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"Wiggy" Saunders, MD

Hidden Cause of Weight Loss Resistance #1: Insulin Resistance

I “

just can’t lose weight!!”- is a phrase I hear daily in my practice. Weight loss resistance is a problem that plagues so

many people. This article is part of a new series on the causes and solutions to weight loss resistance. Weight loss resis- tance is complex, but can be managed with appropriate investigation and treat- ment. One of the most important causes of weight loss resistance is insulin resis- tance. This article will cover insulin resis- tance, what causes it, and what you can do about it.

Insulin resistance is the body’s reac-

tion when our cells stop listening and re- sponding to insulin. It is the normal physiologic process that occurs after our blood sugar is elevated: insulin is released from the pancreas, funnels to our cells (especially muscle cells), attaches to the insulin receptors and tells the cells to start taking in blood sugar. This process opens

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up channels where glucose can be ab- sorbed into the cells. The cells then use the sugar for energy or to store as fat for later use.

Our bodies were designed to handle

a very delicate balance of blood sugar. Too little causes hypoglycemia and too much causes hyperglycemia. Insulin is primarily responsible for managing this balance. Insulin is released in response to elevated blood sugar levels. Blood sugar becomes elevated after the food we eat is converted to sugar and enters the blood stream. Cer- tain foods cause our blood sugar to “spike” more so than other foods. The worst foods for elevating blood sugar levels are sweets- things such as sweetened soda, juice, tea along with desserts and candy. However, lots of other foods are not far behind in their effect on blood sugar levels. Some of these foods are even considered “health foods” and include the starches, so any- thing made from grains, rice, corn, oats, and potatoes. This would include cereal, pasta, bread, crackers, chips, rice-cakes, tortillas, french fries, and processed oat- meal. All of these foods will be broken down by the body into sugar in about 1 hour. While not quite as bad as drinking a soda, a big bowl of cereal (no matter how “heart healthy” is not far behind. A common complaint is: “I eat pretty

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well but still can’t lose weight. I have gra- nola for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, some carrots and hummus for a snack and then a meat, veggie, and potato for dinner.” After checking a HgA1C to see if they have insulin resistance, they are shocked when told they are pre-diabetic. Insulin resis- tance happens over time and is a result of eating too much starch—even “healthy” starch. Once blood sugar and insulin re- sistance are under control, then weight loss typically becomes much easier. The good news is that there are ways to control blood sugar and insulin resis- tance without medications. One recent patient had a HgA1C of 7.7 (he was on insulin and Metformin), but once he cleaned up his diet and optimized some hormone levels his HgA1C came down to 5.7 (barely prediabtic).

The best ways to control blood sugar

and reverse insulin resistance are: 1. Limit sugar/starch 2. Increase Fiber/Healthy Fats 3. Increase protein

Limiting sugar and starch will help control the blood sugar spikes that happen after consumption. I generally recommend consuming complex carbohydrate only until noon and then eliminating them after lunch. So, for example, one would eat ¼ cut oatbran for breakfast and a ½ cup cooked brown rice for lunch and then limit starchy carbohydrates the rest of the day.

Increasing fiber and healthy fats will

help slow down the absorption and break down of starch, which has a balancing effect on blood sugar. Increase fiber through vegetables, especially green-leafy vegetables. Healthy fats include avocado, olive oil, nuts, and coconut.

Prioritizing dietary protein can also

have a profound impact on blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. Eating protein triggers the release of another hormone called glucagon which counteracts the effects of insulin and can improve insulin resistance. Because of this, I recommend consuming 20 grams of protein at least 3 times per day (more is better for most people). A high-quality, plant-based, pro- tein shake is an easy option for those people trying to consume more protein. Insulin resistance is a major cause of weight loss resistance and disease. Con- trolling blood sugar is probably the first step for anyone trying to lose weight. Re- member that by limiting sugar/starchy foods, increasing fiber and healthy fats, and increasing protein, you will be taking a major step in the right direction.

Dr. Weston "Wiggy" Saunders is an Inte- grative and Functional Medicine Physician at Robinhood Integrative Health in Win- ston-Salem. Please call 336-768-3335 for an appointment. Facebook: facebook. com/DrWiggy. See ad on page 40.

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