Insulin Resistance and How it Impacts your Thyroid

Written by Dr. Nirvana

April 26, 2022

The beauty of our bodies is that when our hormones are in sync, an elegant ballad of harmony is created between them. But, there are times in our lives, when one section of the orchestra doesn’t resonate with the other sections. This is exactly what happens with our thyroid when we are experiencing insulin resistance. And one of the results of this is weight loss resistance. Let’s dive into why this happens.

You have TSH receptors on a variety of your cells, including fat cells. When TSH binds to the receptor on fat cells, it stimulates interleukin-6 release from them, and then mediates proliferation, differentiation, and leptin secretion. So excess or abnormal fat plays a critical role in the development of insulin resistance which also means that fat cells might be a possible key factor in the association of insulin resistance and TSH.

This also means that insulin resistance may not be able to improve unless thyroid function is optimized.

As insulin levels fall, your body is able to actually unlock your fat cells and start to burn them for energy. When insulin levels are high, your body can’t unlock your fat cells to use as energy. That means your body uses primarily glucose as an energy source.

So, now that you understand how insulin works, you need to understand how your thyroid interacts with insulin. 

Thyroid hormone, specifically T3 thyroid hormone, has an impact on how sensitive your cells are to insulin. The lower your T3 is the more likely you are to develop insulin resistance. On the flip side, the higher your T3 is the more likely you are to develop insulin resistance as well. This means that both states of hypothyroidism AND hyperthyroidism can lead to or exacerbate insulin resistance. And, in addition to this, insulin resistance also seems to play a role in altering how much thyroid hormone your body is capable of producing.

You’re probably thinking what can I do ASAP to get this under control. Before you move on to any of the next steps you need to make sure that your thyroid is optimized. If you are taking medication then this means ensuring that your lab tests are in the “optimal” range. Do not take more T3 than necessary because taking too much may actually make your insulin level worse!

In addition to addressing your thyroid, you should also take into account other factors such as your diet, when you eat, how much you eat, which supplements you take, and what medications you’re taking.

Second, what you put into your mouth can certainly cause an increased level of insulin and ultimately lead to insulin resistance. However, once insulin levels get high enough they can cause insulin resistance by themselves in a vicious cycle. That’s why diet is a good first step but usually not enough.

Eating based on your genetics is the very first thing you need to do. If you’re eating based on what your body requires, then eventually you’ll lower the inflammatory insulin response. If you are indeed insulin resistant, then lowering your total carbohydrates per day, for at least 3 months is necessary.

Third, exercise is important (of course), but the type of exercise matters a lot, especially if you are trying to lose weight and reverse insulin resistance. Multiple studies show that high-intensity interval training is especially helpful in sensitizing your body to insulin. So you don’t have to work out for long periods of time, but do make sure your heart is pumping along with those muscles!

And finally checking and then balancing your hormone levels is always a consideration. Insulin resistance is made worse by other hormonal imbalances, especially in cases of leptin resistance and estrogen dominance. In a way, it can create a vicious cycle between the two. Insulin resistance will upregulate the enzyme aromatase, which can lead to estrogen dominance.

While you’re at it, make sure to see how your liver is doing as well. Insulin is also important for the health of your liver. And many of you know that a great deal of the conversion of T4 to T3 takes place in the liver. So, if someone has insulin resistance or an exhausted or fatty liver problem, then this can potentially cause problems with the conversion of T4 to T3.

the link between the thyroid and insulin resistance

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