There are lots of ways to reduce insulin resistance. The best ones for you are the ones you can implement and sustain with pleasure and commitment. There is no one-size-fits-all diet that is perfect for everyone. But there are some important principles that are true, regardless of what plan you choose to reduce your insulin resistance. The more of these principle you can adopt, the greater your chances for a return to healthy insulin sensitivity.
Why is it important to reduce insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance is a precursor to chronic illness, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, obesity, and liver and kidney disease. It’s the smoke detector that signals that your body is on fire. But waiting until your lab tests show high blood sugars is like waiting until the 2nd story is engulfed in flames before you call the fire department. Insulin is a critical wellness marker. Ask your doctor, or visit an online lab to request fasting insulin levels. Optimally, your number should be 5 or less.
Breakfast Like a King
If you choose to eat in the morning (many people prefer a fasting approach), your meal should contain at least 15 grams of high quality protein. By high quality, I mean as much wild-caught, grass-fed, free-range and organic as you can find and afford. Filling up on protein not only helps your body build new non-insulin resistant cells, it also helps satisfy your appetite without reaching for another bowl of cereal.
The debate over fats – which ones and how much – is hotly contested. However, it is clear that too many refined carbs will immediately raise blood sugar levels, followed by an increase in insulin. Fats slow down the absorption of glucose into the blood stream. Many people have success by including nuts and seeds in their morning meal, and by using olive oil or coconut oil regularly.
Are Carbs Good or Bad?
Each proponent of insulin reducing diets has his or her own guidelines on carbohydrates. Some say eliminate fruits. Others say eliminate grains. Or both. Still others say fruits and grains are acceptable as long as they are not processed or refined. Regardless of these differing opinions, individuals with insulin resistance are likely to have exaggerated responses to high glycemic foods, even unrefined ones. Therefore, in short-term, it’s a good idea to reduce carbohydrate intake in general.
More specifically, avoid sweeteners of any kind and stay away from flour initially, even gluten-free varieties, as these convert to glucose and raise blood sugars rapidly. Many people find that limiting fruits to one serving a day is helpful.
Vegetables are carbs. But non-starchy vegetables have such a low-glycemic index, are so nutrient-dense, and are high enough in fiber, that they are welcome in any dietary approach. A good rule of thumb is to fill your plate half-full with vegetables, starchy ones excluded. (Corn, potatoes, peas, and root vegetables are best minimized while you reduce your insulin resistance.)
Can a Ketogenic Diet Reduce Insulin Resistance?
The keto approach is too extreme for most people to be able to sustain for more than a month or two. Reducing insulin resistance should be a long-term lifestyle. However, you might find a keto diet is a great way to jump start your progress or get you off a plateau, provided you have the digestive capacity (and gall bladder function) to increase your proteins and fats that dramatically. If you don’t feel well doing keto, you’re just as well off to simply keep your carbs under 100 grams per day if you are moderately active or under 50 grams per day if you are largely sedentary.
I think all researchers will agree that exercise increases insulin sensitivity. The best exercise for you is the one you will consistently engage in! Some people are inspired by using a device to count their steps. Others feel they have to sweat! Research shows that high-intensity interval training and resistance training with weights or therapy bands are both effecting in reducing insulin resistance.
Raise Your Oxytocin
Cortisol is released during stress, and cortisol raises blood sugars. When stress is chronic, blood sugars are also chronically high. Since high blood sugars damage organs, your body protects yourself with a continuously high output of insulin to stow those sugars away in various organs and tissues. But chronically elevated insulin leads to insulin resistance. Therefore, even on a clean diet with lots of exercise, stress begets insulin resistance.
The answer to high cortisol levels is to find ways to raise your oxytocin. These two hormones work like a see-saw. When one goes up, the other goes down. You can raise oxytocin by engaging your five senses:
- Look into the eyes of a loved one.
- Breathe deeply of diffused essential oils, or better yet, flowers, trees, leaves, and soil.
- Listen to nature sounds or beautiful music.
- Savor the complex flavors of a well-prepared nutrient-dense meal.
- Snuggle with a child, a partner, or a pet.
- Take up a hobby, such as dancing or painting.
- Notice the clouds, individual blades of grass, the caress of a breeze, or other details of nature
- Like a child, run your fingers through the sand, or mold a ball of clay, or play with someone’s hair.
- Write your feelings in a gratitude journal
- Get acupuncture or a massage
- Eat to raise oxytocin, using strategies in this post.
Do You Need Help Reducing Insulin Resistance?
If you have implemented as many of these strategies as you can and need help troubleshooting a lack of progress, I’m here to help! I use my functional approach to detect imbalances that may be creating roadblocks for you.