My goal for you the reader is to find a way to motivate and encourage the lifestyle changes necessary to live a energetic, lively, attractive and passionate life. Health is available to anyone at any age willing to learn what makes a difference. Insulin resistance is an underlying factor in a variety of health issues.
Insulin’s proper function is the key and you can do something about it but first you need to understand why it matters. The body uses glucose as its basic fuel, which is carried by the bloodstream to individual cells. All of the foods we eat — fats, proteins and carbohydrates — are broken down during digestion into proteins, micronutrients and glucose. The body uses the proteins and nutrients in cellular metabolism, immune function, and cell replacement. Glucose is used as fuel. Our demand for fuel varies from moment to moment, but the blood sugar level of the brain must remain stable. Getting the energy to the cells that they need without changing the brain blood sugar level is a critical function —insulin is responsible for this function.
The body monitors what we’ve digested, controls blood sugar levels, cell demands, and releases insulin in just the right amounts. That’s why a healthy body is described as “insulin sensitive.” Insulin signals the cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream.
The average diet consists of an excessively high percentage of sugars, in the form of simple carbohydrates and simple sugars added to the foods we eat. These simple sugars quickly enter the bloodstream. The body has to release high levels of insulin to keep the level of glucose or sugar in the bloodstream from spiraling out of control and leading to a diabetic coma. In time the cells quit responding to insulin. At this point the body is “insulin resistant.”
One immediate consequence is that the body is forced to release even more insulin in attempt to control the blood sugar level. Letting blood sugar get too high is a matter of life and death. The resulting excess of insulin in the bloodstream is called hyperinsulinemia. The body was not designed to function with these prolonged high levels of insulin. High levels of insulin disrupt cellular metabolism, cause weight gain and spread inflammation. Diabetes occurs when the body fails to keep blood glucose under control. Diabetes is the most known disease caused by insulin resistance but there are a array of other problems associated with this body function. There are many negative health effects before full-blown diabetes.
When the blood cells won’t absorb the extra glucose, the liver converts excess glucose into fat. Fat cells are loaded with glucose receptors, so they absorb the excess glucose and become fatter. Ironically, while the insulin-resistant woman is gaining weight, her cells are actually “starved” for glucose, so she feels exhausted and tends to eat carbohydrate-heavy foods in search of energy. These extra fat cells are also little estrogen factories. So weight gain contributes to the estrogen dominance that causes so many symptoms during the early stages of perimenopause. Like bloating, indigestion and irritability.
Most women put up with minor issues until menopause when things get out of control. A woman’s health can deteriorate rapidly during menopause with the decrease of estrogen levels in the body. Digestive issues that were once merely a hassle become unacceptable when the body’s natural defenses against inflammation (estrogen being one) are exhausted.
To make matters worse, women approaching menopause are particularly prone to becoming insulin resistant due to changes in adrenal and thyroid secretions. In fact, the decrease of certain hormones, like estradiol, may trigger problems with insulin in patients who never experienced it before. Certain blood pressure medications can mask symptoms without treating the problem. How do I know if I’m insulin resistant?
In our culture where the standard diet is composed of a large percentage of simple carbohydrates such as (white bread, breakfast rolls, candy bars, pasta, potatoes, and carbonated soft drinks.) anyone can become insulin resistant — even if they are thin. We are all at risk. In fact, most of us are likely to have some level or insulin resistance. It is just a matter of degree. The more processed and refined food that we eat, the more insulin required to metabolize it. The more insulin in our blood, the less responsive our cells become. As we age, this continual exposure to high levels of insulin wears out our tolerance for refined carbohydrates and reduces our sensitivity to insulin.
If you are diagnosed with high cholesterol, high triglycerides, or hypertension, you should get checked for insulin resistance, regardless of your weight or age. If your blood pressure is high, it is likely that you are also suffering from insulin resistance. High blood pressure medication will not cure insulin resistance.
You are at the highest risk for developing insulin resistance if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes or if you have suffered from gestational diabetes, hypertension, or are seriously overweight. Women, who tend to gain most of their weight around their abdomen, show less tolerance for insulin. To assess your risk, measure yourself around the smallest part of your waist and the biggest part of your hips. Divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement. A ratio bigger than 0.8 for women (or 1.0 for men) indicates that your abdomen is obese and you are at risk for developing insulin resistance. Different type of fat cells in this area of the body indicate the probability.
The good news is that insulin and glucose levels are very easily influenced by changes in lifestyle, exercise, and diet. Before or after you are diagnosed with insulin resistance, there is a lot you can do to reverse its course and bringing insulin into check.
I have experienced menopause to be an enlightening and powerful time in my life not an out of control experience. Younger more recently trained medical professionals are trained to evaluate a patient for insulin resistance. They are recommending a blood test for glucose and insulin levels after fasting for 12 hours and then again two hours after a meal (preferably a high-carbohydrate meal). Increased triglycerides are a suspicious sign also. If you suspect a problem please see a competent medical professional for the necessary test but remember all this can be changed the same way it can be prevented it is just more urgent.
Let me remind you, lifestyle, diet and exercise patterns, as well as stress factors are all indicators of future problems. With the diabetes and other serious disease rates for women in menopause so high I want to encourage you to get this under your control now. Do not wait to be diagnosed or have symptoms be proactive.
I recommend you immediately discontinue the standard American diet. Start an exercise program that you enjoy today and learn to relax and enjoy the special moments in life. Shop the outside aisles of the supermarket where the food is fresh and as close to nature as possible, and avoid the inner rows of processed food, sugar cereals, high-sodium snacks and carbonated soda, other sugary beverages. Corn sweetened green tea is of no benefit do not drink it. A diet that consists primarily of lean meats; whole grains, beans and vegetables; leafy greens; and fruit will substantially aid the body’s ability to balance insulin levels. Three meals with two healthy snacks is an ideal meal plan for everyone as prevention or to improve on an already existing condition. Each meal should have no more than 15 grams of carbohydrates in the form of vegetables, whole grains and fruits (and no “white” food, such as bread, pasta, and sugar) and some lean protein. Each snack should contain only 7 grams of similar carbohydrates from whole foods. Essential Fatty Acids, EFA’s can be found in avocados, cold-water fish like salmon and tuna, flax seed, and eggs and can also be taken in supplement form. These are another important part of a healthy life style. Regular exercise of 30 minutes or more per day, 3–5 times a week is also beneficial for regulating metabolic function and hormonal balance. Choose from biking, swimming, jogging, or aerobic classes of any type for cardiovascular health. This decreases stress as well as reducing strain on the adrenal glands which will result in better overall health and contribute to keeping the body’s insulin levels in check. Stopping smoking, moderating alcohol consumption and proper sleeping habits will help to alleviate blood chemistry surges, which in turn will promote good health and long life.
Your body’s hormonal balance is like a symphony. Insulin is one of the loudest and most important instruments. Metabolism is the first critical step in a well functioning body. Hormones and their balance in our bodies are a result of a well nourished body consuming the prober foods. Stay tuned for proper food choices made simple.