insulin

INSULIN: Are You Sensitive Or Resistant?

You’ve probably heard quite a bit about these terms while perusing your daily health news feeds, but do you truly understand the role that insulin plays in your body, and the difference between these two physiological states?

Let us give you the sweet lowdown on insulin and the importance of the chemical messages it’s trying to give your cells.

What is insulin’s job?

INSULIN: a biologically critical hormone secreted by the pancreas.  

Glucose, also known as blood sugar when it’s in the body, is our main source of fuel. We get it from the breakdown of carbohydrate-containing foods like grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. 

When we eat a meal containing carbohydrates, they’re broken down into smaller units (glucose), causing an elevation in blood sugar level. The pancreas produces insulin which is released into the bloodstream to manage the glucose by directing it into our body’s cells. [1]  

But, what if our cells stopped “listening” to this message because they were being constantly flooded with excess sugar?

The cycle of insulin resistance

Insulin resistance is when cells start ignoring the signal that insulin is trying to send out, and the pancreas starts producing even more insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. This leads to high insulin levels in the blood or hyperinsulinemia. 

As the cells become increasingly more resistant to insulin the pancreas is unable to keep up with the push and may become damaged. This leads to decreased hormone production, which in turn can lead to skyrocketing blood sugar levels. [2]

Overeating, consuming excess carbs, weight gain and increased visceral fat (the dangerous kind of belly fat) are all factors in the development of insulin resistance. [1][2] 

Excess fructose consumption (from refined added sugar, not fruit), inflammation, lack of activity, and a disruption in the gut microbiota have all been linked to insulin resistance as well. [1]

Signs & Symptoms of Insulin Resistance

  • Sugar and carb cravings
  • Feeling “hangry” and the desire to eat every 2-3 hours
  • Extra weight in the middle (a large waist)
  • Elevated fasting blood sugar and insulin levels
  • High blood triglycerides and low “good cholesterol” HDL levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or ovarian cysts
  • Fertility issues
  • Irregular periods
  • Scalp hair loss in women
  • Skin tags, commonly found on the neck, eyelids, armpits and under breasts
  • Patches of dark skin (acanthosis nigricans)
  • Acne and other skin issues
  • Fluid retention, swelling in ankles
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Mood swings, irritability and/or anxiety
  • Fatigue 

Insulin resistance is strongly correlated with incidences of fatty liver disease, heart disease and is a key driver of both Diabetes type 2 and Metabolic Syndrome – often referred to as “insulin resistance syndrome”. [1]

Insulin Sensitivity

Basically, if your cells aren’t insulin resistant, they’re insulin sensitive (also known as “carb tolerance”) – and health professionals agree that having high sensitivity is a good thing, as low insulin sensitivity is a risk factor for developing Diabetes type 2. [3]

How to go from insulin resistant to insulin sensitive

The good news is that insulin resistance can be greatly improved with some fairly simple lifestyle measures, like improving your daily diet and exercise regime. 

DIET: a diet for reducing insulin resistance includes a balance of vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats (especially omega-3 fatty acids), and foods that are high in soluble fibre – and green leafy veggies tick two of those boxes! 

If you’re insulin resistant, you should avoid consuming excess carbohydrates, including sweetened drinks and processed sugary foods, like commercial baked goods. [4] 

EXERCISE: Regular exercise that includes strength training may be the single easiest way to improve insulin sensitivity. 

Additionally, losing excess body fat, getting quality restorative sleep, and reducing stress are thought to be key in preventing and even reversing insulin resistance. [3] 

This condition can impact your health in so many negative ways, but when you work to reverse it, and shift back to being more insulin sensitive, symptoms are likely to improve significantly. 

RECIPE 

Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Muffins

* Low-carb, high-protein, dairy-free, gluten-free, no added sugar and featuring several insulin sensitivity-boosting foods! 

** Makes 12 large muffins

Ingredients 

2 ½ cups steel cut or old fashioned oats (or equivalent oat flour and skip step #2)

½ cup ground almond meal (almond flour)

½ cup pumpkin seeds

¼ cup flaxseed, fresh ground

3 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice blend, no sugar added (can sub with 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger + ½ tsp allspice)

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp sea salt

1 ¼ cup pumpkin puree (pure, not pumpkin pie filling)

¾ cup canned full-fat coconut milk, unsweetened

6 Tbsp honey, raw/unpasteurized

2 eggs, lightly beaten 

Preparation 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  

Place oats in a food processor and pulse on low setting until you have a rough cut, flour-like consistency. 

In a medium bowl, combine wet ingredients: pumpkin, eggs, honey, coconut milk. Mix together well. 

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Batter should be quite thick. 

Scoop batter into greased muffin tin (or line with paper muffin cups). Fill each 7/8 full. 

Bake for 23 – 25 mins. Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top of the muffin feels firm. 

Remove from oven and allow muffins to cool for 15-30 minutes before taking out of tin. 

REFERENCES 

[1] Healthline: Insulin and Insulin Resistance, The Ultimate Guide 

[2] Endocrine Web: Insulin Resistance Causes & Symptoms 

[3] Medical News Today: Natural Ways to Improve Insulin Sensitivity 

[4] Dr Axe: Insulin Resistance Diet Protocol