The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a number of new lessons in health. Among the lessons learned: insulin resistance is not a benign condition. It is, in fact, the tip of a major “iceberg” in health. Let me explain.
You’ve likely heard that people with health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, obesity or overweight, hypertension, and coronary disease are many times more likely to become severely ill and develop serious complications, even death, if/when they contract the virus. The common thread among these conditions? They all are driven to a great degree by insulin resistance.
Recall that insulin resistance is the situation in which the organs of the body—muscle, liver, heart, brain, etc.—do not respond to normal amounts of insulin. The pancreas compensates by producing more insulin that, in turn, contributes to even more insulin resistance, more insulin production—around and around in a vicious cycle. The fasting level of insulin in someone who is slender, active, with normal blood sugar and blood pressure? 4 mIU/L or less. The fasting insulin level of someone who is insulin resistant? 30,60, 100 mIU/L—not just a little worse, but 10-30 times worse.
One of the peculiarities of the COVID-19 viral infection is that it also worsens insulin resistance considerably, as well as activates inflammation, yet another driving factor in insulin resistance and end-organ complications of the infection. It is, in effect, a perfect storm of insulin resistance.
I’m posting this conversation because I see insulin resistance often downplayed or ignored by my colleagues, as well as many people who have it. Someone will have, for instance, a fasting glucose of 110 mg/dl (recall that we aim for 70-90 mg/dl) or mild high blood pressure or a coronary calcium score of 150. These sorts of measures typically cause my colleagues to reassure you that you are okay and that no action needs to be taken, even though insulin resistance is clearly at work. Or someone says “I take a diuretic for my high blood pressure and my BPs are now pretty good,” not recognizing that they are walking around with insulin resistance sufficient to do such things as get you really sick if/when you contract the virus, not to mention post much greater risk for stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and numerous other conditions. (It’s also not uncommon for the prescribed drug(s) like thiazide diuretics or beta blockers to increase your potential for these conditions.)
Why don’t I talk more about COVID-19? As I remind Members of my Undoctored Inner Circle: This is not Cure-All-Diseases-Known-to-Man.com. We are here in the Wheat Belly Blog/program and the Undoctored program to discuss the details and nuances of a programmatic approach that corrects the many factors that, if uncorrected, lead to the common chronic diseases of modern people such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, coronary disease, autoimmune diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases—hundreds of the most common chronic health conditions. I therefore do not address Down’s syndrome, ankylosing spondylitis, spondyloarthropathies, Wernicke’s encephalitis, Fragile-X syndrome, postherpetic neuralgia, glioblastomas, polycystic kidney disease, Dengue fever, influenza and, of course, COVID-19—do you get the distinction? What you have at your disposal, however, are programs (Wheat Belly, Undoctored) that are magnificently effective at reversing or minimizing insulin resistance, giving you major advantages in health.