Top 5 Insulin Resistance Symptoms

Top-5-Insulin-Resistance-SymptomsAn enormous number of peer-reviewed, published studies reveal that insulin resistance is a major health problem. Insulin resistance symptoms, such as abdominal weight gain and excessive hunger, may be the first signals that your body’s metabolism is no longer functioning properly. Since insulin resistance is a key factor underlying practically every one of today’s most deadly chronic diseases—heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s—to name a few,  you’ll want to be able to recognize insulin resistance and treat it to reduce your risk.

What is insulin?

Called a master hormone because it regulates so many things, insulin is a hormone critical to health and wellbeing. It has many actions, including the regulation of blood glucose levels. Once eaten, carbohydrate-rich foods get converted into a glucose (a sugar) that is absorbed from the intestine and becomes our body’s main fuel that circulates in our blood. When blood glucose levels rise after meals, cells in the pancreas move insulin out into the bloodstream to drive the glucose into the cells so it can be put to work either as an immediate source of energy, converted to glycogen as a stored energy source, or converted into fat.

What is insulin resistance?

If your body needs to secrete a lot of insulin into the blood to process your blood sugar levels, you have insulin resistance. I sometimes hear insulin resistance described as your body being “partially deaf” to insulin. Just as we may shout in an attempt to make a hearing-impaired person hear, the body makes more insulin in an effort to drive glucose where it’s supposed to go.

When cells lose their ability to respond normally to insulin’s signal, your body is “partially deaf” to insulin. Glucose can’t move efficiently from the bloodstream into cells. As glucose builds up in the bloodstream, the body attempts to move glucose from the blood into cells by releasing extra-large amounts of insulin.

On the other hand, you are insulin sensitive if you require relatively little insulin to process your blood glucose levels. Having insulin sensitivity is a good thing and should be your goal for a long and healthy life.

Insulin resistance symptoms are often those of the metabolic syndrome

Insulin resistance is one of the key features of the metabolic syndrome, also known as syndrome X or insulin resistance syndrome. More than 20 percent of adults in the US have this syndrome, putting them at alarmingly high risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease and increasing their risk of dying from any cause.[1]

The top 5 insulin resistance symptoms are the same conditions that characterize metabolic syndrome. They are:

  1. Abdominal obesity: waist measurement greater than 40 inches in Caucasian men (35 inches in Asian men) or 35 inches in Caucasian women (30 inches in Asian women)
  2. Low levels of “good cholesterol” (HDL cholesterol): less than 40 mg/dL in men or 50 mg/dL in women
  3. High triglycerides: greater than or equal to 150 mg/dL
  4. High blood pressure: greater than or equal to 130/85 mmHg
  5. High blood sugar: fasting glucose level greater than or equal to 100 mg/dL

The #1 insulin resistance symptom is abdominal obesity 

Abdominal obesity, also called central obesity or visceral adiposity, is the number one symptom of insulin resistance. The more insulin resistant you are, the more fat around your abdomen you accumulate.[2] What’s more, the type of fat associated with insulin resistance, known as visceral adipose tissue, is particularly dangerous.

Visceral adipose tissue is a specific type of fat that surrounds your organs. It becomes severely inflamed, spreads inflammation around your body, and releases other harmful compounds that wreak havoc on your metabolism.[3] The accumulation of excess abdominal fat is strongly correlated with coronary heart disease[4], Alzheimer’s disease[5], osteoporosis[6], and some types of cancer.[7]

One of the most disastrous things about visceral adipose tissue is that it is not only a symptom of insulin resistance, it is also a cause. That is, the more visceral adipose tissue you have, the more insulin resistant you become. The more insulin resistant you become, the more you tend to accumulate not just visceral fat, but other types of fat as well.[8] It’s a vicious cycle that puts you at higher and higher risk for uncontrolled weight gain, difficulty losing weight, and all of the other insulin resistance symptoms mentioned above.[9]

Reverse insulin resistance symptoms with lifestyle changes and natural treatments

Insulin resistance is reversible without drugs or surgery. Lifestyle changes and natural supplements will do the trick. The key to treating insulin resistance is making dietary changes (such as following the Mediterranean-style low glycemic load diet), exercising (30 to 60 minutes a day, including some strength training), and taking specific nutritional supplements, such as:

  • Fish oil – 1000 mg EPA + DHA twice daily
  • Berberine HCl – 500 mg three times daily
  • Chromium (as polynicotinate or picolinate) – 200 mcg twice daily
  • Alpha lipoic acid – 600 mg twice daily
  • Magnesium (as citrate or amino acid chelate) – 200 mg twice a day or to bowel tolerance
  • Probiotic (multispecies) – 10 billion CFUs daily

Once you take these steps to reverse insulin resistance, stubborn belly fat will reduce, weight loss will be easier, HDL will naturally increase, triglycerides will plummet, blood pressure will decrease, and hidden inflammation that fuels both heart disease and metabolic syndrome will be powerfully reduced. Not to mention, you’ll have better physical stamina and energy.

[1] J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013 Aug 20;62(8):697-703.

[2] Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Nov;18(11):2191-8.

[3] Atherosclerosis. 2014 Mar;233(1):104-12.

[4] J Hypertens. 2014 Nov;32(11):2224-30.

[5] Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. 2012 Apr-Jun;26(2):101-5.

[6] J Clin Densitom. 2013 Oct-Dec;16(4):450-4.

[7] Int J Cancer. 2014 Nov 15;135(10):2273-81.

[8] Nutrients. 2013 Jun 5;5(6):2019-27.

[9] Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. Apr 2012;19(2):81–87.

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Kathleen Jade, ND

Dr. Kathleen Jade is a naturopathic physician and served for many years as the Medical Director and Editor-In-Chief of Natural Health Advisory Institute. She has been licensed as a primary … Read More

View all posts by Kathleen Jade, ND

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