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Insulin Resistance & Type 2 Diabetes

What is insulin resistance and how can we manage it?

By Kristy Ling, Personal Trainer at Mortdale

The consumption of carbohydrates are very important for energising the body for everyday activities. When people eat carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into sugars (glucose) which gets absorbed into the bloodstream. From here, blood sugar levels rise and the pancreas produces the hormone insulin, which signals cells to absorb sugars in the blood for energy or storage. Once blood sugars are absorbed into the cells, blood glucose levels in the blood stream begin to decline as well as insulin levels. This low level of insulin causes another hormone glucagon to be released from the pancreas which signals the stored sugars to be released from the cells to be used as energy. This relationship between glucagon and insulin ensures that all cells in the body have a continual blood sugar supply. It is important to consume the right type of carbohydrates so that your body can function optimally.

Low GI foods are better for you as they are digested at a slower rate, allowing for a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels. This includes beans, lentils, nuts, oats, wholegrain breads and pastas. High GI foods cause a rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels which puts strain on the body. This includes white potatoes, breakfast cereals, confectionary, basmati rice.

Type 2 diabetes is a condition which occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin for transport of sugars from the blood to the cells, or when the body cannot properly utilise the insulin it does produce. A common problem that happens with a high sugar/carbohydrate diet is as follows:

  • A large quantity of sugar enters the bloodstream.
  • The pancreas releases more insulin to transport blood sugar into the cells.
  • Over a period of time the cells stop responding to the large volume of insulin, becoming insulin resistant.
  • The pancreas continues to make more insulin in an attempt to make cells respond.
  • Eventually the pancreas cannot keep up and blood sugar levels continue to rise.

If cells cannot store any more blood sugar, the liver sends the excess to fat cells to be stored as fat. This eventually causes weight gain and type 2 diabetes. In order to reduce the symptoms of insulin resistance it is important to increase physical activity, lose weight, avoid foods which may spike blood sugar levels, reduce stress and get enough sleep to allow for your body to recover and repair.

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