Insulin Resistance Syndrome
A Common Cause of Carbohydrate Cravings, Fatigue, Depression and Obesity
Many people with fatigue, depression, hypoglycemia, overweight, or sugar/starch cravings are suffering from dysglycemia, which is a disruption in blood sugar metabolism caused primarily by diet. Other conditions that can also be linked to this problem include high blood pressure, some types of high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, adult onset diabetes, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Blood sugar problems occur on spectrum of disease with fatigue, depression, hypoglycemia, and cravings at one end, and adult onset-diabetes at the other end. All of these conditions are caused by the same basic problem, dysglycemia, with where you are on the spectrum indicating the severity of your disease. It is important to point out here that not every one with fatigue, depression, high cholesterol or high blood pressure has dysglycemia or insulin resistance, but many of them do. Virtually everyone with metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, or adult-onset diabetes, however, does have insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance occurs when cells which would normally take sugar out of the blood, and hence lower blood sugar, become resistant to the action of insulin. It therefore takes more insulin to keep a personís blood sugar in check. People with insulin resistance syndrome will consequently have normal blood sugar levels and elevated insulin levels.
People with insulin resistance tend to gain weight and suffer from carbohydrate cravings that in some cases can be quite intense. They may not feel satisfied if they eat a meal that doesnít contain carbohydrates, and they may find it difficult to stop eating carbohydrates once theyíve started, even bingeing at times. They will also frequently experience elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lowered HDL cholesterol levels. HDL cholesterol is the good type of cholesterol that offers protection against heart disease. Many of these people also suffer from hypoglycemia, a condition that can cause fatigue, anxiety, and shakiness if they donít eat frequently enough.
A general rule of thumb is that if your triglyceride to HDL ratio is greater than 3, you probably have insulin resistance. For example, if your triglycerides are 158 and your HDL cholesterol is 35, your triglyceride to HDL ratio is 158 divided by 35 equals 4.5 and you probably have insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is a very common condition in the US, with estimates of its prevalence running as high as 25%. Additionally, those with IRS are at increased risk of developing adult onset diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Insulin resistance is a multi-factorial disease, which means that people who develop this condition usually do so because of a variety of genetic, lifestyle, and diet factors. Those with a family history of adult onset diabetes, for example, are at an increased risk of developing insulin resistance. Individuals who are overweight, have a sedentary lifestyle, or eat a diet high in saturated fat or simple carbohydrates are also at risk.
The primary treatment for insulin resistance syndrome is a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. The most problematic type of carbohydrate for people with IRS are the simple carbohydrates which are found in foods such as cakes, candies, pies, muffins, and ice cream. These foods contain large amounts of sugar, which go straight into the blood and quickly raise blood sugar, hence increasing the demand for insulin to bring the blood sugar levels back down. Even complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, bread, and pastas are fairly quickly digested and broken down into sugars. It is therefore very important that people with insulin resistance limit their intake of all carbohydrates. Proteins and most vegetables, on the other hand, do not have this effect on blood sugar. Proteins, in fact, will slow the absorption of the sugars that come from carbohydrates and decrease their impact on blood sugar and insulin levels.
Exercise and nutrients such as chromium, magnesium, vanadium, and vitamin E can also be helpful in the management of insulin resistance syndrome. All of these nutrients are required for the proper metabolism of sugar. Exercise, on the other hand, has direct blood sugar lowering effects. It can therefore decrease the demand for insulin.
Most people with insulin resistance who follow the above recommendations will find that they lose weight, no longer crave carbohydrates, and donít experience the fatigue, anxiety, or shakiness characteristic of hypoglycemia. They also will generally find that their cholesterol and triglyceride levels drop, and that their HDL levels rise, sometimes dramatically.
While not everyone who is overweight or has high cholesterol levels suffers from insulin resistance syndrome, anyone with these problems who doesnít respond to a standard low fat diet and exercise therapy should be evaluated for this condition. This is especially true if they experience carbohydrate cravings or the symptoms of hypoglycemia.
Naturopathic doctors are physician experts in treating the underlying cause of disease and using natural medicines to help people get and stay well. To see a naturopathic doctor for help in determining whether you suffer from insulin resistance syndrome, please make a selection below.
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