What can you do to prevent type 2 diabetes? Insulin resistance is your body’s early warning system. Look for it to find out if diabetes has its foot inside the door. Your doctor says that your fasting blood glucose (FBG) is “normal,” but nonetheless, a concentration of 90 mg/dL is above last year’s result. He sends you home with a clean bill of health; should you dismiss this as casually as your doctor did?
At 90, your score has not reached a level (at 100 mg/dL) that triggers the warnings that the “prediabetes” classification was designed to deliver. From a traditional medical perspective, reaching a plateau at 90 is not the worst thing in the world. The only problem is that it rarely stays there.
Common medical practice ignores a score of this magnitude, or even applauds it for being much lower than the threshold for a diabetes diagnosis. However, by the time your scores reach 90, the first domino in a predictable progression of events has started to fall. You haven’t reached the catastrophic point at which the doctor will take evasive action; however, you are more than likely seeing the effects of insulin resistance starting to manifest. This means metabolic syndrome—with its increased risk factors for a host of serious conditions—lurks right around the corner.
Combating Insulin Resistance
The earlier you move to take control of your metabolic process, the easier it will be to reverse. Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance are dysfunctions of overabundance, rather than scarcity. Unlike type 1 diabetes, where blood glucose that is too low is a critical issue, a type 2 diabetic never has to worry about dangerously low blood-glucose levels—unless medications are used to control the situation. Not having to worry about the dangerous low side of the curve gives you great power over your condition if you choose to employ it.
While diet certainly plays a key role, there are other factors that trigger insulin resistance.
Along with insulin, cortisol is one of your body’s primary hormones. It is involved with survival response and, in that role, temporarily hijacks the body’s metabolism. Short term, this response is developed to help you through stressful situations, such as evading danger or hunting for food. However, stress has evolved from isolated situations into a constant barrage that keeps the cortisol running nearly continuously through our bodies.
Chronic cortisol exposure contributes to insulin resistance in several ways: It increases insulin in your bloodstream (which in the case of emotional stress, does not get burned off through physical exertion). It increases hunger—for sugar in particular, and the impact of that has already been described. It raises fatty acid and triglyceride levels, and increases abdominal fat. All of these effects feed into the progression that increases insulin resistance.
Another trigger for insulin resistance is inflammation. While diet can certainly cause inflammation (high blood-glucose concentrations can be the result of inflammation, and at the same time cause more inflammation—a deadly double whammy), other sources of inflammation can be overly strenuous exercise routines, autoimmune conditions, obesity, and high cortisol levels (again, read this as stress) to name a few.
Environmental toxins are also capable of disrupting metabolism and causing insulin resistance. A study published in a 2008 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that higher levels of bisphenol-A in the urine of adult participants correlated to higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This is just one toxin of more than 150 that were found to be present in a sampling of the adult population by the Environmental Working Group.
What Can You Do To Curb Your Insulin Resistance?
Exercise. The progression to type 2 diabetes is characterized by abdominal fat, and dropping even 10 pounds can significantly reduce your risk for many of the associated conditions. However, the reason to exercise is not to burn calories—that is a happy byproduct. The reason to exercise is that it is one of the best ways to directly counter insulin resistance! As you are able, mix 30-40 minutes of aerobic movement into your day, and try to get several minutes of strenuous aerobic movement in four times each week. Strenuous exercise should leave you winded, but does not have tolast long. Work hard for 30 seconds to a minute, then slow the pace for three to four minutes. Repeat this cycle two to six times as you are able. A good weekly routine also includes strength building exercises twice a week.
Supplementation. There are a variety of supplements that have been clinically shown to assist with getting blood glucose levels down and help reduce insulin resistance. The next article in this series will explore these and also touch on some supplements that help you cope with the symptoms of diabetes.
Diet. Bring the macronutrients in your diet back into balance. Get your carbohydrates from fresh vegetables instead of packaged foods and white grains and powders, and eat them in balance with fat and protein. Introduce a reasonable amount of saturated fat back into your diet in combination with healthy fats, and eat quality proteins in reasonable amounts (breakfast is a particularly important time to have a full serving of protein). Keep in mind that a serving of meat is about the size of a deck of playing cards, or the palm of your hand. If your insulin/FBG levels are on the high side, you may want to strictly limit (or even eliminate) fruits and grains for a period of time to let your body recover from the constant over exposure. Once your readings have come down, you can rebalance your diet.
Avoid. Stay away from sugar, anything with high-fructose corn syrup, refined carbohydrates such as rice and pasta, anything fried (especially potatoes or breaded foods), and alcohol.
For those who have already reached the point of being labeled diabetic or prediabetic, these same changes will benefit you, too, restoring your own body’s ability to manage glucose and weaning you off medications on which you may now depend. Despite what you might think, you have the power to reverse this condition and it does not require body damaging drugs to do it.