Heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, depression, thyroid, cancer – what’s common between all of them?
The answer is Insulin Resistance. People typically associate insulin resistance with type 2 diabetes. But not just diabetes, it’s probably the No. 1 reason behind many chronic diseases. You will be surprised to know that insulin resistance is a much bigger cause of heart disease than cholesterol. Gerald Reaven, a Stanford University medical professor, observed in 1988 that insulin resistance was at the centre of many diseases: high BP, obesity, and high triglycerides. His studies show that if a person suffers from insulin resistance, then he or she has a 40X increase in his risk for heart disease. 40X higher.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance is when cells in your body don’t respond well to insulin and can’t easily absorb glucose from your blood. As a result, your pancreas has to make more insulin to help glucose enter your cells.
Why Does it Happen?
The no. 1 cause of insulin resistance is obesity and especially visceral fat (belly fat). Even a couple of extra kgs around your belly can cause insulin resistance. Overall, your weight might be normal, but if you don’t have a flat belly, you have a risk of insulin resistance.
2. Internal Inflammation
You might be aware of inflammation. Inflammation means a cut or a swollen tissue that is painful. It is the body’s response to removing damaged cells or irritants before the healing process can begin.
But do you know there is something called internal inflammation which is invisible?
It is neither painful nor visible, but it’s extremely deadly. It is a fire that is kept hidden by the body‘s immune system as it combats food allergens, toxins, stress, and bad food.
Even though this inflammation is harmful, we sadly don’t have any antiseptic that can cure it. Internal inflammation occurs due to refined carbs, sugar, trans fats, many inflammatory Omega-6 fats, artificial sweeteners, gluten, dairy, chronic infection, stress, processed plant oils, hidden food allergies, and sensitivities, etc. It can cause multiple diseases: cardiovascular disease, arthritis, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer!
How Do We Measure Internal Inflammation?
With the help of a very simple parameter called HS-CRP (High sensitivity C-reactive protein). It is produced by the body when blood-vessel walls are inflamed. High CRP is an indicator of inflammation, the natural response of the body to injuries, infections and threats.
3. Nutritional Deficiency
Insulin resistance may happen because of multiple nutritional deficiencies. The key nutrients which are important are Vitamin D, chromium, zinc, magnesium, Omega 3 fats and antioxidants. If you are deficient in minerals and vitamins, your whole body does not function optimally. The good news is that it’s easy to test for almost all the deficiencies with a simple blood test. Also, it’s easy to cover these deficiencies with foods and food supplements.
4. Too Much Stress
Stress has become quite common and many times fashionable. But stress can cause havoc on your system including insulin resistance. Research has shown that women who were depressed were 17% more likely to develop diabetes.
There is a simple parameter to measure stress: cortisol. It’s important to get yourself tested for this hormone to know if stress is a contributing factor to your health.
5. Gut Bacteria Imbalance
All of us know what antibiotics are, but how many of us know about their counterpart called ‘probiotics’? These are micro-organisms like yeast or good bacteria that are known to enhance one’s health. They are usually found in supplements and foods like yoghurt and buttermilk. It may seem strange to take in live bacteria as part of your food, but it is a normal practice and is very good for you.
The human stomach contains trillions of good bacteria. Isn’t it amazing? This number is a minimum of 10 times more than the total number of cells in the body.
The ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria in your stomach is usually 85%: 15%. When you maintain this ratio, you’re in good health and can lose weight easily. Probiotics help in keeping the lining of the intestines healthy and thus help with the breaking down and absorption of food. Probiotics are found in curd and buttermilk, though not in great numbers. However, since many of us don’t get enough probiotics in our daily diet, the proportion of good bacteria goes down and we often suffer from digestive disorders and lower immunity.
Curd and fermented foods like idli are good sources of probiotics. But in most cases, it’s recommended to take a probiotic supplement too.
Toxins are another reason for insulin resistance. It’s very easy for toxins to enter your body, from processed food, or in the form of food pesticides or through plastic containers. Yes, you heard it right, even plastic containers can be toxic. And the food nowadays is not the same as what our grandparents ate. It is full of pesticides and other chemicals. There are toxins everywhere.
It’s a good exercise to include a toxicity report in your lab report to know your toxins level. Three important toxins to check are lead, mercury, and aluminum.
7. Lack of exercise
If you suffer from insulin resistance, it is highly recommended to add exercise to your routine. And it would be even more beneficial if you can add strength training along with cardio. Even 30 minutes of exercise per day for 5 days a week will do wonders.
8. Lack of sleep
7-8 hours of sleep is required by most individuals. And in today’s time, OTT platforms, TV, and mobile phones are eating away at our sleep time. The first thing we do on waking up is to see a mobile and it’s also the last thing we do. Obviously, sleep will get affected. It’s a good habit to keep all these electronic gadgets away from the bed and not engage with them for at least an hour prior to sleeping.
If any of your immediate family members suffer from insulin resistance, there is a greater chance that you may suffer from it too. But as you can see, genetics is only one of the factors and not the only factor as many people believe.
It’s 70% lifestyle and 30% genetics. So, stop blaming genetics and start working on your lifestyle.
How to Measure Insulin Resistance?
There is a very simple blood test for it: HOMA-IR. HOMA stands for the Homeostatic model of insulin resistance. Just with the help of your fasting blood sugar levels and fasting insulin levels, this parameter is calculated. If your value is between .5-1.4, then you are healthy. And if it’s higher than 1.9, then you have insulin resistance. And above 2.9 value should ring alarm bells and you need to take action immediately.
If you are obese or you have some chronic disease, chances are very high that you are insulin resistant.
I would highly recommend you to check your insulin resistance today.
The medical system is managing symptoms, not curing this root cause.
How many times have you heard doctors talking about insulin resistance? Everyone talks about HBa1C, cholesterol levels, BP, and TSH levels, but how many times have you heard of HOMA-IR? HOMA-IR is far more important than managing just the symptoms. In diabetes, blood sugar is not the problem. It’s only a symptom. The problem is insulin resistance. Most of the time, the medical system is not solving the root cause, but only managing the symptoms. Just because your blood sugar is under control, you feel relaxed that your disease is under control. But it’s not. You are measuring the wrong parameter. You need to see if your insulin levels are getting better or not. Unfortunately, that’s not the current protocol. But if you are serious about your long-term health, then you need to cure this root cause, so that you can avoid having medications (to manage your symptoms) lifelong.
What Can You Do To Reverse It?
- If you have belly fat or visceral fat, then that’s the No. 1 thing that you need to do. Lose fat and get back to normal shape. That will have the biggest impact on insulin resistance.
- Then reduce dependence on wheat and rice. The Indian diet is largely formed of these two grains. Include more grains, millet in your diet. Replace white rice with brown rice. Have rotis made of different grains, not just wheat. Try to go gluten-free for a few days.
- Avoid refined and simple carbohydrates completely. No maida. No sugar. No white rice.
- Replace sugar with some natural sweetener like stevia and erythritol. Gur, honey, and brown sugar are healthier than white sugar, but they are still sugar and spike your insulin levels.
- Restrict consumption of fruit to 1 per day. Fruits are also high in sugar and too much of a good thing is also not good.
- Increase protein sources in your diet. E.g. have sprouts, and eggs. Have 2 bowls of dal, rajma, chole instead of 1. Have chila, dhokla and other protein-rich breakfast items. Take a protein shake.
- Include good sources of fat. Have soaked seeds and nuts every day. Good fat is extremely beneficial for insulin resistance. You can have a handful of seeds and nuts every day. But it’s important to increase your fat consumption while reducing your carb. Too much food is not recommended.
- Sleep for 7-8 hours. Take less stress. Lack of sleep and stress releases cortisol, which is not good for insulin resistance.
- Be active. It is not necessary to go to a gym (if you can go, very well). Play some sports. Or do simple brisk walking. Especially 10-15 minutes after meals, especially after dinner.
- Take spices and herbs which are beneficial: ginger, garlic, turmeric, fenugreek, and cinnamon.
- Take supplements: omega 3 fish oil, antioxidants, probiotics, magnesium, chromium (supplements have to be taken as per your deficiency; hence it’s important to get a blood test to know which minerals/vitamins you are deficient in).