If you are like most people, you probably take your health for granted until something starts to go wrong. With busy schedules and commitments, it is easy to do. Activities which we consider “good” such as exercising and meditating can become a distant dream because life gets in the way. We usually start focusing on a healthy living when there is a stressful event or a medical scare.
Prevention is better than treatment and insulin resistance is an early warning sign.
The reason why it is important for certain groups like South Asians and Latinos in particular are at a much higher risk compared with other ethnicities. Sadly, insulin resistance if not treated can lead to obesity, diabetes, brain fogginess, high triglycerides and even heart attacks and strokes. The good news is that with discoveries in epigenetics, you can reverse insulin resistance in many cases without taking a single pill or medication.
Let’s go over some basic definitions…
Insulin resistance is a common condition where the body produces insulin but does not use it effectively. When a person has insulin resistance, glucose, the major fuel for the body, doesn’t get absorbed by the cells and builds up in the blood. This leads to pre-diabetes and eventually type 2 diabetes.
Where is insulin made?
Insulin is produced in the pancreas, an organ in the upper part of the abdomen. It is a hormone created and released into the blood by beta cells, a clusters of cells located in the pancreas.
After each meal, the digestive tract breaks down carbohydrates (sugars found in a majority of foods) into glucose. Once the carbs are broken down into glucose, they enter the bloodstream, and this is where insulin takes the stage. Insulin makes sure the body’s cells absorb glucose and use it for energy. In simple words, glucose is used as “fuel” for our body’s activities.
The main indicators of insulin resistance are elevated blood sugar levels and elevated triglycerides. However, it is only a symptom, not an actual cause of the problem. The cause is elevated insulin which hasn’t been checked or treated. Elevated insulin is caused by high carbohydrate intake, physical inactivity, a stressful lifestyle and environmental toxins.
It is important to know that if you carry your weight in your belly rather than your hips, you may have a higher chance of getting insulin resistant.
Also, if you saw your doctor and had a high blood sugar or triglyceride level, make sure you ask about insulin resistance. If there is concern, ask your doctor whether labs such as a HBA1C need to be ordered.
Luckily, there is a way to reverse this condition, and here are 5 easy steps to get you on your way.
Balance your diet
A balanced diet results in weight loss, but it also prevents insulin resistance. Choosing healthy foods and avoiding simple carbohydrates is the first step you should take.
- Forget about white bread and choose whole grain foods such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and whole grains such as millet, amaranth and quinoa.
- Eating a plant based or vegetarian diet is ideal for your health, animal welfare and for the environment. However, if you must eat meat, take the skin off the turkey and chicken and choose fresh meat instead of heavily processed products.
- Stop drinking soda or other sugary beverages. Those drinks are empty calories and should be avoided. Drink water instead. Just by changing your beverage to water, you will make a huge difference towards better health. Other good beverage options include water with a piece of lemon in it or green tea, which is high in polyphenols. I also did want to mention that diet soda contain a chemical called aspartame which increases glucose intolerance, causes weight gain and should be avoided.
- Don’t fry your food: eat grilled or baked foods instead
Eat smaller meal portions
Several smaller meal portions that consist of healthy food will do wonders for your blood sugar, your metabolism and your overall health in general. Stop eating when you are 80% full and reserve rich desserts for special occasions. If you have a sweet tooth, try some dates or a piece of fruit instead. Over time your craving for sugary foods will decrease.
Limit snacking and eat before 8 pm.
Exercise is crucial for improving insulin sensitivity. It improves sugar levels by helping reduce central body fat. Regular exercise will prevent insulin resistance and reduce the risk of many other conditions. The optimal level of exercise for preventing diabetes is walking 30 minutes a day. Take a 30 minute walk after dinner each day and you will reduce your blood sugar significantly.
Remember to add resistance training. Just 5 minutes of resistance and strength training will work wonders. The follow is a simple routine I found help.
1 minute squats
1 minute lunges
1 minute plank
30 sec right side plank
30 sec left side plank
30 sec push ups
This routine takes less than 5 minutes.
Nutritional supplements? Are they necessary?
Well the answer is it depends. If you are not able to have a well balanced meal or have been found to be deficient in certain nutrients. Supplements may be necessary in reversing or preventing insulin resistance. There is a number of different supplements you can use, including: multivitamins and minerals; calcium, magnesium and vitamin D, chromium, biotin and cinnamon. It is best to check with your doctor or consult a nutritionist before starting supplements.
The intake of supplements should be determined by the severity of the problem. Ideally, supplements should be used for a short period of time but it is best to work with a doctor or nutritionist to determine the right time frame.
Manage your stress
When it comes to blood sugar imbalances, the levels of stress play a significant role. Stress triggers insulin resistance, increases inflammation and causes weight gain especially around the middle. It can ultimately lead to diabetes.
While you may not be able to eliminate your stress, by learning how to better manage your stress you will be able to handle various events you encounter in your day.
It is important Include relaxation and mindfulness practices in your everyday life. People who have incorporated these practices have often said that they notice improvement in all aspects of their lives. Use well-known methods such as yoga, hot baths, massage, progressive muscle relaxation, spending time in nature, breathing exercises, and even making love, if possible.
When it comes to managing stress it is important to get enough sleep. It goes without saying that sleep is necessary. In addition to stress management, adequate sleep help your help your metabolism, weight and memory.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: NIH Publication No. 14–4893 June 2014 – Insulin resistance and prediabetes: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/insulin-resistance-prediabetes/Pages/index.aspx#reversed
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: National diabetes education program (2013): http://ndep.nih.gov/publications/publicationdetail.aspx?pubid=75
Dr. M. Hyman (2009) Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/5-steps-to-reversing-type_b_263424.htm
Aspartame intake is associated with greater glucose intolerance in individuals with obesity. Kuk JL, Brown RE.Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016 Jul;41(7):795-8. Doi: 10.1139/apnm-2015-0675. Epub 2016 May 24.
Diabetes Ther. 2Lee J1, Kim D2, Kim C3.017 Apr 5. doi: 10.1007/s13300-017-0258-3. Resistance Training for Glycemic Control, Muscular Strength, and Lean Body Mass in Old Type 2 Diabetic Patients: A Meta-Analysis.
Tags: diabetes insulin resistance metabolic syndrome metabolism