In this podcast today we are going to talk about Insulin resistance, the root causes of insulin resistance, lifestyle changes to help reverse it, and supplements to support healthy blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond to insulin which is the hormone that allows sugar to enter cells. That means sugar cannot effectively enter the cells to be burned for energy. Because of this blood sugar starts to creep higher, especially after eating carbohydrates or sweets. Over time, your blood sugar levels go up. Insulin resistance syndrome includes a group of problems like obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, it could affect as many as 1 in 3 Americans.
This blog post summarizes just a few of the golden nuggets from our insightful conversation, for the full details listen to the entire episode here or on your favourite podcast platform by searching for the Self-Care Goddess podcast.
What are 3 Signs of Insulin Resistance?
Most people think that if they don’t have diabetes, they don’t have to worry about their blood sugar. That’s not actually true. Insulin resistance is usually present in prediabetes and can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes, but it can exist long before a diabetes diagnosis. The trickiest part? There usually are no obvious symptoms. But there are definitely some clues that are often associated with insulin resistance, like:
😬 Abdominal weight gain (around the waist)
🍭 Sugar and carb cravings
😴 Crashing after eating sweets
It’s important to know that a person does not have to be overweight to have insulin resistance! The only way to know for sure is to look for subtle changes in bloodwork. Here’s the good news – Insulin resistance is reversible!
I invite you to listen to the Self-Care Goddess podcast episode #67 to learn How You Can Create Freedom Through Fitness?”, on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.
The 3 Overlooked Root Causes of Insulin Resistance
Before a person ever meets the medical criteria for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, invisible changes are going on in the body—including insulin resistance. But here’s the thing. Insulin resistance doesn’t just happen out of the blue. It’s not just genetics or fate. The 3 often overlooked root causes of insulin resistance (and when you discover these things, you have the power to change them!):
1️⃣ Visceral Fat
Fat that builds up around the internal organs (instead of just under the skin) is called visceral fat. The fat cells in visceral fat release hormones and inflammatory chemicals that drive insulin resistance. The biggest outward clue that visceral fat exists is an increase in waist size.
2️⃣ Mitochondrial Dysfunction
Mitochondria are the powerhouses of cells. They are the place where sugars and other macronutrients are transformed into energy. Mitochondrial dysfunction means that cells cannot burn sugar as well. Mitochondria are highly susceptible to damage from free radicals and toxins, so we can protect them by loading up on antioxidants and supporting detoxification.
3️⃣ Inflammation Obesity is associated with a state of low-grade inflammation, which can even affect parts of the brain that produce leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full. If inflammation leads to leptin resistance, then a person might consume more sugar than the body can handle—without feeling full.
Listen to the Self-Care Goddess podcast episode #22, Toxins 101: where I talk about the top 10 Toxins Compromising Your Health & Wellbeing”, on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast
Lifestyle Changes You Can Adopt to Reverse Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance means that the cells in the body have become less responsive to insulin, which leads to elevated blood sugar levels. If left unchecked, insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes. That’s why it’s critical to take insulin resistance seriously. Here are some lifestyle changes that can help to reverse insulin resistance.
1️⃣ Weight Loss
Being overweight or obese is associated with multiple changes in the body (including inflammation and leptin resistance) that contribute to or worsen insulin resistance. Studies show that weight loss is one of the best ways to reverse insulin resistance.
Most people know that being overweight and not exercising can increase the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes. The better we understand the body, the better we are able to support it in returning to health. Chromium – good supplement for weight loss
Chromium is a trace mineral that is essential to health! Chromium supports the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates and the action of insulin. It’s most popular for its role in supporting blood sugar. The best food source of chromium is brewer’s yeast, but here are some other good sources:
🍞 Wheat Germ
Most adults consume the recommended amount of chromium from foods (20-35 mcg/d), but people with insulin resistance or blood sugar issues may have a higher need.
💊 When used as a supplement, chromium is commonly taken in amounts of 200 mcg three times a day. While chromium supplements might be helpful for supporting blood sugar levels or weight loss, chromium can interact with medications. It’s always best to talk with a health professional first. We pride ourselves on a deep understanding of nutrition and supplements. It’s one of the things we are best at as functional medicine practitioners! Rather than loading up on every supplement you hear about, we encourage you to become a patient so that we can create a plan that prioritizes only the most important ones.
Exercise not only burns energy in the moment to help regulate blood sugar levels but also builds muscle. Muscle cells more effectively burn sugar than fat cells, even at rest. Exercise is essential to reversing insulin resistance.
🌱 A new study found that a one-hour walk in nature decreased activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala—which translates to a better ability to deal with stress.
For some background…
✔️ Living in a city or urban area is associated with more anxiety and depression.
✔️ Studies also show that a stress-related area of the brain called the amygdala becomes more active during a stressful situation in urban residents than in rural residents.
✔️ This latest study is the first to compare what happens to brain activity during a one-hour walk on a busy city street and during a one-hour walk in the forest.
Here’s how the study went…
🧠 Brain activation was measured in 63 healthy adults when exposed to a stressful task.
🥾 Participants then went on a one-hour walk either on a busy street or in nature.
🧠 The same brain activation test was done again after the walk and
🌱 Results showed decreased activation of the amygdala in participants who had walked in nature (but no change in those who walked in the city) when exposed to stress. Walking in nature provides even more benefits than walking in the city. You may not be able to make it to the forest every day, but walking in a park or on a trail will do the trick too. Just remember that we may be more powerfully influenced by our environment than we realize, and nature is one of our best remedies for stress relief 😌
Sleep deprivation is a risk factor for increased blood sugar levels, and even one night of a lack of sleep can worsen insulin resistance.
4️⃣ Clean Living Minimizing your exposure to toxins supports cellular health! Some pesticides increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, and many synthetic chemicals are known to be endocrine disruptors that may contribute to insulin resistance.
5️⃣ Eat for Blood Sugar Balance
The foods you eat have a dramatic effect on blood sugar levels. You can slow the digestion and absorption of sugars from your food by combining carbohydrates with fats, fiber, and protein. Cinnamon is one power food for blood sugar balance and there are two distinct forms of cinnamon:
1️⃣ The cheaper variety at most grocery stores is called Cassia.
2️⃣ The higher quality “true” cinnamon is called Ceylon.
The difference between the types is the amount of a compound they contain called coumarin. Cassia has more coumarin, which can cause problems if eaten in large quantities. So, you might want to find the Ceylon cinnamon if planning to eat it in large amounts 😋But regardless of the type, all cinnamon contains a compound called cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamaldehyde is what gives cinnamon its distinct aroma and flavor—as well as its health benefits like:
✅ Antioxidant support
✅ Supporting the action of insulin
✅ Fighting infections
While you may need to eat cinnamon consistently to see these health benefits, you can feel good knowing that slice of pie you enjoy over the holidays has a little dose of good health in it. I’d love to know what’s your favorite way to eat cinnamon?
Drop me a note in the comments ⤵️
5 Supplements For Blood Sugar Support
Supplements can be a helpful addition but will not have much effect unless you also make lifestyle changes. That said, let’s look at 5 top supplements for blood sugar support:
Gymnema is an herb that comes from the Ayurvedic tradition. If you taste it directly, it will numb your taste buds so that you cannot taste sweet! The leaf extract is used to support blood sugar.
Berberine is a plant compound that’s responsible for the yellow color of herbs like goldenseal and Oregon grape. It supports blood sugar but may also interact with medications or disrupt digestion.
Chromium is a trace mineral that’s needed for insulin to function properly. It can be supplemented along with meals to support insulin sensitivity.
💊 Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA)
Alpha-lipoic-acid is not an official vitamin but is similar to B vitamins. It is a powerful antioxidant and also supports blood sugar metabolism.
✅ Blood sugar support
Low blood levels of magnesium have been found in people with type 2 diabetes. Many people do not consume the recommended amount of magnesium, making it an important supplement to consider.
It’s always best to talk with a health professional before adding supplements into your routine—especially if you are already taking medications. Herbal remedies also play a vital role in holistic healing.
Listen to, “The Role of Herbs in Holistic Healing”, on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.
Research Study: Multivitamins That May Improve Cognition
Most people think there’s nothing that can be done about memory and cognitive decline with age. Or they think that it has to be hard.
🔥 But a new study (COSMOS-Mind) proved that to be wrong 🔥
This recently published study showed that older adults who took a multivitamin for 3 years showed improved cognitive function.
👫 2262 adults with an average age of 73 participated in the study.
🎲 Participants were randomized to take a multivitamin, cocoa extract, or a placebo daily.
🧠 Tests of cognitive function were run at baseline and after 3 years.
🍫 Results showed no effect of cocoa extract on cognitive function.
💊 Taking a multivitamin improved global cognition (an overall measurement of brain function), episodic memory (memory of everyday events), and executive function (related to self-regulation and behavior).
These results are incredible for a few reasons:
1️⃣ This was a well-designed study that included a large number of participants tracked over time.
2️⃣ Cognitive function typically declines with age, but it was seen to IMPROVE after consistently taking a multivitamin.
3️⃣ The multivitamin used in the study was Centrum Silver. Imagine what might be possible with a professional-grade supplement?
I’m never one to say that a pill can fix anything, but I hope this new study inspires you to realize that improving your health (even with age) does not necessarily have to be hard.
Being a Night Owl May Worsen Insulin Resistance
🤔 Would you consider yourself a night owl or an early bird?
Turns out it might affect your metabolism. A new study shows that people with metabolic syndrome who tend to stay up late and sleep late have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The study involved:
👫 51 participants with metabolic syndrome who were monitored for a week for their activity patterns over the day.
🥗 They all ate the same diet, controlled for nutrition and calories.
🐥 Results showed that early birds burned more fat for energy (both while exercising and at rest) and had better insulin sensitivity.
🦉 Night owls’ bodies favored carbohydrates as a fuel source and were more insulin resistant.
This study involved people who already had metabolic syndrome, so we don’t know if it also applies to healthy people. However knowing this link between staying up late and insulin resistance is one thing. But what can we do about it? Do you believe that it’s possible for night owls to become early birds? 🤷♀️
☠️ A new study finds synthetic chemicals in most foods ☠️
🍝 393 food samples from the UK were tested for 8 different organophosphates (chemicals used in flame retardants, furnishings, and other products).
🥚 The chemicals triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) and 2-ethylhexyl diphenyl phosphate (EHDPP) were found in ALL food samples except eggs.
🥤 It was estimated that beverages were the main contributor of organophosphates in children’s diets (27%), and cereal products and fruits were the main contributors in adults.
⚠️ Exposure amounts were estimated to fall below levels considered dangerous to adults, but frighteningly close for some categories in toddlers and children (as high as 88% of the exposure limit in children for EHDPP).
🌎 This study reports that the level of chemicals found in the UK foods is similar to levels found in other countries. But what can we do?
It’s tricky as a consumer, but we can do our best to purchase organic and unprocessed foods—and grow our own whenever possible! The less exposure to food that comes from factories the better. It’s also a great reminder of how important it is to support our body’s in detoxification every day!
💦 Drink plenty of water
🚴♂️ Exercise and sweat
🥦 Load up on fiber and antioxidants Remember we don’t have control over everything, but we always have control over something 😊 We are all aware that synthetic chemicals are found in most foods that create toxicity.
“How Yoga Can Help You Detox – Mentally, Physically & Emotionally?” episode #25, on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.
Connection Between Processed Sugars & Insulin Resistance
Part of blood sugar regulation is to avoid processed sugar. I think you it is absolutely possible to 100% avoid sugar in our diet. We all know that too much sugar (of any kind) is bad for our health. But are there natural sweeteners that are less problematic than just plain cane sugar? Let’s break down what you need to know about 5 natural sweeteners you may have seen in ingredient lists…
Stevia is a zero-calorie sweetener extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant. It’s green in its raw form but white after being processed. Even though stevia is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, it can leave a bitter aftertaste that some people don’t like.
Erythritol is also a zero-calorie sweetener. It’s a sugar alcohol that naturally occurs in some fruits. Even though it is absorbed from the intestines, it’s then eliminated in the urine without being converted into calories. The most common issue with erythritol is gas or diarrhea in high amounts.
Xylitol is similar to erythritol in being a very low-calorie sugar alcohol. But its digestive side effects can be even worse, so use it sparingly. Xylitol has specifically demonstrated benefits for dental health.
🍬 Monk Fruit Extract
Monk fruit extract comes from a fruit that is native to Southeast Asia. It has zero calories and may contain beneficial compounds like antioxidants. It’s a more expensive ingredient that is not used as often as some of the others listed here.
🍬 Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar is not zero calories. It has the same calories as regular table sugar but is higher in nutrients and has a slightly lower glycemic index. Even though it’s a whole food, it’s close enough to sugar to be considered almost the same.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list. There’s also agave nectar, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses, and more. The bottom line is that
🍒 The best approach is to eat foods closest to their whole form. Satisfy that sweet craving with a piece of juicy fresh fruit and on the occasion when you want to add a sweetener? Choose a natural sweetener you like and do it in moderation 😋
Listen to episode #67, “How You Can Create Freedom Through Fitness?”, on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.
For free guided meditation videos and Breathwork demonstrations subscribe to my YouTube channel.
Take Home Message
This wraps up my podcast on insulin resistance! I hope you’ve learned a thing or two. More importantly, I hope you’ve been inspired to take an action. Because lifelong health begins with prevention and that begins now. If you have any concerns about blood sugar or insulin resistance and want professional guidance and a personalized plan, please book an introduction call with me.
Listen to the full podcast episode #72 on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.
I look forward to connecting with you and learning more about your story and your health and wellness goals. Schedule a FREE introduction call here.
Sudimac, S., Sale, V., & Kühn, S. (2022). How nature nurtures: Amygdala activity decreases as the result of a one-hour walk in nature. Mol Psychiatry. [link]
Malin, S. K., Remchak, M. E., Smith, A. J., Ragland, T. J., Heiston, E. M., & Cheema, U. (2022). Early chronotype with metabolic syndrome favours resting and exercise fat oxidation in relation to insulin-stimulated non-oxidative glucose disposal. Exp Physiol. [link]
Baker, LD, Manson, JE, Rapp, SR, et al. Effects of cocoa extract and a multivitamin on cognitive function: A randomized clinical trial. Alzheimer’s Dement. 2022; 1- 12. [link]
Gbadamosi, M. R., Abdallah, M. A., & Harrad, S. (2022). Organophosphate esters in UK diet; exposure and risk assessment. Sci Total Environ, 158368. [link]