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What Causes Insulin Resistance?

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Having type 2 diabetes means that your body has become resistant to insulin, an important chemical that helps your body store and process the energy that you take in through food. But, what causes insulin resistance?

What Is Insulin?
Insulin is a hormone created by your pancreas. Insulin helps your body to process and store sugar that your body extracts from the food that you eat. For example, one of the main functions of insulin is helping your body to store extra sugars in the form of fat. Excess body fat can be a bad thing, but not being able to store sugar because of insulin resistance is worse.
When your body can’t store sugar properly, it stays in the blood. This is why high blood sugar readings are a problem for people with type 2 diabetes.
When too much sugar stays in the blood it can cause problems like damaged blood vessels and nerves.

Insulin Resistance And Type 2 Diabetes
Insulin resistance is similar to resistance to drugs: your body becomes resistant because it has become too accustomed to the presence of a chemical. This can become a cycle of your body producing too much insulin, not responding, and so creating more insulin.
The majority of the time, this happens because a person has a high sugar diet and/or low activity levels. Having fat stored on the liver and pancreas can also cause problems in how insulin is produced or used. As a result, insulin resistance is often related to obesity and to alcoholism, which leads to unhealthy fat deposits on the liver.

Other Causes
Not all people who develop insulin resistance are overweight or problem drinkers, however. The body of an otherwise healthy person can produce too much insulin if they have been taking steroids for a long time, or if they have been very stressed for a long time.
Steroids aren't just things that people take to build muscle, they are another system of chemical messenger that the body uses. Sometimes people may be prescribed hormones by their doctor for a number of reasons. These hormones may help the individual in some ways, but may also throw off the function of the person’s other chemical messenger systems.
Similarly, stress causes the body to create hormones that change how the body deals with energy.
Stress is normal and healthy in short bursts or low doses. When stress is very high and sticks around for too long, as can happen in some professions, in students, or people with anxiety, it can cause problems in the body. The hormones that stress produces can interfere with how the body responds to other chemical messengers and disrupt body systems.

Reducing Insulin Resistance
How or if insulin resistance can be cured or treated depends on the cause.
People with type 2 diabetes are often able to reduce or recover from their insulin resistance by developing a more active lifestyle and reducing their carbohydrate intake. Similarly, people who developed insulin resistance due to hormones or stress may be able to reduce or recover from their insulin resistance after ending their hormone therapy, leaving or adapting to their stressful situation, or being treated for anxiety.
In the case of people who develop insulin resistance because of problem drinking, they may be able to reduce or recover from their insulin resistance by quitting drinking and exercising, though it depends on the level of damage that has already been done.

Insulin resistance can come from a variety of causes, though the most common is poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. If you are worried about insulin resistance, talk to your doctor about how diet and lifestyle changes can help you.