Recognizing, then reversing, insulin resistance can be crucial to long-term health.
The consequences of insulin resistance, i.e., the body’s inability to respond to insulin that occurs in muscle, liver, brain and elsewhere, are many and include type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, coronary disease, Alzheimer’s dementia, even increased risk for cancer and susceptibility to infections (likely including the current coronavirus). In other words, insulin resistance is a fundamental process underlying so many modern chronic health conditions.
How do you recognize insulin resistance? First of all, recall that, in the lifestyle I advocate, we aim for ideal or optimal health. With regards to blood sugar, for example, I would advocate achieving a blood sugar that is truly healthy and without adverse long-term health consequences; from this perspective, we aim for a blood sugar of 90 mg/dl or less (70-90 mg/dl). Your doctor, however, would say that a fasting blood sugar of 126 mg/dl or less is fine and that an after-meal blood sugar of up to 200 mg/dl is fine—because you don’t yet “need” insulin or diabetes medications. But the doctor’s definition is most definitely not the same as ideal or optimal health. Those levels of blood sugar that the doctor finds acceptable are associated with substantial health problems and the potential for more—far from ideal.
What are the signs of insulin resistance with potential to impose risk to you long-term?
- Type 2 diabetes—obviously means you have wildly out-of-control insulin resistance. Pre-diabetes means you still have substantial insulin resistance.
- Blood sugar—It doesn’t take much to signal insulin resistance. We therefore aim to keep fasting blood glucose at 90 mg/dl or less. Even if you don’t achieve the HbA1c of pre-diabetes (5.7% or greater), you can still have substantial insulin resistance at, say, a HbA1c of 5.4%.
- Fatty liver-–This is the liver’s version of insulin resistance that is now estimated to involve two-thirds of Americans, some of whom will develop cirrhosis and liver failure
- Triglycerides, HDL—Any triglyceride blood level of 60 mg/dl or more signals increasing degrees of insulin resistance. Triglycerides of 150 mg/dl that is considered acceptable by conventional rules? You’ve got it and you’ve got it bad. The higher the triglycerides, the lower the HDL that signals likewise.
- Belly fat, love handles—These are visible signs that you have internal visceral fat that drives inflammation and insulin resistance.
- Skin tags—Skin tags (shown in the above photo) are benign brown or grayish skin growths on the neck, face, thorax and elsewhere that result from insulin resistance.
- Male breasts—While hormonal distortions from visceral fat also contribute, having man breasts virtually guarantees substantial insulin resistance.
- PCOS—15% of females have this combination of hypertension, tendency towards type 2 diabetes, high testosterone, excessive facial and body hair, infertility, and insulin resistance.
- Inflammatory conditions—Any form of inflammatory condition, e.g., psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, is commonly associated with insulin resistance.
- SIBO, SIFO—Even though SIBO and SIFO. small intestinal bacterial and fungal overgrowth, involve proliferation of unhealthy microbial species in the entire length of the gastrointestinal tract, increased intestinal permeability that accompanies these situations allows bacterial and fungal breakdown products to be “exported” to the skin, arteries, thyroid, prostate, thymus, brain and other organs. This process of “metabolic endotoxemia” substantially worsens insulin resistance.
Despite the dire consequences of longstanding uncorrected insulin resistance, it is SO easy to reverse and free you of all its dangers. Besides commonsense maneuvers such as exercise, sleep, and stress management, the combination of strategies in the entire Wheat Belly and Undoctored programs yield magnificent and full reversal in the majority. The combination of wheat/grain elimination + net carb limitation; vitamin D, iodine + thyroid optimization, omega-3 fatty acid, and magnesium supplementation also add to reversing insulin resistance, especially when combined. Then taking steps to cultivate healthy bowel flora further improves the situation.
Lastly, because so many people have now developed SIBO and SIFO, these, too, may require specific action.