(From the CDC: National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2020)
The latest statistics from the CDC report that 34.2 million Americans—just over 1 in 10—have diabetes, 88 million American adults—approximately 1 in 3—have pre-diabetes. If we factor in the people who don’t meet criteria for pre-diabetes or diabetes but have insulin resistance, i.e., the process that leads to type 2 diabetes, then add many more tens of millions of people. Less than 10% of the U.S. population enjoys normal insulin responses and do not have insulin resistance.
This is important because not only does insulin resistance lead to type 2 diabetes and its complications, it also leads to cognitive impairment/dementia, coronary disease, fatty liver, hypertension, and cancer. In other words, insulin resistance is a fundamental process that drives many modern diseases. It is uncommon, for example, for someone to experience a heart attack if insulin resistance is not present. Insulin resistance is likewise the common thread among people who experience critical illness with COVID-19, i.e., people who are overweight or obese, hypertensive, diabetic, or have coronary disease.
If you have coronary disease, hypertension, high triglycerides (any value above 60 mg/dl I would regard as high), fatty liver, blood sugar of 90 mg/dl or more, fasting insulin above 4 mIU/L, or have weight around your abdomen, you have insulin resistance. While a slender person without insulin resistance typically has a fasting insulin level of 2 or 3 mIU/L, someone with insulin resistance–even without diabetes–has fasting insulin levels of 30, 60, or 90 mIU/L because their liver, brain, muscle and other tissues do not respond to insulin and the pancreas compensates by producing more insulin. Over time, the pancreas “burns out” (i.e., injured by high blood sugar and other factors) and can no longer keep up with the increased demand. This is typically when someone is put on insulin injections that worsen insulin resistance, cause weight gain often to extravagant degrees, and increases risk for all the diseases that result from insulin resistance.
Of course, Big Pharma salivates over the boom in type 2 diabetes, as it suits their agenda perfectly: Identify chronic diseases that can be treated for decades, not just weeks or months, with multiple agents. Over the last 10 years, there has been a flood of new agents to reduce blood sugar, but only a few address insulin resistance. Even if someone is prescribed multiple drugs for diabetes and insulin resistance, they are still exposed to all the long-term consequences of diabetes, not to mention the awful side-effect and expense of these agents.
We therefore have an epidemic of insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and type 2 diabetes, along with all the health conditions that follow. Yet reversing insulin resistance back to normal is easy, readily accomplished, and inexpensive—but you cannot rely on the ignorance of your doctor to know this. As cynical as it sounds, if there is no revenue-generating product or procedure involved, your doctor likely takes little interest in it.
What steps can you take to reverse insulin resistance back to an ideal level?
- Eliminate foods that raise blood sugar and insulin–If insulin resistance is provoked by repetitive rises in blood sugar and insulin, stop eating foods that raise blood sugar and insulin: wheat, grains, sugars.
- Correct vitamin D deficiency–Getting your 25-OH vitamin D blood level to the ideal range (that I define as 60-70 ng/dl), typically achieved with a dose of 5000-6000 units per day in gelcap form. Among the benefits: improved intestinal barrier function that reduces entry of bacterial breakdown products into the intestinal wall and bloodstream.
- Supplement omega-3 fatty acids–EPA and DHA activate the enzyme, intestinal alkaline phosphatase, that disables the lipopolysaccharide, LPS, of unhealthy bacterial species in the gut, thereby reducing endotoxemia that contributes to insulin resistance. They also reduce postprandial (after-meal) lipoproteins (chylomicrons and VLDL particles), thereby further reducing insulin resistance.
- Supplement magnesium–Because the water you drink has been filtered and because modern produce has less magnesium than in previous decades, we all begin with magnesium deficiency that amplifies insulin resistance. Reverse this by obtaining the magnesium you were supposed to obtain with magnesium supplementation.
- Supplement iodine–and optimize thyroid status, as any degree of hypothyroidism worsens insulin resistance. Hypothyroidism is also present at levels consistent with a silent epidemic–very common.
- Reverse dysbiosis–Disrupted bowel flora species, especially if unhealthy bacteria and fungi have ascended up the ileum, jejunum, duodenum, and stomach–small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, SIBO, and small intestinal fungal overgrowth, SIFO–not only can inflame the intestinal wall, but also “export” inflammation by releasing their byproducts into the bloodstream, the process of endotoxemia that worsens insulin resistance. (See my several Wheat Belly Blog posts on these issues, including putting the hydrogen gas-detecting AIRE device to work to identify SIBO.)
Engaging in all the above strategies that you will recognize as components of the Wheat Belly lifestyle, and insulin resistance reverses. You also lose weight that further reduces insulin resistance and all the phenomena associated with insulin resistance–fatty liver, high triglycerides, low HDL, high blood pressure, high C-reactive protein, etc.
If your doctor was doing his/her job, they would tell you that insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and type 2 diabetes are readily reversible at little cost while restoring overall health. Being a non-type 2 diabetic and normalizing your insulin response saves on average $10,000 per yer in healthcare costs, avoids all the long-term complications of diabetes such as kidney disease and peripheral vascular disease, and adds around 8 years to your lifespan.