Are you frustrated because your efforts for a healthier lifestyle aren’t resulting in weight loss? Here’s a second cause I sometimes find…
I see my job as being there to support and coach people towards their health goals. I really believe that weight loss should not be difficult with healthy eating, regular activity, and stress management. If it is, I need to dig a little deeper to find out why. Last week I discussed the connection between the thyroid and metabolism, and what my naturopathic approach to assess thyroid helath is. This week I am going to talk about the effect of insulin resistance on weight loss, even when blood sugar levels aren’t elevated.
To help you understand the connection between insulin and your weight, I’m going to start with a little physiology lesson again. Whenever you eat carbohydrates, which include fruits, vegetables, grains, and anything with added sugar, they get broken down in your digestive tract into glucose, which gets release into your blood. The presence of these sugars in your blood stream signals the release of insulin from your pancreas. The insulin is then supposed to bind to the insulin receptors in your cell membranes, and signal the opening of cell glucose transport channels. These channels allow the glucose to enter your cells, so that it can fuel your mitochondria, which are the energy producing centres in every cell. The mitochondria produce ATP, which is the fuel for your body to run efficiently.
When someone has insulin resistance, the insulin is not able to bind efficiently to the insulin receptors, causing the pancreas to produce more and more insulin in an attempt to get this process to work properly. Some of the insulin will bind, but the body has to work much harder to keep the blood sugar levels stable. Eventually, if the pancreas can no longer produce any more insulin, then the blood sugar levels will start to climb, resulting in type II diabetes.
It is common in conventional medicine to check blood sugar levels on health screening. It is not as common to check insulin levels though. The gold standard to check for insulin resistance is to have someone do a glucose tolerance test (which involves drinking 75 g of glucose), and then have their blood insulin level checked after 2 hours. What I often see when patients do this test is that the blood sugar levels are within normal before and after, but the insulin level is high. That means that the body is having to work very hard in an attempt to keep the blood sugar levels in range.
So what does that mean for weight loss? If energy isn’t efficiently being produced from glucose in the mitochondria, then the body will hold on to body fat, as it is a less efficient way for the body to produce energy. Higher insulin also results in more inflammation, which is the root of many chronic diseases. Often with insulin resistance, I will see on body composition testing that the body fat level is high, despite having really good muscle mass (assuming the person is exercising).
So what can be done about this? The good news is that this is totally treatable with lifestyle changes, and some supplements that help address the insulin resistance. The supplements won’t work well without the diet changes, but with them, I expect to see a noticeable reduction in insulin when the blood work is checked again in 3 months…as well as an improvement in body fat percentage and weight.
If some of you feel after hearing this that insulin resistance may be an issue for you, then I recommend seeing a Naturopathic Doctor to run the blood work, and see what can be done to help you. As I have said before, you also need to make sure that you are doing what you can do eat a balanced diet, exercise in the right way, and manage your stress. A diet that is higher in protein and healthy fats is good for keeping everyone’s blood sugar levels more stable, whether they have insulin resistance or not. That is the basis I use for the meal plans in my online program called “Your Best Life”. The next group will be starting June 5th, if you would like to join. The link with more information will be posted below. I really hope you have found this information useful.
Have a great weekend!