Insulin Resistance & Syndrome X

Insulin Resistance Syndrome (IRS) is a newly recognized condition that also goes by the name of Syndrome X and Disinsulinism, and is closely related to hypoglycemia. 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 doesn't contain carbohydrates, and they may find it difficult to stop eating carbohydrates once they've started—even binging at times.

People with insulin resistance will also frequently experience elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lower 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 don't eat frequently enough.

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 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 person's blood sugar in check. People with insulin resistance syndrome will consequently have normal blood sugar levels and elevated insulin levels.

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, which increases the demand for insulin to bring the blood sugar levels back down. Even complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, bread, and pasta are fairly quickly digested and broken down into sugars. It is therefore very important that people with insulin resistance limit their intake of all sugar and 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, in particular, 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 don't 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 doesn't 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. For help in determining whether you suffer from insulin resistance syndrome, please consult with Dr. Bronner.