With 12.2% of American adults and a growing number of children with diabetes, you might call it an epidemic. Each year over a million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in adults alone. (1) Diabetes is a very dangerous, destructive, and often painful disease. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop it. That’s why it’s important to know the symptoms of insulin resistance.
In addition to those already with the full-blown disease is the number of people with impaired glucose tolerance (“pre-diabetes”), a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not consistently high enough to qualify as diabetes. This means that, if left unaddressed, the risk of pre-diabetes developing into diabetes is very high. (2) It’s estimated that 33.9% of American adults (84.1 million people) have pre-diabetes. (3)
Food is broken down into glucose (sugar) in the body, then insulin (a hormone secreted by the pancreas) transports and facilitates its use as energy in cells. With several potential contributing factors, sometimes not enough insulin is produced or cells don’t respond to it. Diabetes is the condition in which sugar builds up in the blood rather than being burned as fuel.
Impaired glucose tolerance doesn’t announce itself.
No one wants diabetes. Symptoms of diabetes include:
- increased thirst and urination
- increased hunger
- blurred vision
- numbness, tingling, or pain in the feet or hands
- sores that do not heal
- unexplained weight loss
- dry skin
- increased risk of infections, including yeast infection.
Further, people with diabetes are at higher risk for other serious health conditions, including:
- heart disease
- high cholesterol
- kidney disease
- metabolic syndrome
- neuropathy (nerve damage)
Diabetes doesn’t develop overnight; it’s often a long process during which the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar fails. Most people with pre-diabetes don’t know they have it, as it’s often asymptomatic.
How does Insulin Resistance Develop?
Insulin resistance is a primary factor in impaired glucose tolerance. Insulin production and its various mechanisms of action are complex and not fully understood. What is known about insulin resistance:
- The cells of the body develop a resistance to the effects of insulin.
- Insulin is essential for the regulation of the glucose circulating in the blood; it induces glucose to be taken up by the cells.
- Insulin is also the chemical messenger that signals to the liver (which stores glucose), to hold on to its glucose and store it rather than release it into the blood. Glucose is packaged up for storage in the liver in the form of glycogen.
- Insulin normally maintains a fine energy balance, never allowing the blood glucose level to rise too much for too long.
- Resistance initially results in the pancreas simply secreting more insulin to maintain safe blood glucose levels and keep high blood sugars at bay.
- Insulin resistance can eventually be accompanied by persistently higher glucose levels (pre-diabetes), and then the persistent hyperglycemia of type 2 diabetes; the release of extra insulin cannot be maintained to compensate for the increasing insulin resistance.
8 Symptoms of Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is the term used to describe when cells have trouble absorbing sugar from the blood. Although sometimes subtle, your body may tell you when it’s having a hard time. Here are signs to look for.
1. Brain fog
There’s a link between brain insulin resistance and neurological disease, such as Alzheimer’s (AD). (4)
“AD is fundamentally a metabolic disease with substantial and progressive derangements in brain glucose utilization and responsiveness to insulin and insulin-like growth factor [IGF] stimulation…Metabolic abnormalities have been linked to brain insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) resistance with disruption of signaling pathways that regulate neuronal survival, energy production, gene expression, and plasticity.” (5)
Insulin plays very critical roles in learning and memory. (6) When brain cells are unable to absorb nourishment, their function is reduced, resulting in brain fog and potentially loss of memory and cognition.