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Are you the type of person who likes to be proactive about your health?

Are you pretty healthy and want to keep it that way?

Then this post is perfect for you!

Last time, in What IS Diabetes?, we talked about diabetes risk factors, and how to test yourself to see if you already have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes (50% of U.S. adults do), so you can know if these conditions have already begun to develop in you (and you can start working on reversing them!)

Today, we’re going to look at even earlier warning signs that you can be on the lookout for, so if you don’t yet have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, you can keep it that way! We’ll talk about the many physical, mental and emotional symptoms that signal that you’re starting to have blood-sugar-regulation troubles and insulin resistance, and are heading towards prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

(And in part 2 of this series, Early Signs of Diabetes – Blood Markers, we’ll review several common blood test results you can use to track your blood-sugar-regulation and insulin resistance status and progress over time.)

As I mentioned in What IS Diabetes?, insulin resistance is the proximate cause of diabetes (with a number of underlying root causes beneath it, which I’ll discuss in my upcoming series, Reversing Diabetes Naturally). The key to knowing when you’re heading towards prediabetes and type 2 diabetes – so you can be proactive about preventing them – is to identify when insulin resistance is starting to develop.

Quick review: Insulin resistance is the condition where your cells no longer fully listen to insulin’s signal to open up and let blood sugar in, which causes sugar to remain in the blood, thus elevating your blood sugar levels. Left unchecked, insulin resistance typically leads to the development of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes (as well as a whole host of other health issues).

Fortunately, insulin resistance (IR) is totally preventable and reversible in almost everyone, especially when it is caught early.

Would it spur you into action, to find out that you were on the verge of developing prediabetes or diabetes?

So, how do we catch Insulin Resistance early?

Early Warning Signs of Insulin Resistance

Vision

One of the very first signs that you have insulin resistance and blood sugar issues developing is changes in your vision. So if you are experiencing vision-related problems such as

  • periods of blurry vision
  • increased light sensitivity
  • having more difficulty seeing at night
  • needing frequent changes to your glasses or contact lens prescription

then blood sugar problems are a likely culprit.

How are vision problems and blood sugar levels connected?

The capillaries (blood vessels) that supply the eyes with their blood flow, oxygen and nutrients are tiny, and are thus more readily affected by changes in the thickness of your blood. The more sugar there is in your blood, the more like syrup it becomes, and the harder it is for your blood to travel through those tiny capillaries to your eyes. Think of it like trying to get syrup or molasses to go through a tiny straw.

Digestion & Appetite

A variety of digestion-related symptoms can signal that your blood sugar is not well-regulated, and that insulin resistance is developing. Some of the symptoms to look out for are:

  • craving carbohydrates
  • low energy, especially just before meals
  • drowsiness after eating, especially carbohydrates
  • mid-afternoon energy slumps (due in part to a natural hormone dip, but made worse by insulin resistance)
  • feeling hungry even after eating a full meal (= lack of satiety)
  • increased or large overall appetite, despite being inactive and/or overweight
  • waking up ravenous in the mornings
  • increased and/or excessive thirst

Energy

Whether you have too little energy, or too much, or a combination of the two, poor blood sugar regulation is often to blame (and insulin resistance a common root cause). As blood sugar levels go too high and/or too low, these fluctuations take our energy levels on the rollercoaster ride with them. Energy-related symptoms or conditions that can be caused or exacerbated by insulin resistance and blood sugar dysregulation include:

  • low energy
  • lack of stamina
  • energy fluctuations
  • feeling wired-but-tired
  • hyperactivity
  • restlessness (fidgetyness, hard time sitting still)

Fluid Metabolism

Insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar can worsen and even cause fluid metabolism problems. Symptoms include:

  • frequent urination, especially when in excess of fluid intake
  • night-time urination
  • swelling or puffiness (edema) anywhere in the body, but especially in hands, feet, arms, legs and abdomen

Cognitive Function

Defective insulin signaling (aka insulin resistance) is associated with decreased cognitive ability and the development of dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease. So when cognitive function starts to decline, even the littlest bit, improving your insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation can often help considerably to improve mental clarity and stop this decline in its tracks. Early warning signs that insulin resistance is affecting your brain function include:

  • Brain fog
  • Poor short term memory, aka forgetfulness (where did I leave my keys?)
  • Difficulty concentrating (what were we just talking about?)
  • Forgetting names of familiar people
  • Having a harder time finding the right words

Neurological Issues

As with cognitive function, insulin resistance also impairs neurological function, and can lead to a variety of nervous system related symptoms. Early signs to watch out for include:

  • Tingling sensations in hands or feet
  • Dizziness
  • Poor balance
  • Headaches
  • Tremors (involuntary shaking)*

*These are also often caused by exposure to environmental toxins and signal an increased need to assist the body in its natural detoxification processes.

Mood

Do you suffer from mood issues? If so, whether they’ve been going on for years or are just starting, poor blood sugar regulation and its precursor, insulin resistance, are very likely part of the picture, and optimizing blood sugar levels can significantly reduce – and sometimes even completely eliminate – most mood issues, including:

  • mood swings
  • irritability
  • impatience
  • emotional sensitivity (high reactivity)
  • poor stress resilience
  • chronic elevated stress
  • depression
  • anxiety

If you are struggling with any of these, then you might be interested to know about a life-changing program that can help you drastically improve your mental health and emotional life, naturally. Want to become happier and healthier, without drugs? Then I encourage you to check out Dr Kelly Brogan’s powerful program Vital Mind Reset. This evidence-based, step-by-step nutrition and lifestyle protocol is designed to teach you a level of self-care that can lead to shedding chronic mental and emotional dis-eases, healing anxiety, depression and chronic stress, and eliminating medications.

Hormonal Imbalances

Insulin is a hormone, and when its regulation is out of whack, this often affects the delicate balance of other hormones, as well. Hormone imbalances that are typically related to insulin resistance include:

  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Pre-menstrual syndrome (especially moodiness and headaches)
  • Ovarian cysts and PCOS
  • Infertility

Skin & Hair Issues

Various skin and hair problems can indicate the presence of insulin resistance and blood sugar dysregulation, including:

  • Dry skin
  • Skin tags (acrochordons)
  • Large skin pores
  • Acne
  • Dark patches
  • Yellow, reddish or brown patches
  • Hard, thickening skin on fingers and/or toes
  • Slow wound healing
  • Scalp hair loss (men and women)
  • Excess body hair (in women) – especially on face, chest and back (hirsutism)

Impaired Immunity

  • Frequent infections in general, but especially:
    • Bacterial:
      • boils, which begin as sore spots and then become inflamed nodules up to 1 inch across
      • styes and chalazions – infections of the eyelid gland
      • nail infections
      • infection of the hair follicles
      • carbuncles, which are firm, tender lumps that group a collection of connected boils
    • Viral:
      • recurring, prolonged and/or severe colds/flu
    • Fungal:
      • yeast infections, such as thrush
      • athlete’s foot, which can appear as either scaly patches between toes, recurring blisters, or powdery scaling across the soles
      • ringworm, a fungal infection that results in a ring-like rash

Excess Body Fat

A much more important health indicator than weight in pounds, how much fat you have on your body – and where it’s located – can tell you a lot about the overall state of your health. Excess body fat in general, and excess abdominal fat in particular, are strong indicators that insulin resistance has developed. Here are some ways to determine if your overall body fat and abdominal fat levels are in the optimal range, or need work:

  • Waist-height ratio (WHtR): >0.5 (ie. your height is equal to or greater than 2x your waist circumference)
    • With a piece of string, measure your height, then fold the string in half and check to see whether it fits around your waist. If it doesn’t, your WHtR is >0.5 and is a warning sign.
  • Waist-hip ratio (WHR): >0.8 for women, >0.95 for men
    • Divide your waist measurement (WM) by your hip measurement to get this number
  • Waist index >1.15
    • Divide your waist measurement (WM) in centimeters by the number that applies to your ethnicity and gender:
      • All non-Asian men: WM ÷ 94
      • All non-Japanese women: WM ÷ 80
      • South Asian/Chinese men: WM ÷ 90
      • Japanese men: WM ÷ 85
      • (Japanese women: Waist Index is not a reliable indicator)
  • Body fat percentage:
  Essential Fat Athletic/Lean Healthy Overweight Class 1 Obesity Class 2 Obesity Class 3 Obesity
Women 10-14% 15-20% 21-24% 25-29% 30-39% 40-44% 45%+
Men 2-5% 6-13% 14-17% 18-24% 25-34% 35-39% 40%+
Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3317663    

Summing Up

As you can tell from this long list, insulin resistance and blood sugar dysregulation adversely affect our whole bodies and every system in them, leading to a wide variety of potential symptoms. But the good news is that we can be on the lookout for these symptoms and use them as early warning signals that things are going awry, and start to work on reversing insulin resistance before it gets too far along!

Next Steps

In the next article in this series, we’ll talk about the many common blood test markers that can – like all of the above symptoms – tell you when insulin resistance is developing, and can also help you track your progress as you work on reversing it. Then, in Reversing Diabetes Naturally, I’ll talk about the many holistic health tools available to you – including diet, lifestyle, herbal medicines, and vitamin and mineral supplements – to help reverse insulin resistance, restore proper blood sugar regulation, and prevent or reverse prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.