Does Insulin Resistance Protect Us?

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We tend to think of any biological function that is abnormal to be pathogenic, in other words to be something that needs to be fixed, but a lot of the time these responses are more part of the solution than part of the problem. 

So in other words while this condition may not be ideal, it is often reflective of a deeper problem that it is looking to compensate for.  So if we just look to treat this issue, we run the risk of making the actual problem worse, by diminishing the body's response to it.

This is a huge criticism of allopathic medicine, in other words conventional Western medicine, which tends to focus on outward manifestations of a condition, the symptoms, without really paying much attention to the organism as a whole.

There are lots of examples of this and when one steps back and looks at the big picture it often isn't that hard to see how at least certain aspects of the real problem aren't being addressed.  So the example I'm looking at today though is insulin resistance, something pretty significant to diabetics.

Conventional medical thinking doesn't even look at insulin resistance anywhere near enough by the way, as they tend to be focused way too much on blood sugar to look very hard at the causes, and by looking to manage blood sugar without proper consideration to what this management may be doing to insulin resistance, that can make the real problems, what cause the high blood sugar in the first place, like too much insulin resistance for instance, worse over time.

When we do look at insulin resistance though, we tend to think of it as pathological, something that must be eliminated, the problem in other words.  It's certainly true that this isn't an ideal state, to have a lot of insulin resistance anyway, the amounts that we tend to get as type 2 diabetics.  So we need to get rid of this insulin resistance and focus on that, right?

Well not so fast.  The body just didn't decide to become insulin resistant randomly, there are reasons for it, and whenever we look at a condition we always need to look at what might be behind it, what may be causing it, and most importantly, why the body feels the need to be in such a state.

Unless you get at the root of the problem, many of the effects of disease are actually adaptive mechanisms, and there are lots of reasons to believe that insulin resistance is actually a protective mechanism, to a significant degree anyway.

A real good article on this has been written by researcher Stephan Guyenet, who considers the fact that the cells may be resisting insulin to protect against nutrient toxicity, and there's actually quite a bit of science that suggests this, in addition to this making perfect sense.  The big culprit is excess free fatty acids, which is a big cause of insulin resistance, and the general thinking is that elevated free fatty acids cause it directly, but it's more likely that the cells simply don't want this many and reduce insulin sensitivity, which ends up downregulating glucose uptake as well.

There's also the fact that our cells may be resisting too much glucose as well, it's assumed that our cells need to take in all the glucose in our blood but if we have too much glucose in our blood period, through both diet and liver dumping, and especially through the combination of these which we see with diabetes, it may be that it isn't a matter of not getting enough, it may be a matter of getting too much and not wanting any more because our cells are already being poisoned with the stuff.

Guyenet believes that we can address this by reducing nutrient intake, but with diabetes it's not quite that simple, as a lot of the excess of nutrients don't come directly from our diet but from other sources, primarily the liver and kidneys, but I think it's important to be aware that the condition of insulin resistance may in part at least be driven by glucose and free fatty acid toxicity.  

There's some pretty big implications of this for sure.

 

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