Understanding insulin resistance is key to understanding the development of type two diabetes.
First, let’s talk about insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by specific cells in your pancreas, an organ in your abdomen. Insulin helps regulate blood sugar and helps store and use the carbohydrates we eat for energy. Your liver also produces sugar through a process called gluconeogenesis. Insulin counteracts gluconeogenesis, telling the body to stop producing sugar when we have received the energy we need from food.
When we ingest high fat foods, we end up with fat in our blood. We may even have fat spillover from overly full fat cells when we become overweight or obese. This excess fat also gets trapped in our liver. Most often all of these issues go hand in hand. Excess fat muddies cell signaling processes, and the body can no longer use its insulin effectively. This leads the pancreas to make more and more insulin that our body cannot use because we are now insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is when you have enough, often too much, insulin around, but your body cannot use it.
In normal amounts, insulin is helpful and necessary, in excess, insulin promotes weight gain and progression to type two diabetes. Over time, insulin resistance leads to high blood sugars, because your body cannot process the sugar you eat. Insulin also is not effectively stopping liver gluconeogenesis, furthering high blood sugar. Thus, insulin resistance is a large factor in the development of type two diabetes - a disease of high blood sugar.
So, how do we break this cycle of insulin resistance? This vicious cycle can be broken with lifestyle change that promotes insulin sensitivity - the opposite of insulin resistance. Specific ways to combat insulin resistance are a diet rich in plants and low in processed and animal-based fats, intermittent fasting, exercise, weight loss and sleep.
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