It seems like so many of us have gained weight over the past 6 months, granted life has been pretty different and we have all faced new challenges. But, why does it seem so much harder to lose the weight when we want to?
Weight Loss Resistance is something that can happen to all of us and it can have a few different root causes, we’ll get into more of these in future newsletters, but for now we want to address a biggie, Insulin Resistance.
What does that even mean—well we all know a bit about insulin, it’s the hormone secreted by the pancreas that allows glucose (ie, sugar, carbs) to enter the cells and act as energy. Think of it as the gatekeeper or key to the cell.
Now, when everything is functioning normally, this little key fits into it’s space on the cell surface and glucose moves in to fuel it.
But, when things go awry, we can end up with way too much insulin and it floods the space on the cell surface, blocking glucose from getting into the cell.
This means that when you eat, the glucose in your body is now floating around with no place to go.
So what happens to this glucose? It goes back to the liver and the liver takes this excess sugar and converts it into the storage fuel—aka fat.
So how do we develop insulin resistance?
There are a few things that can cause insulin resistance and some of these reasons may be surprising to you.
The first way is fairly obvious, overeating of sugars and carbs. Flood the system with too much fuel and the body gets overwhelmed.
But, what if this scenario is not so obvious, say you just mildly overeat, or you just overeat carbs at one meal a day, will this still cause insulin resistance? You bet.
Meal Timing is important
The second way is with poor meal timing. That’s right, we can create insulin resistance by eating constantly throughout the day.
Most people cannot tolerate a sustained intake of food day in and day out. Eating 5-6 times a day or grazing will actually create insulin resistance.
Why is that? Insulin is released in response to eating, but just like a washing machine, our digestive tract and our breakdown of food has a cycle. We need to eat, process, and empty completely before we repeat. This cycle is about 4-6 hours so when we eat before the cycle is over, we essentially restarted the process before we actually got to empty—it’s like throwing dirty clothes in half way through the cycle, the whole load is now not going to come out clean.
We also need a good fasting period overnight to really help our bodies reset, this is generally 12 hours, but it can be as long 16 hours (also known as Intermittent Fasting, which we discussed in our March newsletter).
Toxins and Fatty Liver contributes
The third way insulin resistance can develop is through fatty liver changes. This is not necessarily due to drinking too much alcohol, it can also be from carb consumption, or even more commonly these days, it can be from environmental chemicals—now we’re not talking toxic smoke fog, we’re actually talking about chemicals like PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) or PFOS (perfluorooctanoic acid)—these are the chemicals that for a non-stick coating on your pots and pans, or weather protectors on your boots, or anti-wrinkle in your shirts.
These are ubiquitous chemicals that are not easy to remove from our bodies or our world and we have seen a huge correlation between these and hormone disruption. You can also add chemicals like BPA (bisphenol A) and BPS (bisphenol S) to this list, BPA was removed from a lot of plastic containers and water bottles, only to be replaced by BPS, something possibly more toxic than BPA.
We have seen a rise in type two diabetes that is similar to the rise in BPA over the same period of time. Right now, while everyone is cooking at home more than ever before, please make sure that your pots and pans are not coated in Teflon, this includes frying pans, baking sheets, and muffin tins.
Use stainless steel, ceramic or cast iron pans, line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
This even includes when you use healthier pans and just because you line your non-stick pans doesn’t mean they’re safe, they still off gas every time you use them.
Insulin Resistance is also a part of overall hormone balance. Women with PCOS and men with estrogen dominance tend to have higher levels of insulin resistance. So we find when estrogen is in balance, insulin resistance is better and vice versa. Cortisol, or stress hormones, also increase our level of insulin resistance, so when we stress more our body no longer uses carbohydrates in the same way. We still require carbs but we need to be mindful of when we are eating them and how much we are consuming.
How do you know if your weight loss resistance is due to insulin resistance? If you can identify with some of the issues mentioned earlier, then this is probably the case, but if you’re not sure and you would like to be tested, it is best to test fasted insulin levels and fasted blood glucose, then there is a calculation that we can use called a HOMA-IR and this will give us a good idea about your level of insulin resistance.
Treating insulin resistance is something that naturopathic medicine is really good at. There are many natural phytochemicals that can help sensitize the cells to insulin, such as berberine, and minerals like chromium and vanadium that are essential co-factors to proper blood sugar regulation. Also, knowing how to time meals, and how to compose your meals so that you are not aggravating insulin resistance will help to speed your metabolism back up to where it’s supposed to be.
We really feel it is best for you to know your numbers, so if you’re ready to tackle insulin resistance we want to help you get moving in the right direction! We’ve created an insulin testing package for you to be able to get your testing done, and then come in to see us to discuss your results and what your next steps should be.
Dr. Rebecca Sagan, ND and Dr. Hajnalka Pinter, ND