Reversing Insulin Resistance
Many medical doctors today will tell you that insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome are conditions that are managed (not reversed), and most often with medications. Sadly, they’re mistaken. People everywhere are successfully using diet and lifestyle to lower blood pressure, lower elevated triglycerides, improve their “good” cholesterol, decrease weight, and to completely reverse insulin resistance (and even Type 2 Diabetes)!
If you’ve determined that you relate to any of the signs of insulin resistance, and you don’t want a future full of medication and illness, it’s time to evaluate what you’re doing. Own it. Decide. Then move forward with the following steps:
Step 1: Overhaul the Diet
- Eliminate sugar: Sugar rapidly spikes the blood sugar. Sodas and other sugary beverages are the worst culprits. These enter the blood stream rapidly and can cause extreme elevations in blood glucose. Processed foods are loaded with sugar, so read labels well (or only eat foods without labels). Keep in mind that they know you’re getting smarter, so beware of ingredient splitting and multiple names for the sweet stuff. Even though natural sweeteners like raw honey, coconut sugar and maple syrup have other nutritive qualities, they will still jack up your blood sugar. Your best options are to switch to stevia, xylitol, yacon syrup, or erythritol.
- Eliminate Grains: Grains, especially gluten containing grains like wheat, are high in carbs which are broken down into sugar within a few minutes of consumption. Gluten can cause intestinal inflammation which affects hormones like cortisol and leptin, and can lead to spikes in blood sugar. Ounce for ounce, grains raise blood sugar higher than table sugar.
- Eliminate Alcohol: Alcohol can dangerously increase blood sugar and lead to liver toxicity. Beer and sweet liquors are high in carbohydrates and should be avoided. (Coincidentally, alcohol and sugar cause the same damage to your liver!)
- Use Medium-Chain Fatty Acids (MCFA): MCFA’s found in coconut and red palm oil can help balance blood sugar levels and can be a preferred fuel source for your body rather than sugar. While coconut oil and red palm oil contain more, organic grass fed ghee and butter are also good sources of MCFA’s. Skip the refined oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, rice bran oil, and grapeseed oil. They’re damaged from processing before they even hit the shelves and cause serious oxidative damage to your body.
Step 2: Supplements That Are Helpful
- Supplement With Magnesium: Magnesium deficiency causes insulin resistance. A magnesium-rich diet has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and to reduce the risk for diabetes. You can get some magnesium from food (spinach, chard, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, and almonds), but you probably need to supplement because magnesium is depleted by stress and exercise. Magnesium is a front-line treatment for insulin resistance. It works so well that many refer to it as ‘natural Metformin’ (a drug prescribed for pre-diabetes and PCOS). Magnesium has some nice side benefits including regulation of the HPA (adrenal) axis, improved sleep, fewer sugar cravings, and reduced inflammation. The best magnesium supplement is magnesium glycinate, 400 mg a day. I like this one or this one, depending on your preferences.
- Chromium: This mineral helps stabilize blood sugar (which helps with sugar cravings), helps improve serum lipid profiles, and may help the body utilize glucose and burn fat. Chromium deficiency is incredibly common because when you eat sugar or high carb foods, it flushes chromium out of your body through your urine. Chromium is in foods like broccoli (lightly steamed), free range eggs, and free range beef. However, if you’re trying to increase insulin sensitivity you should get about 1,000 mcg a day, so supplementing would be beneficial. The best form to take is chromium GTF. This is the one I prefer.
- Gymnema: Gymnema is widely regarded as a top herb to help combat insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Its Ayurvedic name gurmar translates to “destroyer of sugar.” Gymnema is known to increase glucose utilization, block sugar absorption in the intestine, and even block the receptor locations for sugar on your taste buds. But probably its best quality is its ability to regenerate islet beta cells (the cells within the pancreas responsible for the production of insulin). Best results are seen when supplementing with 300-500 mg, 5-10 minutes before meals with a gymnema that contains at least 25% gymnemic acid like this one.
- Berberine: Berberine is a natural alkaloid found in a wide variety of traditional herbs, including goldenseal, barberry, goldthread, Oregon grape, tree turmeric and phellodendron. Many natural docs include berberine when reversing insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes as studies have shown it to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes. It’s been shown to control blood sugar and lipid metabolism as effectively as the drug, Metformin. Another published study shows it improves insulin sensitivity by adjusting adipokine secretion. All in all, there’s a lot of evidence that berberine, along with a diet overhaul, could be very helpful in reversing your resistance. As I was researching for a clean product with proper dosage, I noticed that with this supplement there was a lot of junk available. You’ll want to pick one like this one that’s only 500 mg (a larger amount taken at once can cause stomach upset and cramping) taken with a meal three times a day. This mimics the dosage used in studies. If you are on blood sugar lowering medications or blood pressure medications, use with caution since berberine can lower both. Just monitor your sugar levels and blood pressure as you use it and adjust accordingly. If you’re on meds, it might be wise to work with your open minded physician.
Step 3: Address Your Gut Health.
Insulin sensitivity is improved by a healthy gut bacteria. One common connection is the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics can cause significant weight gain as well as cause damage to intestinal bacteria which translates into metabolic changes that we are only just starting to understand. Ranchers have understood this for decades, using this method to help fatten up cattle! Bottom line… only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary and include fermented foods, such as sauerkraut (only the refrigerated kind with live cultures) in your diet. If you don’t eat a lot of fermented foods, include a high quality probiotic as well.
Step 4: Get Your Sleep.
Just four nights of bad sleep (4.5 hours) is enough to reduce insulin sensitivity by 30 percent. Imagine what happens after months or even years of bad sleep. In fact, there is evidence that the lack of sleep can even increase your appetite and food cravings! You need 7 or 8 hours of quality sleep each and every night. Schedule it in. If you don’t sleep well, the magnesium mentioned above could help improve your sleep.
Step 5: Increase your muscle mass.
The more muscle you have, the more sensitive it will be to insulin. Just a few weeks of strength exercise increases insulin sensitivity by 24 percent. Blood sugar is reduced during and immediately following exercise, with the effect continuing for hours afterwards. So whether you’ve been considering joining a boot camp or gym, or even starting yoga at home, there is no better time like the present.
Step 6: Practice Intermittent Fasting.
Fasting is the easiest and quickest method to force your body to burn sugar for energy. The glucose in your bloodstream is the most accessible source of energy for your body.
Fasting is simply the opposite of eating. If you aren’t eating, you’re fasting.
When you eat, your body stores food energy. When you fast, your body burns food energy. If you simply lengthen out your periods of fasting, you can burn off the stored sugar. Just by not breaking your fast in the morning (skipping breakfast) you are practicing intermittent fasting.
According to Dr. Jason Fung, author of “The Complete Guide To Fasting”:
The key to prevention of resistance is to periodically sustain very low levels of insulin. If all foods raise insulin, then the only logical answer is the complete voluntary abstinence of food. The answer we are looking for is, in a word, fasting.
While it may sound severe, fasting has been practiced for at least 2000 years. It is the oldest dietary therapy known. Literally millions of people throughout human history have fasted without problems.
*If you are taking prescription medications, you should seek the advice of a physician.
Step 7: Just Start.
Just get started. Take it serious. Insulin resistance causes problems and can make you feel bad, but it pales in comparison to what lies ahead if you don’t change your ways and take action
The End Game
What happens over time – 10, 20 years?
Every single part of the body just starts to rot. This is precisely why type 2 diabetes, unlike virtually any other disease, affects every part of our body. Every organ suffers the long term effects of the excessive sugar load. Your eyes rot – and you go blind. Your kidneys rot – and you need dialysis. Your heart rots – and you get heart attacks and heart failure.
Your brain rots – and you get Alzheimer’s disease. Your liver rots – and you get fatty liver disease. Your legs rot – and you get diabetic foot ulcers. Your nerves rot – and you get diabetic neuropathy. No part of your body is spared.
Medications and insulin do nothing to slow down the progression of this organ damage, because they do not eliminate the toxic sugar load from our body. We’ve known this inconvenient fact since 2008. No less than 7 multinational, multi-centre, randomized controlled trials of tight blood glucose control with medications (ACCORD, ADVANCE, VADT, ORIGIN, TECOS, ELIXA, SAVOR) failed to demonstrate reductions in heart disease, the major killer of diabetic patients. We pretended that using medications to lower blood sugar makes people healthier. But it’s only been a lie.
You can’t use drugs to cure a dietary disease.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” — Albert Einstein