Why Teachers are Prone to Insulin Resistance and Why it Matters
I have to first say that I am not here to tell people what to do or how to live. I love working for Vipkid, and I know that many people need this job to survive, but you need to know this. I want to raise awareness on why we are prone to insulin resistance.
Looking at health challenges for other shift workers the research shows that we are susceptible to insulin resistance which can lead to pre-diabetes and type II diabetes over time. This is definitely at the top of the list, so I want to talk about why we are at risk, why we should care and what we can do to lessen our risks.
What is insulin resistance? Basically when you eat a food it causes a spike in your blood glucose level. This is especially true if we are eating sugary, highly processed carbohydrates. When our blood glucose levels rise, our body responds by releasing the hormone insulin. Insulin in turn helps our cells absorb blood sugar where it can either be used as fuel or stored as fat. Insulin resistance is when the body is simply unable to move the sugars from the blood and to the cells effectively.
Our challenge is that sleep disruption and circadian disruption wreak havoc on our hormones. This means that the hormone insulin is simply not going to function optimally in a sleep deprived state. To add insult to injury, our appetite hormones, leptin and ghrelin, are also out of whack, causing us to crave unhealthy foods, often in high quantities.
Over time as the cells in your body stop responding to insulin, your pancreas fights back by producing even more insulin. This works for a while, but if your blood sugar levels remain chronically high, the pancreas begins to wear down. It doesn’t help that our pancreas is not going to operate optimally when it is out of circadian alignment.
Over the years your blood glucose levels may be elevated without you even knowing it. Eventually you may develop pre-diabetes and type II Diabetes.
Sleep is just but one factor, it’s multi-layered. Genetics, life style and age certainly play significant roles as well. Sleep is a major factor and one we must be aware of.
There are other comorbidities associated with insulin resistance, most notably weight gain, this is the first sign. It gets worse, chronically elevated blood sugar levels can be quite toxic to the body, especially the lining of blood vessels, leading to cardiac disease, high blood pressure and even stroke.
In addition we see increased cancer rates of the bladder, breast, colon, cervix, pancreas, prostate and uterus.
I could go on a bit further, but hopefully this is enough for you to realize how important it is to control our blood sugar levels.
What can we do to help fight insulin resistance?
First and foremost, getting more sleep would help a great deal for us. Making sure you are healthy in other areas of your life is certainly important. That means avoiding cigarettes and alcohol.
Nutrition plays a key role, we need to focus on eating mostly whole foods. Studies have shown great success in treating insulin resistance with proper nutrition. It’s not just what you eat, it’s also when you eat. Timing meals so that we are not eating large meals in the middle of the night when our digestive system is not operating at optimal levels is something to consider. We must also avoid highly processed foods.
Exercise alone will do very little to help. Overweight people who lost 10% of their weight through diet plus exercise saw insulin sensitivity improved by an impressive 80%. Those who lost the same amount of weight through diet alone got a 38% increase. And those who simply got more exercise, but didn’t lose much weight, saw almost no shift in their level of insulin resistance.
We need to change the culture, if we all cared as much about our health as we do about props we would be in much better shape. Share whole food recipes, encourage one another to take care of their sleep, celebrate your health.
Just because we are prone to getting insulin resistance does not mean that we are destined to develop it. Raising awareness and making healthy choices will go a long way in helping this community.
Thanks for reading. Stay healthy.