/she will handle the basic stuff like annual inspections, vaccinations, antibiotics, stitching up a cut, my kid has a fever, etc. Otherwise your PCP will refer you to a specialist.
If something is broken, one of these doctors can fix it. If you are bleeding to death one of these doctors will do their best to stop the bleeding. Otherwise they don’t usually heal a condition, they provide medications to reduce the symptoms – ideally with a 15 minutes appointment every now and then.
They get paid for time, procedures, and prescriptions guided by the rules defined as standard of care with a goal of relieving your discomfort and keeping you alive as long as possible. I personally appreciate that goal. None the less I would prefer NOT having a condition requiring some specialist’s attention. Why?
Of course, none of us like being sick, spending our time at doctor’s offices, and paying for it. Really messes with our schedule and budget. But equally importantly, each of those chronic conditions weakens our immune system. Consequently when an infection like COVID-19, the flu, or a bacteria needs your immune system at its best, your immune system may be at its worst.
In order to understand how this possible, you first need to know about the basic underlying system that prevents the presence of those conditions and allows all of your body parts to work together.
That system is metabolism, the process of converting the nutrients of food into energy and building/repairing cells all over your body.
In a healthy person the metabolism is balanced, not too much or too little of anything. The operative word here is balance.
Critical to that balance is the hormone insulin made in the pancreas. Insulin is a signaling hormone, instructing various parts of the body what to do relative to energy consumption and storage.
Absent insulin, type 1 diabetics will eventually starve. Type 2 diabetics, on the other hand, have too much insulin. Is that because they are making too much insulin? No! It is because they have a condition called insulin resistance.
As metabolism deteriorates the pancreas dumps out more and more insulin and insulin resistance builds. Insulin resistance is when multiple parts of the body refuse (resist) the signal from insulin. Failure to respond appropriately to an insulin signal creates illness.
Illnesses of insulin resistance
Perhaps you thought that insulin only had to do with diabetes? If so you were wrong. Too much insulin and the resulting insulin resistance negatively impacts body fat, kidneys, liver, heart, triglycerides, pancreas, liver, blood pressure, dementia, reproduction (PCOS), cancer to name the most common.
Take note that the list above includes the best known underlying conditions. So if you want to prevent or resolve those conditions you must start with fixing insulin resistance.
Are these illnesses “catchable?”
None of those illnesses, including diabetes, are “catchable.” You were not fine this morning and then you are somehow infected with one of those. These are chronic conditions that evolve over time.
Look at it this way. You built a beautiful new house with quality material. Problem is you have a drainage problem (or a leaking toilet) and the termites are attracted to the moisture. Slowly but surely, over time, the termites eat the wood in your house. It takes a long time but eventually the floor collapses.
You don’t get the collapse without the termites and you don’t get the termites without the moisture.
Same pattern is true with T2 diabetes You don’t get diabetes without insulin resistance and you don’t get insulin resistance without persistently too much sugar in the blood. It can take a long time to get to full blown diagnosed diabetes but it will happen.
And all along the path to full blown diabetes, insulin resistance delivers excess body fat around the waist, high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and all those conditions listed above. And Insulin resistance makes you tired. Your muscles are also resisting insulin and can’t absorb the energy they need.
Insulin is one of about 50 hormones our bodies produce. Hormones are in the instruction business, telling cells what to do/not to do with regard to something. In other words hormones are in charge.
The hormone insulin is a bit of a master hormone providing instructions to the whole body on how to maintain and use energy. Energy is created from fuel, the stuff we eat and the oxygen we breath. Without energy nothing works.
The body knows exactly how to function when there is a proper balance of hormones, not too little and not too much. When there is too much the body doesn’t like it and opposes the excess. This is called resistance. Maybe I mentioned that before.
So where does all that excess sugar in the blood come from? First, the excess sugar come primarily from some kinds of food. But other conditions can just make it worse. Those would be chronic conditions like stress, inflammation, and treatments using steroids.
Food consists of carbohydrates (sources of sugar), fat, and protein.
- The sugar in carbohydrate are the primary driver of blood sugar and insulin.
- Dietary fat does not impact blood sugar and generates insulin requirement only when the fat is stored as opposed to burned for energy.
- Protein (as in meat) does not impact blood sugar but does require some insulin to store the amino acids in muscle. The insulin requirements for protein is even higher when you have already pushed your blood sugar up from carbohydrate food.
We eat. Our blood sugar goes up from the carbohydrates. Insulin signals the body to store and use the sugar for energy. Insulin signals the liver to convert excess sugar to body fat. Insulin signals the fat cells to hold onto the fat until the energy is needed.
With insulin resistance that process is messed up. Thus come the “underlying conditions” listed above. Thus the fatigue. You will not correct the problems by taking medications. Medications can allay symptoms but don’t eliminate insulin resistance.
My next post is going to be very specific about how your diet causes the problem. Stay tuned.
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. Her website is http://www.allaboutthefood.org/ She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, 870-490-1836. Her Facebook page is www.facebook.com/patsmithbooks. Author: Pat Smith