What Is Insulin Resistance?

Dr. Shawn Greenan, DACM, CFMP®
What Is Insulin Resistance?

What Is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance (IR) is a hot topic in medicine right now, and for a good reason. Insulin resistance currently affects 1 in 3 Americans and is a precursor to prediabetes and eventually type 2 diabetes if not managed through nutrition and lifestyle intervention.


How Does Insulin Resistance Become Diabetes?

Insulin, a hormone, acts as a messenger that instructs the liver to store some glucose rather than releasing it into the bloodstream. In a healthy person, insulin helps the body maintain a good balance of energy by not allowing blood glucose to spike for too long.

Once a person becomes insulin resistant, the pancreas has to work harder to release enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels down. Over time, the pancreas’ ability to release insulin begins to decrease.

Overview of Insulin Resistance:

  • Sugar enters the bloodstream.
  • The pancreas pumps out insulin to balance blood sugar for healthy energy levels.
  • Overtime regulation of blood sugar stops responding to insulin (i.e., insulin resistance).
  • The pancreas has to keep making more insulin to keep blood sugar balanced.
  • Eventually, the pancreas can’t keep up, and blood sugar continues to rise.

Risk Factors of Insulin Resistance

Scientist and Researchers aren't quite sure what causes insulin resistance, but they are constantly studying this medical diagnosis for more clues. Below are some risk factors researchers have associated with Insulin Resistance:

*Note: You do not have to be overweight to have insulin resistance, but obesity and higher amounts of belly fat have shown to be risk factors for Insulin Resistance.

Other Factors Associated with Insulin Resistance

  • Diet high in refined carbohydrates
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • A family history of diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Ethnicity (African, Latino, or Native American are higher risk groups)
  • 45 Years of age and older
  • Sleep disorders

Because some of these risk factors may be avoidable, health authorities are focusing on lifestyle measures that can help reduce the risk of the disease.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that all overweight people and over 45 years old receive testing for diabetes.

You can learn more on a Functional Medicine Approach to testing for Insulin Resistance here.

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Prediabetes - Your Chance to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes. (2020, June 11). Retrieved from CDC.gov: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/prediabetes.html

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Monitoring of Diabetes. (2021, May 5). Retrieved from Heart.org: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/diabetes/symptoms-diagnosis--monitoring-of-diabetes#.WKb9ExKLRTZ

The Surprising Truth About Prediabetes. (2021, October 5). Retrieved from CDC.gov: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/truth-about-prediabetes.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Ffeatures%2Fdiabetesprevention%2Findex.html

Understanding Insulin Resistance. (n.d.). Retrieved from American Diabetes Association: https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/medication-treatments/insulin-resistance

Dr. Shawn Greenan, DACM, CFMP®
Acupuncture Physician Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner®
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