Insulin Resistance – What is it? How does it Work?

Hart finds a Pulsatilla in JulyBy Hart Castleberry, CH

Lately I have been doing more research on insulin resistance, especially since a relative has been diagnosed with diabetes. In a recent episode, they experienced sweet, fruity, or acetone breath. A fruity odor to the breath occurs as the body attempts to get rid of excess acetone through the lungs. This is a sign of ketoacidosis, which may occur in diabetics. It is a potentially life-threatening condition. Diabetes develops when the pancreas is not able to produce enough insulin to keep the blood sugar in the proper range. Insulin is the hormone released when we eat carbohydrates like sugar or starch. The insulin binds to its receptors on cells, which allows glucose, along with other nutrients, to enter the cells – thereby removing them from the bloodstream. Chromium, a trace mineral, must be available at the insulin-binding sites for this process to work properly.

In insulin resistance, muscle, liver, and fat cells do not respond properly to insulin and cannot easily absorb glucose from the bloodstream. As a result, the body needs higher levels of insulin to help glucose enter cells. This is called insulin resistance. Beta cells located in the pancreas work to keep up with the demand for more insulin. If the beta cells can produce enough insulin, then blood glucose levels remain in the “healthy range.” Insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes as time passes, because the beta cells cannot keep up with the body’s continually increased need for insulin. If there is not enough insulin released or if the insulin receptors are not recognizing its message, then too much sugar remains in the bloodstream, causing hyperglycemia. This can contribute to atherosclerosis and ‘sticky blood’ which begins a downward spiral; atherosclerosis can lead to heart attacks, especially when the plaque build-up becomes unstable and starts a blood clot which can travel to the heart and block a coronary artery (or to the brain, where it may cause a stroke). All of these conditions together, when caused by ongoing high blood sugar, are called the ‘metabolic syndrome.’

Insulin resistance can contribute to many health problems – cardiovascular problems, obesity, chronic inflammation … people with diabetes commonly lose fingers, toes, or limbs from complications of the disease. However, there is a diet that can be amazingly helpful for insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome. The paleo-like ketosis diet is a lower-carbohydrate diet that encourages the body to use fats and proteins instead of carbohydrates for fuel. Basically, a ketosis diet uses wild fish, grass-fed organic meats, lots of vegetables, healthy oils, and a little fruit to supply the right mix of nutrients. This type of diet avoids supplying the body with much sugar or carbohydrates, and lessens the concern of whether insulin can keep up with the levels of glucose in the blood. Note: diabetics should always consult with their physician before beginning any diet modifications. Blood sugar must be closely monitored.

 This is an ongoing study for me in my line of work. I have goals of working with people on this topic and helping them modify their diets to prevent complications. Stay tuned …

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