Insulin resistance is a condition where your cells fail to respond properly to increased insulin in your blood stream usually after you had a meal. The cells are basically not able to use insulin to process the glucose which leads to increased blood sugar.
How do you know if you have insulin resistance
In the beginning, changes to body functions are mostly invisible when a person suffers from insulin resistance. This is both good and bad news. Good news is that people that are at a high risk of insulin resistance can prevent this from happening, while bad news is that the invisibility of signs and symptoms may lead to the development of metabolic disorders and finally diabetes.
Insulin resistance represents a failure of cells to normally react to the presence of insulin, which results in the inability of glucose to enter the cells. High blood glucose levels are toxic and may cause damage to multiple organs including kidneys, brain, heart, eyes and vascular system. According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are currently more 100 million people in the United States that suffer from diabetes or prediabetes (the condition where blood glucose levels are increased, but not enough to diagnose diabetes). People who live with diabetes or prediabetes are at a significant risk of the development of serious complications including stroke, heart attack, blindness or severe kidney injury. The alarming data demonstrate that the number of kids suffering from diabetes is at an increased rate.
Increased body weight is the most significant risk factor for the development of diabetes. Other factors include physical inactivity, chronic stress, sedentary lifestyle, increased consumption of sugary nutrients and smoking. Surprisingly, no alcohol consumption also represents a risk factor for diabetes.
Recognising signs and symptoms of insulin resistance is challenging. Instead, a simple test of blood glucose level may reveal the presence of insulin resistance.
Thankfully, insulin resistance is completely reversible. There are natural ways to reverse insulin resistance that may reduce the need for medications. Here are some of the tips that may help you avoid insulin resistance from striking.
Smart dietary habits
Most people that suffer from insulin resistance are overweight. Therefore, creating and practicing a healthy dietary plan will result in weight loss and will improve insulin resistance.
A study was performed in order to evaluate the effects of Mediterranean diet on patients suffering from insulin resistance. The Mediterranean diet included increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and olive oil. Participants on the Mediterranean diet were compared to those practicing prudent dietary plan consisted of the high amount of sugars, a moderate amount of fats and low amount of proteins. The study demonstrated the superiority of Mediterranean dietary plan when compared with standard, balanced approach in the prudent diet. Participants practicing Mediterranean diet experienced increased weight loss, better regulation of blood pressure, improved status of body fats and better control of blood glucose (1).
The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet
DASH eating plan consists of a reduced intake of sodium and higher intake of dairy products when compared to Mediterranean diet. A study investigating the effects of DASH diet on insulin resistance demonstrated beneficial effects on blood sugar, body weight and overall fat reduction in both men and women (2). Healthy food choices in DASH diet are, therefore, quite efficient in completely regulating insulin resistance.
Food with low glycemic index
It is important to know which foods need to be avoided in order to keep the blood sugar values within the referent interval. The first step in reversing insulin resistance should be removing foods with a high load of glucose. Such foods include sugary beverages, pasta, crackers, and pastries. If you indulge yourself in some of these foods, it will be quite challenging to return your blood glucose levels to normal values.
Avoiding “Inflammatory” Foods
There are foods that may cause inflammation of the stomach, which prevents insulin to do its job. Inflammatory foods are those foods that are highly processed and may be easily recognized as being packed in boxes and packages. White sugar, fast food, and vegetable oils may easily lead to inflammation in the stomach, causing blood sugar levels to rise. Keeping yourself away from these types of nutrients will definitely make it easier for insulin to put the glucose where it belongs – inside the cell.
Less eating out
Try preparing the food for yourself instead of eating outdoors. By becoming your personal nutritionist, you will know the best what you are eating. By preparing meals by yourself, you can control the number of fibres, carbs, proteins, and fats that you intake. You can also add some variations to recipes, and make eating more fun and compatible with your taste.
Go back to Paleo
Paleo is more a lifestyle than a diet. It promotes the intake of meat, fish, healthy fats and vegetables, just as the primitive man used to eat. Next time you go to the store, think more Paleo-ish and you will keep the blood sugar within the limits.
Try keto diet
Ketogenic diet is a diet without eating carbohydrates. It is not low-carb diet but more of a no carb diet. Effectively you can eat some carbs but the amount must be really low and carbs should ideally come only from non starch or grain sources. The ketogenic diet is not easy to maintain but it can be effective in reversing insulin resistance.
By practicing a regular physical activity you can reverse insulin resistance in two ways. Weight loss directly improves insulin resistance and physical activity stimulates the cellular uptake of glucose especially high intensity interval training showed some good benefits. Standard expert recommendations include a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise during the day. Increasing the physical activity beyond these recommendations appears to offer more benefits in terms of insulin resistance (3). Exercise also prevents major complications of diabetes such as heart disease, regulates cholesterol levels and improves the overall quality of life. Brisk walking lasting for 30 minutes can be extremely effective especially following a meal. Starching techniques or yoga can also produce similar results. If you like hiking, this form of exercise will perfectly fit your insulin resistance. Lightweight lifting is also useful to help put the glucose into the cell. Keep yourself on the move – this will make your blood glucose more cooperative!
Nibble or binge-eating
Instead of overindulging yourself during the meal, try to take smaller meals with some healthy snacks in between. Eating earlier in the evening will prevent the spikes of blood glucose during the night. Eating late will only cause weight gain and glucose spikes. Timing is extremely important in your diet.
Aggressive lifestyle modifications are needed to reverse insulin resistance, but the good news is that a healthy diet and regular physical activity are quite sufficient to resolve this condition. The importance of weight management is clearly illustrated by many scientific studies. One of the biggest studies that investigated the effect of weight control on insulin sensitivity and metabolic syndrome was the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study (CARDIA). Around 5000 young adults were enrolled and their body mass index (BMI) was evaluated over the period of 15 years. Stable BMI correlated with significantly better control of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome (4). Before jumping on to medications or insulin therapy, you should consider the aforementioned natural ways since they can provide the same benefits when compared to drug treatment.
1. Effect of a Mediterranean-style diet on endothelial dysfunction and markers of vascular inflammation in the metabolic syndrome: a randomized trial. Esposito K, Marfella R, Ciotola M, Di Palo C, Giugliano F, Giugliano G, D’Armiento M, D’Andrea F, Giugliano D. s.l. : JAMA, 2004, Vol. 292(12). 1440.
2. Beneficial effects of a Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension eating plan on features of the metabolic syndrome. Azadbakht L, Mirmiran P, Esmaillzadeh A, Azizi T, Azizi F. s.l. : Diabetes Care, 2005, Vol. 28(12). 2823.
3. Exercise and physical activity in the prevention and treatment of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease: a statement from the Council on Clinical Cardiology (Subcommittee on Exercise, Rehabilitation, and Prevention) and the Council on Nutrition. Thompson PD, Buchner D, Pina IL, Balady GJ, Williams MA, Marcus BH, Berra K, Blair SN, Costa F, Franklin B, Fletcher GF, Gordon NF, Pate RR, Rodriguez BL, Yancey AK, Wenger NK, American Heart Association. s.l. : Circulation, 2003, Vol. 107(24). 3109.
4. Consistently stable or decreased body mass index in young adulthood and longitudinal changes in metabolic syndrome components: the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study. Lloyd-Jones DM, Liu K, Colangelo LA, Yan LL, Klein L, Loria CM, Lewis CE, Savage P. s.l. : Circulation, 2007, Vol. 115(8). 1004.