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Insulin Resistance: Little-Known Condition Wreaks Havoc on Health 

By Karen Miller, MD April 29, 2022 Posted in: Wellness

Diabetes, hypertension, obesity, brain fog, erectile dysfunction, low energy. Unfortunately, many of us have accepted these conditions as an inevitable part of getting older. But what if that is not  necessarily the case? What if there is a common root cause of these conditions? What if that root cause is reversible? The culprit may be insulin resistance, a very common but little-known problem.

What is Insulin Resistance?

When I say insulin, people usually think of a medication to treat diabetes. But insulin is a hormone that our body makes to clear sugar from the blood. When you consume frequent amounts of carbohydrates/sugar, your body has to make lots of insulin to clear that sugar from your blood and move that sugar into your body cells.  When you repeatedly expose your cells to frequent and high amounts of insulin, your muscle, fat and liver cells can become resistant to insulin – meaning it is more difficult for your body to move sugar out of your blood.  That causes your pancreas to make more insulin to overcome your resistant cells. 

That’s what we call insulin resistance, and it leads to elevated insulin levels which can cause damage to your body. High levels of insulin lead to chronic conditions like obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, and contribute to health issues like autoimmune conditions, thyroid dysfunction, erectile dysfunction and more.

Other risk factors that can contribute to insulin resistance include:

  • Taking medications such as glucocorticoids, antipsychotics and some medicines for HIV
  • Hormone disorders such as Cushing’s syndrome and acromegaly
  • Sleep apnea and other sleep problems 
  • Low muscle mass
  • Increased stress

Signs you should be checked for insulin resistance include:

  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Gout
  • Diabetes/family history of diabetes/gestational diabetes 
  • Hypoglycemia symptoms (shaking, anxious, sweaty and feel better after eating)
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Excess skin tags, rash called acanthosis nigricans (direct result of insulin resistance) 

Diagnosing Insulin Resistance

As with so many health issues, knowledge is power. If you know you have insulin resistance, you can take steps to reverse it. Physicians do not routinely test for insulin resistance, but it is something you can request. A fasting insulin blood test is a key lab test. A comprehensive evaluation includes the following tests: 

  • Fasting total insulin (ideal level is under 5 when fasting)
  • Fasting blood sugar
  • Lipid panel (looking for low HDL and elevation of triglycerides)
  • Hemoglobin A1C
  • Vitamin D
  • Thyroid levels
  • hsCRP
  • Uric acid
  • Others as indicted 

Treating Insulin Resistance

The good news is you have the power to reverse insulin resistance with the right nutrition.
Reversing insulin resistance can allow you to resolve or improve many of your chronic conditions. 

CHI Health Clinic Metabolic Health specialists treat people with diet and lifestyle to address insulin resistance, a primary driver of metabolic health. Each plan is tailored to the individual to reverse insulin resistance and improve metabolic health. 

Therapeutic Carbohydrate Restriction

Therapeutic carbohydrate restriction is key to this approach because consuming excess carbohydrates can lead to insulin resistance. Management strategies include:

  • Therapeutic carbohydrate restriction
  • Intermittent fasting/time-restricted feeding
  • Optimizing protein intake
  • Correcting nutrition deficiencies
  • Changing/eliminating medications
  • Managing/anticipating side effects (cravings, constipation, gout flares, etc.)

More than a diet plan, this is a lifestyle change for long-term health and well-being. While it takes commitment and persistence, metabolic health practitioners are dedicated to helping individuals achieve their personal health goals. 

It’s an approach that requires specific training. CHI Health metabolic health practitioners are accredited by the Society of Metabolic Health Practitioners. They have done hundreds of hours of training to help you understand your metabolic health and reach your personal health goals. 

Karen Miller, MD
Karen Miller, MD

Karen Miller, MD is a primary care and metabolic health provider with CHI Health.

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