Natural Solutions to Insulin Resistance
Much of the blood sugar problems we see today are due to insulin resistance. But how do we get to insulin resistance in the first place? Constant stress (emotional or physical) as well as poor dietary habits lead to inflammation. It can start out as simply as hyper or hypoglycemia that goes unchecked for years. As this continues it eventually leads to hormonal imbalances such as insulin dysregulation and eventually diabetes.
What’s the Difference Between Hyper and Hypoglycemia
What Is Hyperglycemia
Hyperglycemia can be a characteristic of diabetes—when the blood glucose level is too high because the body isn’t properly using or doesn’t make the hormone insulin. People with type 2 Diabetes may have enough insulin, but their body doesn’t use it well; they’ve become insulin resistant.
What is Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia is an abnormally low level of blood sugar (blood glucose). Because the brain depends on blood sugar as its primary source of energy, hypoglycemia interferes with the brain’s ability to function properly. This can cause dizziness, headache, blurred vision, difficulty concentrating and other neurological symptoms. Hypoglycemia also triggers the release of body hormones, such as epinephrine and norepinephrine. Your brain relies on these hormones to raise blood sugar levels. The release of these hormones causes additional symptoms of tremor, sweating, rapid heartbeat, anxiety and hunger. I see this frequently in my patients who experience brain fog or fatigue after eating. This is one of the key signs of hypoglycemia leading to insulin resistance.
What Is Insulin Resistance and How is it Related to Blood Sugar
Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas. It helps your body regulate blood sugar, or blood glucose levels. Insulin sensitivity happens when cells in your body are not as responsive to the effects of insulin and have trouble taking up glucose from your blood.
Many of the foods you eat contain types of carbohydrates called sugars and starches. During digestion, your body breaks down the carbs into a type of sugar called glucose. The glucose goes into your bloodstream, which temporarily raises blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels.
The glucose in your blood is then carried to certain cells that use glucose for energy. Some of your cells, such as muscle, liver, and fat cells, use insulin to take up the glucose. During normal insulin sensitivity, these cells need a normal amount of insulin to take up glucose, which lets the level of glucose in your blood go back down to normal levels.
However in insulin resistance, insulin is not as effective on cells such as your liver, muscle, and fat cells. They need more insulin just to take up the same amount of glucose. Insulin levels in your blood rise. Eventually, glucose levels may rise if your pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin to keep up with the demand.
What Do Fat, Inflammation, Insulin Resistance and Diabetes all Have in Common?
Insulin resistance in adipose (or fatty tissue) results in the redistribution of triglycerides to the liver and skeletal muscle; which eventually leads to insulin resistance in distant organs. This process is quite complex, so I’ll do my best to break it down more simply. In the presence of more fat, these fat cells gradually die. When the body sees cell death, it sends out a specific type of white blood cell (a macrophage) to clean things up. This process also perpetuates further inflammation to rid the body of the debris. The problem here is that the more visceral (organ fat) in the body, the more the inflammatory process continues; therefore, leading to damaged insulin receptors and a perpetual dysregulation of hormones that control satiety and hunger. This is why most people with blood sugar issues tend to be hungrier, crave sweets regularly, are fatigued constantly and have an inability to lose weight.
Signs and Symptoms of Insulin Resistance
- Abdominal Weight Gain
- Weight loss resistance
- Chronic Fatigue
- Chronic Stress
- High Blood sugar/blood pressure
- Irregular periods
- Facial hair
- Smokers- Cigarette smoking increases visceral fat and insulin resistance.
- High Alcohol Consumption-Excess alcohol consumption causes both fatty liver disease and insulin resistance of the liver.
- Excessive Sweet tooth-insulin resistance can start to develop years or a decade before you have signs of it.
Natural Remedies for Insulin Resistance
I always begin by running the following labs on my patients to assess their blood sugar balance and check for insulin resistance:
- Serum insulin: Optimal Range: < 3 ulU/mL
- C-peptide: Optimal Range: 0.8 to 3.1 ng/mL
- Fasting blood sugar: Optimal Range: 75 to 90 mg/dL
- Hgb A1C: Optimal Range: < 5.3 percent
- Triglycerides: Optimal Range: < 100 mg/dL
- HDL: Optimal Range: 59 to 100 mg/dL
- Boost your B-Vitamins – Vitamin B6 (50 to 150 mg a day) and B12 (1,000 to 3,000 mcg) are especially helpful in protecting against diabetic neuropathy or nerve damage as well as regulating insulin output. Focus on are spinach, okra, and turnip greens to get the best bang out of your Bs.
- Correct Mineral Deficiencies – Type II diabetics and those with blood sugar imbalances can be deficient in minerals such as magnesium. Food sources of minerals include leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, chard, bok choy and collard greens. Other sources include whole grains, beans, peas, nuts and seeds.
- Block Inflammatory Pathways – Studies suggest that PPARs, or peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors, may help improve inflammatory conditions such as atherosclerosis, asthma, colitis, MS, and other autoimmune conditions. Some PPAR activators for you to bring into your life: wild-caught fish, green tea, astragalus, chrysin, and sea buckthorn.
- Add Chromium Picolinate – When chromium levels are low, good cholesterol tends to drop and the risk of insulin resistance, as well as triglyceride levels, go up. Chromium supplementation has been shown to improve blood sugar receptor function. The best food sources of chromium include onions, tomatoes, potatoes, and sea vegetables.
- Heal the Gut – Your gut health and blood sugar balance are inextricably connected. A high sugar diet can also tip your microbiome in the wrong direction, causing candida overgrowth, which is also linked to blood sugar problems. What’s good for your gut is good for your blood sugar, and vice versa.
- Feed your Antioxidant Pathway- The protein Nrf-2 plays a role in regulating antioxidant gene induction by turning on genes that are responsible for antioxidant and detox pathways. When Nrf-2 is activated, inflammation tends to subside. There are many antioxidant rich foods that tend to activate Nrf-2, including:
- EGCG from green tea
- Quercetin from apples
- Curcumin from turmeric
- Resveratrol from grapes
- Rosmarinic acid from rosemary
- L-sulforaphane from broccoli
- Thiosulfonateallicin from garlic
- Manage Stress – Stress plays a dramatic role in blood sugar imbalances. It triggers insulin resistance, promotes weight gain around the middle, increases inflammation, and ultimately can cause diabetes. People subject to chronic stress, secrete large amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, which results in increased visceral fat and insulin resistance.
- Limit the following Foods:
- Trans fats, which are in fried foods, plus processed foods such as some snack pies and cakes, doughnuts, and crackers.
- Added sugars from foods and beverages, such as soft drinks, desserts, sugar-sweetened cereal and yogurt, and other processed foods such as some baked beans, teriyaki and pasta sauces, and canned soup.
- Saturated fats from animal foods, such as fatty meats and butter.
- Processed meats.
- High protein diets as they spike insulin levels in the long run.
Try a Clever Carb Approach – Spread your carb intake through the day, with one or two small servings per meal and snack. Avoid excessive amounts of carbs at once, such as large plates of pasta, huge bagels or muffins, or meals with bread, a side of rice or potatoes, and a starchy and sugary dessert.
- Look for high-fiber, less refined carb choices, such as whole grains, fruit, and starchy vegetables and limit refined grains and sugars.
- Eat your carbs with a source of fat or vegetarian protein.
- Exercise – Exercise is one of the quickest and surest ways to increase insulin sensitivity naturally. The benefits last for 24 to 48 hours, so try to get in a workout at least every 1 to 2 days to keep getting the rewards.
- Sleep – A single night of sleep deprivation reduces insulin sensitivity. Being chronically low on sleep, as so many adults are, can harm your health even if you are doing everything else right. This is because inadequate sleep increases cortisol, which increases insulin resistance in muscle and fat and therefore leading to weight gain.
I believe taking the necessary steps to become more insulin sensitive is one of the best things you can do for your health. The benefits of insulin sensitivity are widespread and your whole body will look and feel better. To jump right in, schedule a consultation to reverse any signs and symptoms of insulin resistance you may be struggling with today!