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Insulin Resistance - How It Starts and What We Can Do about It

Aug 17, 2007
Insulin resistance has reached epidemic proportions in the developed world. Closely associated with obesity, the main causes are too many refined sugars and starches, and inactivity. What is insulin resistance? What causes it, and what can we do to get rid of it?

Although there are certainly pharmaceuticals to deal with insulin resistance, it's always better to understand the sources of the syndrome and deal with them in a natural way. The good news is that insulin resistance can be reduced or eliminated by a few simple changes to our diet and lifestyle.

How Does Our Insulin-Glucose Cycle Work in a Normal Mode?

Normally, our body produces insulin in response to activity. As our muscles and brain and other cells use energy (through physical activity or brain activity), they naturally absorb more fuel-glucose, for the most part-from the circulating bloodstream. Insulin intensifies this absorption; the more insulin in the bloodstream, the more glucose gets absorbed by the cells.

The pancreas senses this lower glucose level and produces more insulin. That hormone triggers the liver to produce more glucose, and should, in a properly-functioning body, trigger the cells to absorb more glucose. Thus the well-functioning insulin-glucose cycle keeps a balance of insulin and glucose circulating in the body, and adjusts as we are active in order to feed more glucose to the cells.

How Does Insulin Resistance Develop?

Insulin resistance is caused by a combination of two key factors, and made worse by a third. If a person doesn't exercise very much, their body's cycle can be pushed awry:

The cells don't take up much glucose, because they aren't very active (couch potatoes, apply here!).

If we eat something, the liver will produce more glucose, which increases the level in the bloodstream.

The higher glucose level spurs the pancreas to produce more insulin; the insulin tells the cells "wake up, and take in more glucose!"

As the cells don't need the additional fuel, they cover their ears and say "I don't believe you, insulin, because I don't need more glucose."

The result is insulin resistance - cells require more insulin to absorb the same amount of sugars.

Poor diet only makes this cycle worse. The more sugary snacks and refined starches (such as white bread and sugary soft drinks) we consume, the more glucose the liver produces. The liver can't help it - it can't convert all those sugars fast enough, so a lot leaks through the system and ends up in the bloodstream.

Seeing all this sugar in the bloodstream, the pancreas produces more insulin, the cells hold their ears and don't believe the insulin, and insulin resistance gets worse.

What Can We Do Against Insulin Resistance?

The simple answer is: exercise more and eat fewer refined sugars and starches. Neither change needs to be drastic: just cutting out a couple of soft drinks or candy bars between meals can help our glucose levels return to normal. And a brisk walk or even brain activity (no, watching TV doesn't count) can help the cells to absorb more insulin and glucose. Order is restored to the glucose-insulin cycle.

Oh yes, there is one more think that helps: lose a few pounds. Just 5-10% reductions in body weight can bring us back to 'normal' range for insulin use.

So it's as easy as that? It's always easy to tell others how to get healthy. But these simple changes in lifestyle will make a huge difference to your chances of developing insulin resistance - and eventually succumbing to Type-2 diabetes.
About the Author
Scott Meyers is a staff writer for Its Entirely Natural, a resource for helping you achieve a naturally healthy body, mind, and spirit. You may contact our writers through the web site. Follow this link for more information on Insulin Resistance.
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