How To Reduce Insulin Resistance
Video | IR Basics | Low-Carb/Healthy-Fat Diet | Fasting | Exercise | Stress & Sleep | Takeaway
Insulin is an important hormone for regulating the movement of nutrients into and out of your cells. If your cells resist its effects, insulin cannot do its job, creating inflammation and making it hard to lose weight.
Insulin resistance is a common condition, but you can do things to make your cells more sensitive. Instead of just telling you to sleep better, eat better, and move better, this blog post shares practical things you can start doing today to reduce insulin resistance. And, the best thing is, it wont cost you a dime.
What Does Insulin Do
Insulin is a hormone. To put it quite simply, you can think of hormones as body messengers that communicate and respond to everything from hunger signals to reproduction, to emotions and a heck of a lot more. Because we are an intelligent and integrated feedback loop, some hormones have more than one, and/or, overlapping functions.
Insulin is produced in the pancreas . Its major responsibility is to help regulate blood sugar.
When you eat foods that contain any form of sugar, that sugar gets broken down into glucose. By the way, when I say that foods containing sugar Im not just talking about sweet foods. Im also talking about any carbohydrate containing foods. In this case, flavor is secondary to chemical make-up because thats what ultimately determines how its going to be digested.
Let me give some examples of foods that will get broken down into glucose:
- Desserts: ice cream, cookies, cakes, pies, candy, dried fruit
- Sweet drinks: gatorade, creamers, soda, koolaid, juices
- Simple carbs: bread, pasta, crackers, cereals
- Complex carbs: quinoa, oats, brown & wild rice, corn, sprouted wheats, plantains, cassava, turnips, squashes
- Fiber-rich: most fruits, most vegetables, peas, beans, legumes
However, if you overly consume those foods that break down into glucose you can accidentally put yourself into a state of insulin resistance.
Is There A Test To Diagnose Insulin Resistance
A health care professional can identify individuals likely to have insulin resistance by taking a detailed history, performing a physical examination, and simple laboratory testing based on individual risk factors.
In general practice, the fasting blood glucose and insulin levels are usually adequate to determine whether insulin resistance and/or diabetes are present. The exact insulin level for diagnosis varies by assay . However, a fasting insulin level above the upper quartile in a non-diabetic patient is considered abnormal.
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Add Herbs And Spices To Your Cooking
Herbs and spices were used for their medicinal properties long before they were introduced into cooking.
However, it was not until the past few decades that scientists began examining their health-promoting properties.
Herbs and spices including fenugreek, turmeric, ginger, and garlic have shown promising results for increasing insulin sensitivity.
- Fenugreek seeds. Theyre high in soluble fiber, which helps make insulin more effective. Eating them whole, as an extract, or even baked into bread may help increase blood sugar management and insulin sensitivity (
These findings for herbs and spices are promising. However, most research in this area is recent and was conducted in animals. Human studies are needed to investigate whether herbs and spices do indeed increase insulin sensitivity.
Garlic, fenugreek, turmeric, and ginger may help increase insulin sensitivity. The research behind them is recent and primarily conducted in animals, so more studies are needed before strong conclusions can be made.
Can You Reverse Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance and prediabetes can be reversed. However, once youre insulin resistant, youre more likely to become insulin resistant again if you dont sustain healthy lifestyle changes.
Healthcare providers typically dont use the word reversed when it comes to insulin resistance or diabetes, but instead might call your insulin resistance controlled, stable, or well-managed.
Its important to diagnose and reverse insulin resistance and prediabetes as early as possible. If left untreated, insulin resistance progresses to type 2 diabetes.
Having insulin resistance or prediabetes is one of the biggest predictors of developing type 2 diabetes later. According to a study, insulin sensitivity declines sharply around five years before a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. That means that the progression from an insulin resistance/prediabetes diagnosis to type 2 diabetes might not take very long.
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Consider Supplementing With Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar may help prevent insulin and blood sugar spikes after eating, particularly when consumed with high carbohydrate foods .
One review found that consuming 26 tablespoons of vinegar daily appears to improve glycemic response to carbohydrate-rich meals. Its important to note, however, that this review incorporated studies that used other forms of vinegar in addition to ACV .
Another review of studies found that consuming vinegar with meals affects both blood glucose and insulin levels. Individuals consuming vinegar with meals had lower blood sugar and insulin levels than those who didnt consume it. But again, this review did not specify ACV .
A third review of studies from 2021 specifically targeted ACV analyzed its effect on glycemic control in adults .
The researchers found that consuming ACV significantly decreased fasting blood sugar and HbA1C . However, ACV did not seem to affect fasting insulin levels or insulin resistance .
Vinegar may help ease high blood sugar and insulin levels after meals, particularly when those meals are high in carbs. However, results are mixed and more research is needed especially around apple cider vinegar in particular.
Your pancreas releases different amounts of insulin depending on the type of food you eat, but eating a large amount of foods that cause your body to produce extra insulin can eventually lead to hyperinsulinemia.
Get More Physical Activity
Getting regular physical activity helps improve insulin sensitivity. While you exercise, your body uses stored sugar in the form of glycogen in your liver. To replenish those lost glycogen stores, your body pulls sugar from your bloodstream, therefore lowering your blood sugar level.
According to a study, one bout of physical activity can improve insulin sensitivity for up to 16 hours afterward in non-diabetics and those with diabetes.
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Here Are Some Ways To Determine If You Have Insulin Resistance:
Find your waist to hip ratio.
Measure yourself around your natural waist and also around the widest part of your hips. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. For women, the ratio should be no greater than 0.8. If you are above that, it means that you are at risk for insulin resistance. The number for men is 1.0.
Get a fasting insulin test
Ask your doctor to order a blood glucose and insulin test. Typically, you fast for 12 hours and then have your first blood draw. Then you will eat a meal and get a second blood draw two hours after your meal. Fasting blood glucose levels should be under 90 mg/dL. If your levels are 100 to 125 mg/dL you are considered in the pre-diabetes range and are insulin resistant. Fasting insulin levels should be around 5 mcU/ml Anything higher indicates insulin resistance.
Get your cholesterol checked
Abnormal blood cholesterol in addition to abnormal fasting insulin and blood glucose may indicate that you have insulin resistance, especially if you have low HDL and high triglycerides. Typically fasting triglycerides should be below 150. But, more importantly, you want to look for a 1:2 ratio of triglycerides to cholesterol.
Do a skin check
A skin condition called acanthosis nigricans is associated with insulin resistance. Look for darkened skin patches on your neck, elbows, knees, and armpits. Skin tags are also a sign of insulin resistance.
What Are The Symptoms Of Insulin Resistance
If you have insulin resistance, but your pancreas can increase insulin production to keep your blood sugar levels in range, you wont have any symptoms.
However, over time, insulin resistance can get worse, and the cells in your pancreas that make insulin can wear out. Eventually, your pancreas is no longer able to produce enough insulin to overcome the resistance, leading to elevated blood sugar , which does cause symptoms.
Symptoms of high blood sugar include:
- Increased thirst.
- Vaginal and skin infections.
- Slow-healing cuts and sores.
Many people have no symptoms of prediabetes, often for years. Prediabetes may be invisible until it develops into Type 2 diabetes. Some people with prediabetes may experience the following symptoms:
- Darkened skin in your armpit or back and sides of your neck, called acanthosis nigricans.
- Eye changes that can lead to diabetes-related retinopathy.
If youre experiencing any of these symptoms, its important to see your healthcare provider.
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Fasting Blood Glucose Test
A fasting blood glucose test will show your fasting blood sugar level. Youd have this test done after not eating or drinking for at least 8 hours.
A high level may require a second test a few days later to confirm the reading. If both tests show high levels of blood glucose, your doctor may diagnose you with prediabetes or diabetes.
- Fasting blood sugar levels under 100 milligrams/deciliter are considered normal.
- Levels between 100 and 125 mg/dL indicate prediabetes.
- Levels equal to or greater than 126 mg/dL are diagnostic for diabetes.
Depending on the lab, these numbers could vary up to 3 mg/dL points in the cutoff numbers.
Foods That Help Balance Blood Sugar
With Kara Landau RD and Beatriz Mendez del Rio, FDN-P
Fill your kitchen with vegetables, legumes, and resistant starches to have on hand.
Your pancreas produces insulin, an all-powerful hormone that enables your cells to absorb glucose from the foods you eat. When you have insulin resistance however, your cells arent able to effectively utilize the insulin that your pancreas makes. Or, your pancreas may make no insulin at all, which is the case in .
When your cells cant actually use the glucose for energy, this leads to high levels of sugar in the blood. When these levels are higher than they should be with the pancreas working over time to release enough insulin this is considered , a serious condition that occurs in one in three people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . When the pancreas chronically overworks to make enough insulin, you eventually end up with diabetes. Long-term insulin resistance can cause major health issues, such as damage to your organs, eyes, limbs, and muscles.
According to Beatriz Mendez del Rio, FDN-P and health coach, people with insulin resistance should aim to regulate their blood sugar each day, with every single meal. Its not about cutting out a particular food group. Its choosing the right foods from each group that matters.
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Do You Have Insulin Resistance
How do you find out if youre insulin resistant? No one test will tell you, but if you have high blood sugar levels, high triglycerides , high LDL cholesterol, and low HDL cholesterol, your health care provider may determine you have insulin resistance.
Important note: Type 1 diabetes is different its thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction . People with type 1 diabetes dont make enough insulin and need to take it to survive.
Living With Insulin Resistance
Living with insulin resistance requires lifestyle changes as well as regular use of prescription medicine. You will have to be more careful in making meal and snack choices, reading labels, and maintaining a lower weight. You also will have to commit to regular exercise and take your medicines as prescribed.
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How To Reduce Insulin Resistance And Your Risk Of Chronic Illness Does Hrt Help
Menopause and insulin resistance how to reduce? HRT can reduce insulin resistance. There is very convincing evidence that supports the use of HRT in women with Type 2 Diabetes.
In a large meta-analysis, including 107 publications, HRT was shown to be statistically significant in:
- Reducing levels of abdominal fats.
- Improving insulin resistance.
- Reducing the incidence of new cases of T2DM.
- Reducing blood pressure.
- Favourably changing blood cholesterol, reducing the bad LDL cholesterol and improving the LDL/HDL ratio.
How Does Insulin Resistance Lead To Diabetes
In a person with prediabetes, the pancreas works increasingly hard to release enough insulin to overcome the bodys resistance and keep blood sugar levels down.
Over time, the pancreas loses its ability to release insulin, and this can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance remains a major feature of type 2 diabetes.
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Getting Support For Acromegaly
When you get diagnosed with a condition like acromegaly, it can help to connect with other people who have it. Ask your doctor if there are local support groups, or consider joining an online support group. If you think it would be helpful to talk with a counselor, your doctor can give you a referral.
Let your family and friends know what they can do to support you. They’ll want to help, but they may not know what to offer, so be specific about what you would find helpful.
To learn more about acromegaly, visit the acromegaly website of the Pituitary Network Association. You can get information there about joining a support group near you.
How Can Insulin Resistance Be Reversed
Several actions are known to decrease insulin resistance, Warshaw says. Among them are weight loss, exercise, glucose-lowering medication, and changes in food choices or eating habits.
Tom says exercise is the most effective tool. Exercise helps by reducing body fat, which makes cells less resistant to insulin, and by building muscle, which helps the body use insulin more efficiently.
A systematic review of 11 studies found an association between increased physical activity levels and lower chances of developing insulin resistance. Try to at least meet the CDCs minimum recommendation of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity.
According to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, people at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes could reduce that risk by losing 5 to 7 percent of their weight . They did that through being more active and implementing dietary changes.
Not sure how to start? Take a look at the CDCs PreventT2 program, which is a year-long program that includes diet and exercise advice. Research shows that programs such as this help with calorie reduction, weight control and physical activity, and they can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. The program is covered by many health plans and Medicare Part B.
One good thing is that there are several possible diet plans that can help reverse insulin resistance.
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What Is The Prognosis For Insulin Resistance
The prognosis of insulin resistance depends on several factors, including:
- The cause of insulin resistance.
- The severity of insulin resistance.
- How well your insulin-producing cells are working.
- How susceptible you are to developing complications from insulin resistance.
- Adherence to treatment and your bodys response to treatment.
People can have mild insulin resistance that never turns into prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes. People can also have insulin resistance thats reversible or very manageable with lifestyle changes. For some people who have inherited conditions that cause severe insulin resistance, it can be life-threatening or lead to death.
If you have insulin resistance, ask your healthcare provider about what you can expect and how best to manage it.
What Recent Studies Suggest About Diabetes And Diet
There is evidence that eating high loads of animal products can lead to higher disease risk or poorer diabetes management. Population groups that modify their traditional dietary habits, increasing the amount of animal products while reducing plant-based foods, experience a remarkable rise in the frequency of type 2 diabetes, says Mendez del Rio.
In fact, the study found, diets that push high protein intake and low carb eating can further intensify insulin resistance. On the other hand, plant-based foods enhance insulin sensitivity, which means you should be reaching for more greens to fill your plate.
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What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
If youve been diagnosed with insulin resistance, it may be helpful to ask your healthcare provider the following questions:
- Whats causing my insulin resistance?
- What can I do to increase my insulin sensitivity?
- Whats my risk of developing prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes?
- Is there any medication I can take?
- Should I see a specialist for insulin resistance?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Insulin resistance is a complex condition that can affect your health in several ways. Since it doesnt have any symptoms until it turns into prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes, the best thing you can do is try to prevent and reverse insulin resistance by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. Unfortunately, though, not all causes of insulin resistance can be prevented or treated. If you have any questions about your risk of developing insulin resistance or conditions associated with it, talk you your healthcare provider. Theyre there to help you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/16/2021.
Add A Pinch Of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a tasty spice thats packed with plant compounds.
Its also known for its ability to reduce blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity .
For example, one meta-analysis found consuming 1/23 teaspoons of cinnamon daily significantly reduced both short- and long-term blood sugar levels .
Studies suggest that cinnamon increases insulin sensitivity by helping receptors for glucose on muscle cells become more available and efficient at transporting sugar into the cells (
It also appears to delay the stomach from releasing food into the intestines, giving the body more time to absorb sugar into the bloodstream .
One study found that consuming apple cider vinegar increased insulin sensitivity by 34% during a high carb meal in people who were insulin resistant and by 19% in people with type 2 diabetes .
Vinegar could help increase insulin sensitivity by improving insulins effectiveness and delaying food release from the stomach to give insulin more time to act.
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