Insulin is fundamental for life. You can think of insulin as the key that unlocks our cellular “doors”, to allow glucose (blood sugar) from the food we have eaten, to enter our cells. This fuel provides the energy we need to run all the biochemical processes of life. Without insulin, glucose cannot get into our cells. Blood sugar levels rise, but the cells themselves are starving. This is the problem in type 1, insulin-dependent diabetes. But these days, many people are dealing with a very different problem called insulin resistance. The levels of sugar and refined carbohydrates in the diet today are unprecedented in human history: our bodies are simply not adapted to this. In response, the pancreas churns out huge amounts of insulin. Over time, our cellular insulin receptors, those “doors”, become unresponsive to too much insulin. Blood sugars remain high, but again, the cells aren’t getting the fuel they need. Insulin resistance is a direct precursor to type 2 diabetes, and is highly correlated with metabolic syndrome, which are both increasing at an alarming rate in North America and the world over. Do you have signs of insulin resistance?
Do you feel hungry either immediately, or within 2 to 3 hours after eating?
If you miss a meal, do you feel irritable, tired, shaky or can’t think clearly?
Do you tend to retain water in your hands or feet after eating salty foods?
Do you get tired or feel lethargic after eating a meal?
Do you have any parents, siblings or other close family members with diabetes, or high or low blood sugar?
Do you have a family history of obesity, heart disease, gout, or polycystic ovarian syndrome?
Do you have high blood pressure or are you on blood pressure medication?
Do you carry extra weight around your belly?
Do you have a high waist to height ratio? (see box below)
Do you tend to gain weight easily if you over-eat, or eat too many carbohydrates?
Do you have difficulty losing weight on a low-fat diet?
Do you crave sweet and/or starchy carbohydrate foods such as baked goods, chips, breads or pasta?
Do you have mood swings, which are relieved by eating carbs?
Do you have high cholesterol, triglycerides, or take medications for this?
Does your bloodwork show high blood sugar or high hemoglobin A1c?
Have you been told you have a fatty liver?
Add up the number of questions you answered “yes” to. 0-1 - You have little to no indication of insulin resistance 2-5 - You may have early insulin resistance 6-10 - You likely have moderate insulin resistance 11-16- You likely have significant insulin resistance
The waist to height ratio is an easy and validated way to calculate body and abdominal fat. In fact it has been shown to be much more reliable than BMI! A waist to height ratio of 0.5 or lower is healthy, which means your waist should be less than half your height.
We will offer much more on how to deal with insulin resistance, high hemoglobin A1c, fatty liver and metabolic syndrome in future SHINE posts and courses: watch this space!