What is Insulin?
Insulin is a hormone secreted by our pancreas and this process helps to regulate the nutrients. The food that we eat is broken down into Glucose which is literally our body’s main fuel. All parts of your body, including our muscles and our brain, run on glucose. So in order to get glucose into our muscles, pancreas secrete magic hormone called Insulin.
What is Insulin’s Job?
Insulin arrives at the surface of each cell; help open the door of the cell membrane so that glucose can enter into the cells and our body can get its fuel for energy! Thus, Insulin is the ‘Sugar Police ’ that helps regulate the levels of glucose in our body!
What Stop Insulin to do its Job?
Let’s say, for example, you had fries & a burger for lunch. The high amounts of Fat [Fat that could be from that over cooked refined oil, cheese, or high quantities of animal meats] from these foods pass into our muscle cells.
Now when such bad fat keeps building up inside our muscle cells, it can interfere with insulin’s job of regulating blood sugar levels in our bodies and can eventually stop insulin [sugar police] to function normally.
How cells become Insulin Resistant ?
When insulin can no longer open the door of cell membrane to help passage of glucose, this glucose builds up in the bloodstream. To control this high sugar in bloodstream, our pancreas then releases more Insulin to control that sugar.
Thus, Insulin resistance is when cells in our muscles don’t respond well to insulin and can’t use glucose from your blood for energy. Resulting symptoms such as fatigue, extreme hunger or cravings even after a big meal.
What can lead to Insulin Resistance ?
International Evidence based PCOS guidelines 2018 indicate that Insulin Resistance affects almost 75% of lean women and 95% overweight women.
Though Insulin Resistance, Diabetes Risk & Lipid profiles are influenced by genetic factors, below factors also have key role to influence our blood glucose levels.
Visceral Fact: Excess Weight, especially too much fat in the abdomen & around the organs, called Visceral Fat, is a leading cause of Insulin Resistance. This is true even if our (BMI) falls within the normal range (a classic lean PCOS case)
Chronic Stress: Studies have indicated a higher degree of chronic stress to be associated with Insulin Resistance & has been found that cortisol levels were positively associated with insulin & glucose levels. For Example, work stress, low emotional support, sleeping disorders in women with PCOS have been associated with development of Insulin Resistance & type 2 diabetes.
Inflammation: Studies have also shown that belly fat makes hormones and other substances that can contribute to chronic, or long-lasting, inflammation in the body. Inflammation also may play a role in Insulin Resistance, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Sedentary Lifestyle: Not getting enough physical activity is linked to Insulin Resistance & Pre-diabetes.
What happens when Insulin levels increase?
High Insulin could cause thickening & darkening of the skin (acanthosis nigricans) on the back of the neck, resulting in skin tags. High insulin levels can cause the ovaries to make even more androgenic hormones such as testosterone.
This could cause Increased body hair, acne, & irregular periods. Having insulin resistance for a longer period of time can increase your risk of developing diabetes.
Insulin Resistance blood tests
Blood tests such as fasting plasma glucose , Hb1ac, HOMA IR are tests that can indicate if you have insulin resistance. OGTT (Oral Glucose Tolerance) is particularly used to check for gestational diabetes in women during pregnancy.
How to improve Insulin sensitivity ?
(long term sustainable solution)
- Consider a diet based on whole-foods, & cleanIngredients.
- Ensure to have an active lifestyle including strength-based exercises that help build good muscle.
- Losing that extra weight if you are above normal BMI, & Keeping visceral adiposity in check.
- Including stress management & self-care activities to keep your stress levels in check.
- Keeping your sleep cycle in check with your circadian rhythm.
Although it is advised to check all women with PCOS for Insulin resistance not each one of us may require a Medication.
Metformin is the most common medication prescribed to control the blood sugar levels and studies indicate that it has helped women increase their Insulin sensitivity. But also, long term usage of metformin can come with their own side effects.
It is strongly advised to consult your Health practitioner before considering these supplements Or medication.