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Insulin resistance: Should you be paying attention?

Should you be paying attention to insulin resistance? If you’re prone to diabetes or weight gain, the answer is “yes,” and nourishing your insulin (and making it more sensitive) is something you want to start doing.

The problem with insulin resistance is that there are initially no symptoms. The first symptoms observed are usually diabetes symptoms. What’s crazy is that long before you feel these symptoms, your insulin was struggling to keep up, and you were more than likely insulin resistant.

So, instead of waiting for diabetes, start paying attention to the underlying cause of diabetes, which is insulin resistance.

If you looked up the word insulin in the dictionary, you would find that it’s a hormone produced in the pancreas, which regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. It continues to say, the lack of insulin causes a form of diabetes.

So, if a lack of insulin causes diabetes, how do you prevent a lack of insulin?

Yes, these are the questions I’m constantly asking through a nutritional lens to help support my clients.

Here’s what’s going on in the background every time you put something in your mouth.

After you eat, your body breaks the carbohydrates down into glucose so it can enter your bloodstream. This causes the pancreas to produce insulin to unlock your energy cells so glucose can enter. Insulin is the key that allows your cells to get energy from the food you eat, but once the cells are full of glucose (aka carbohydrates), anything extra is stored as fat. The key to battling insulin resistance is slowing glucose down as it moves from the stomach to the bloodstream.

The all-so-famous ketogenic diet essentially shuts this insulin system off completely by reducing carbohydrates to almost zero. It’s a drastic diet change that’s tough for most people to sustain. However, insulin is not the enemy of your health, and a “keto” diet is not the only way to support the function and health of insulin in your body.

Instead, start by following these four principles to make a few simple changes to your food choices and drastically change how your insulin functions:

  • First, start moving your body. A walk after meals is powerful in supporting your insulin. Strength training is also beneficial by promoting more muscle mass that allows your body to better metabolize carbohydrates.
  • Second, remove “fast-acting carbohydrates” from your meal plan. These carbs cause high blood sugar spikes and put unnecessary stress on your insulin response. Fast-acting carbs are refined sugar, refined flour, white rice and white potatoes, to name a few. Instead, replace them with slow-acting carbohydrates, think high fiber foods.
  • Third, include insulin sensitizing herbs and spices with American ginseng, garlic, fenugreek, cinnamon and turmeric. These are herbs and spices that have been studied and shown to produce better insulin sensitivity.
  • Fourth, eat balanced. Focus on every time you eat, have a vegetable or two, a protein source, a carbohydrate source and a healthy fat source. This is a powerful principle that will nourish your insulin response quickly.

If you are a little overwhelmed by the idea of all this, it’s OK. Remember, you never have to do it alone, there’s always help available. At the other end of making these nutritional changes you’ll feel better, have more energy and, yes, even lose weight in the process. Let’s get you off the path to diabetes by nurturing your natural insulin response.

Fran Sutherlin, RD, MS is a local registered dietitian, specializing in using digestive wellness to prevent or manage chronic disease. She has a master’s degree in nutrition, is a personal health coach, speaker, and owner of Sustainable Nutrition. She can be reached at 970-444-2122 or fran@fransutherlin.com.