What Causes Insulin Resistance?

In last week’s blog, we discussed insulin resistance and how it affects our bodies! We’re continuing our focus on IR inspired by Dr. Ben Bikman’s book, Why We Get Sick, but this week we discuss the causes of IR. The mainstream message that IR is caused by having ‘too much sugar’ minimizes the severity of the following causes associated with IR.

Metabolic Syndrome & Obesity

Metabolic syndrome also called insulin resistance syndrome, is a group of conditions that together raise your risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other serious health problems.  We’re hearing more about it because ⅓ of adults now have metabolic syndrome!  The most common symptoms are high blood pressure, a larger waistline, high blood sugar, low HDL, and high triglycerides. 

Obesity is a massive contributor to insulin resistance!  Which comes first, insulin resistance or obesity?  Most likely, IR precedes obesity; however, there is a threshold beyond which people stop becoming more obese just from insulin.  You'll get fatter if you eat the same number of calories but have more insulin.  This is evident with diabetic patients and certain types of diets.  More on obesity later.

How Age & Genetics Influence Insulin

Two things you can’t control: your genetics and your age.  You can be born with cells that don’t respond well to insulin, and as you age, your hormones decline; either way, both are causes of insulin resistance!  Even though you can’t change certain risk factors, you can take some steps to reduce the likelihood or severity of symptoms.   As a life coach specializing in metabolic health, I can help you identify the signs of IR and create a strategy to improve your health!

How Hormones Cause IR

Moodiness, unexplained weight gain, infertility, skin issues, and hot flashes.  All of these can be signs that your hormones are off.  High insulin levels wreak havoc on our hormones in so many ways!  Here are just a few::

  • High IR leads to increased testosterone which creates an estrogen imbalance in women.
  • IR leads to increased epinephrine and cortisol. 
  • With low thyroid, known as hypothyroidism, your fat cells won’t take up as much glucose, but insulin will prevent them from burning fat and shrinking.
  • Fatter people have more thyroid hormone, a type of thyroid resistance that goes down if they lose weight.
  • A study looking at more than 3,000 women for eight years found hot flashes associated with higher insulin resistance and fasting glucose levels.

Hormones are a force to be reckoned with, but there is hope! I’ve helped countless clients connect their hormones and metabolic health with excellent results.

Obesity and IR Revisited

Plain and simple, insulin prevents fat burning.  What’s not simple is how elevated insulin levels impact our weight!  Insulin levels fall when we’re not eating, but if insulin levels remain high, our bodies don’t get the signal that they should be burning fat storage.  

Do you know what pays a high price for this?  Your liver.  When your liver begins storing excess fat, it can lead to chronic liver inflammation and damage.  Fatty liver from fructose or alcohol creates insulin resistance, which means the liver breaks down glycogen and keeps pumping glucose into the bloodstream despite hyperglycemia and elevated insulin.  This results in persistent hyperglycemia, leading to insulin resistance in other body areas.   Check your waist-to-hip ratio.  Less than 0.9 in men and 0.8 in women is a good measurement.

Inflammation and Oxidative Stress

Inflammation and oxidative stress tend to go hand in hand. Inflammation suppresses insulin-signaling pathways making our bodies less responsive to insulin. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between your body's free radicals and antioxidants. It is both a precursor and a result of constant inflammation in the body.

Lifestyle Factors

Dr. Bikman has a laundry list of lifestyle factors linked to insulin resistance.  Let’s test your knowledge of the following things that increase IR and see how you measure up!

  • Air pollution
  • 1st, 2nd, and 3rd hand smoke
  • MSG consumption
  • Petrochemicals found in BPA
  • Pesticides
  • Sugar, especially fructose
  • IR and DM2 artificial sweeteners (Stevia, erythritol, and monk fruit have less of an effect)
  • Starvation vs. fasting (not sure how to explain this one Trace)
  • Being sedentary, even for a short time
  • Sleep deprivation

Final Thoughts

If you think this information is helpful but you want solutions, we’ll make it worth your wait!  Next week we’ll talk about the solutions to how we can fight insulin resistance.   Together, we’ll lean into some amazing information and tools that will work to prevent or stop insulin resistance from sabotaging your health and weight loss efforts!

Check out our Self-Made Mind & Body Taste Test. This 4 week program teaches you the steps to building weight loss protocols and offers 4 weeks of LIVE group coaching on how to solve the Mind Math.