If there is a resistance to the hormone insulin, the result is an increase in blood sugar. The hormone insulin helps control the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. With insulin resistance, the body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin. Glucose can’t enter the cells as easily, so it builds up in the blood. This can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.
According to the CDC, A normal A1C level is below 5.7%, a level of 5.7% to 6.4% indicates prediabetes, and a level of 6.5% or more indicates diabetes. Within the 5.7% to 6.4% prediabetes range, the higher your A1C, the greater your risk is for developing type 2 diabetes.
A1C is a blood test for type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes. It measures your average blood glucose, or blood sugar, level over the past 3 months. Doctors may use the A1C alone or in combination with other diabetes tests to make a diagnosis. They also use the A1C to see how well you are managing your diabetes.
The primary cause of insulin resistance is typically a trifecta, which includes obesity (being significantly overweight and belly fat), an inactive lifestyle, and a diet high in unhealthy carbohydrates.
Some signs of insulin resistance include:
- A waistline over 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women.
- Blood pressure readings of 130/80 or higher.
- A fasting glucose level over 100 mg/dL.
- A fasting triglyceride level over 150 mg/dL.
- A HDL cholesterol level under 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women.
- And, skin tags.
A whole-food diet, proper supplementation and exercise can help reverse insulin resistance. In a nutshell, you’ll eat less unhealthy fat, sugar, meats, and processed starches, and more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, and lean poultry. Lean meats include turkey, chicken, healthy fat fishes, such as salmon, halibut, cod, etc. Lean meats exclude lunch meats, which usually contain sodium nitrate.
Sodium nitrate, a preservative that’s used in some processed meats, such as bacon, jerky and luncheon meats, could increase your heart disease risk. It’s thought that sodium nitrate may damage your blood vessels, making your arteries more likely to harden and narrow, leading to heart disease.
Whole-food eating emphasizes whole, minimally processed foods (if processed at all). It significantly limits or avoids red meat and pork animal products. It focuses on plants, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, which should make up the majority of what you eat. It excludes refined foods, like added sugars, white flour and processed oils.
The Benefits of Exercise
Exercise is one of the fastest and most effective ways to reverse insulin resistance. Lose weight, especially around the middle. Losing weight around the abdomen not only improves insulin sensitivity but also lowers your risk of heart disease.
It has long been established that a single exercise session can increase insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in previously sedentary adults. A single bout of moderate intensity exercise can increase glucose uptake by at least 40%. While aerobic exercise is the common choice of modality for intervention programs with glucose intolerant individuals, current recommendations for physical activity include both aerobic and resistance exercises.
The pancreas pumps out more insulin to get blood sugar into cells. Over time, cells stop responding to all that insulin — they’ve become insulin resistant. The pancreas keeps making more insulin to try to make cells respond. Eventually, the pancreas can’t keep up, and blood sugar keeps rising.
In later stages of the pancreatitis, the scarring of the pancreas destroys the insulin-producing parts of the pancreas. It is also possible that the body becomes less able to use insulin to regulate blood sugar – called “insulin resistance” – due to chronic pancreatitis over time.
To get your pancreas healthy, focus on foods that are rich in protein, low in animal fats, and contain antioxidants. Try lean meats, beans and lentils, clear soups, raw juices and dairy alternatives (such as flax milk and almond milk). Your pancreas won’t have to work as hard to process these types of foods.
Supplements to Help with Insulin Resistance
The idea of taking natural supplements to increase your insulin sensitivity is fairly new. Many different supplements may increase insulin sensitivity, but chromium, berberine, magnesium and resveratrol are backed by the most consistent evidence. Chromium: A mineral involved in carb and fat metabolism.
The pancreas contains exocrine glands that produce enzymes important to digestion. These enzymes include trypsin and chymotrypsin to digest proteins; amylase for the digestion of carbohydrates; and lipase to break down fats. When the pancreas is in inflammation or experiencing infection the supplementation of these enzymes back into the diet can significantly aid with the body’s digestive process.
Natural Sugars vs. Processed/Refined Sugar
Natural sugars are found in fruit as fructose and in dairy products, such as milk and cheese, as lactose. Foods with natural sugar have an important role in the diet, because they provide essential nutrients that keep the body healthy and help prevent disease.
Most of the processed foods we eat add calories and sugar with little nutritional value. Refined sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are processed to extract the sugar. It is typically found as sucrose, which is the combination of glucose and fructose. We use white and brown sugars to sweeten cakes and cookies, coffee, cereal and even fruit. Food manufacturers add chemically produced sugar, typically high-fructose corn syrup, to foods and beverages, including crackers, flavored yogurt, tomato sauce and salad dressing. Low-fat foods are the worst offenders, as manufacturers use sugar to add flavor.
How the body metabolizes the sugar in fruit and milk differs from how it metabolizes the refined sugar added to processed foods. The body breaks down refined sugar rapidly, causing insulin and blood sugar levels to skyrocket. Because refined sugar is digested quickly, you don’t feel full after you’re done eating, no matter how many calories you consumed. The fiber in fruit slows down metabolism, as fruit in the gut expands to make you feel full.
How much sugar is already in your blood will determine how the body uses the sugar. If you already have a lot of sugar in your system, then what you just digested will form either fat or glycogen, the storage form of glucose that’s used for quick energy. It doesn’t matter if it’s junk food or fruit.
What is not recommended is high-protein meat diets past your 40s, as adults lose enzyme functionality. Enzymes helps us to break down and digest the food we consume, and too many undigested proteins can convert to fats and sugars.