6 ways to naturally reduce insulin resistance
natural ways to lower glucose : People with Type 1 diabetes, we face what seems like millions of daily decisions that will have some kind of effect on our blood glucose levels. I know that when my blood glucose levels are stable or when my carbohydrate count is right at The point, I feel like I won the Type 1 diabetes lottery. I have spent the last four years, since my diagnosis in 2012, experimenting with different methods to stabilize my numbers without primarily relying on insulin. My motivation to vigorously pursue new tips and tricks is simply a means of avoiding the way I feel after my numbers have been on a roller coaster ride.
The biggest change for me since being diagnosed has been fighting fatigue, which is usually the direct result of high or low blood sugar or extreme fluctuations between the two. My goal has been to mitigate the frequency of erratic levels and avoid insulin resistance, which is when our bodies reject insulin, causing a spike in blood sugar. This is the feeling I fear the most: that feeling of lethargy that leaves me completely lifeless. I often describe the sensation of high blood sugar as a slow movement, an out-of-body experience when two concrete walls close against my head, followed by a brain fog. Insulin resistance causes poor circulation, headaches, low energy, high blood sugar, weight gain, poor concentration, and weakness. None of these things sound fun, right? These are 6 ways that I have learned that help prevent or reduce the likelihood of insulin resistance occurring.
1. EAT SMARTLY
This is a no-brainer. However, I have seen far too many people with Type 1 diabetes act surprised or bewildered when their numbers are through the roof after they’ve been stuck on pizza, pasta, and desserts. As the saying goes, “everything in moderation”. This is very true, especially when it comes to food and nutrition. A general rule of thumb is to approach your diet like a lifestyle, choosing and incorporating foods into your diet that will benefit your overall well-being and provide you with optimal long-term health outcomes. If we focus solely on natural ways to lower glucose foods that will help fight insulin resistance, here are some basics to follow:
- Avoid the obvious: refined grains or wheat. These carbohydrate-dense foods produce intestinal inflammation that causes cortisol levels to rise in the intestine, resulting in high blood sugar. Some of the infamous culprits are breads, cakes, cookies, and pasta. When my body is struggling to lower my blood sugar levels, it is usually after I have allowed myself to eat something that falls into one of these food groups.
- Strive to eat a diet that is “more or less paleo.” Paleo is basically a low carb, high protein diet that promotes eating all natural foods. I’ve heard a paleo rule stick to me “If you have a heartbeat or grow out of the ground, eat it and eat a lot. If it comes out of a box, throw it away. ” This is an extreme approach, but it is a rule that people with Type 1 diabetes must follow to prevent blood glucose levels from spiraling out of control. The basics of the paleo approach (note that I didn’t use the word diet. Paleo is a lifestyle, not a short-term fad diet) is that it encourages you to eat meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and to be more picky about fruits. and healthy fats and oils. My favorite options for lowering blood glucose levels are: avocados, blackberries, broccoli, green beans, and cauliflower. It’s easier for me to focus on foods that need to be eliminated: sugar, dairy, high fructose corn syrup (found in many sodas, juices, cakes, ice cream, etc.), trans fats, and foods. highly processed. By keeping the paleo approach in mind when you go to the grocery store, your body and your blood sugar levels will thank you.
- Avoid inflammatory foods! As mentioned above, carbohydrates and highly processed foods inflame our stomachs and put more stress on our bodies, therefore making it difficult for insulin to do its job. Foods that cause inflammation include: trans fats (think processed foods found in boxes and packages), sugar, gluten, fast food, alcohol, vegetable oil, dairy products, and gms (monosodium glutamate). Try to steer clear of these foods and try adding these types of inflammation-fighting foods: green leafy vegetables, blueberries, fish, coconut oil, and walnuts.
- Eat less out and try to prepare your food more often. You are your own health advocate and now you can be your own personal nutritionist and chef. I mean, you know, we people with Type 1 diabetes already have impressive resumes, being our own doctors, personal trainers, and life coaches. Why not add a chef to the mix? When we cook for ourselves, we know exactly what our food contains in terms of carbohydrates, sugar, fiber, ingredients, etc. We can control our own portions and add our own twists and alternatives to suit our needs.
2. DO IT YOUR WAY
There are tons of recipes, many of which claim to be “healthy,” but are loaded with calories, carbohydrates, and mystery ingredients. Yes, they can be tempting, but you can save yourself a night of sky-high blood sugar levels by finding alternate ways to create your own version of your favorite cravings. For example, I’ll search for a recipe online or on Pinterest and quickly look at the ingredients. Most of the time, it is a recipe that is not as friendly to Type 1 diabetes. Then I will look for healthier versions and look for gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, etc. options. Once I cut them down, I’ll go back to the ingredients and see if there are areas that I can trade in for healthier alternatives. Trust me, the little things can make a big difference!
For example, I only cook with coconut oil and now I cook with coconut sugar (instead of traditional butter, sugar, and brown sugar). Not only is coconut oil enriched with nutrients, but it is a better fuel source than sugar (and it also tastes better than butter and plain sugar). I have also found many recipes to swap flour for almond or coconut flour, brown sugar for coconut sugar, whole milk for unsweetened almond milk and sugar or honey for stevia (only occasionally will I sweeten things with artificial sweeteners) . I also like to flavor my food with natural herbs and spices like lemon, rosemary, and cinnamon. For example, this morning I had Ezekiel bread toast with cinnamon and stevia and it was delicious. Also, my blood glucose levels were literally unaffected.
One of my comfort foods (days before diabetes) was lasagna. After extensive research, I have found many healthy alternatives that are just as tasty. Pumpkin has been a lifesaver in the kitchen and I’ve made countless dishes with spaghetti squash as my healthy alternative to pasta. I have found Type 1 friendly dishes like Baked Paleo Lasagna Casserole, Baked Spaghetti, Paleo Pizza Casserole, and so on. Every time I have eaten one of these dishes, I leave the table full and happy because I know that I will not be worried about a delayed high level that I would have experienced if I had eaten with the “real version”. I have used this same method for other favorite foods like chili, soups, and even desserts, and have successfully prevented insulin resistance. Some of my favorite alternative desserts include paleo chocolate chip cookies, no-bake coconut cookies, paleo cup cake, and recently Halo Top brand ice cream (low carb, high protein, low sugar made with natural ingredients). I don’t dedicate much to desserts, but when I do, I always find healthier alternatives. It’s always worth it!
3. GET AROUND
Another no-brainer here. However, exercise is not what most people with Type 1 diabetes get excited about when faced with insulin resistance. Our natural instinct is to treat it with more insulin or to curl up into a ball and take a nap, hoping for a more favorable reading when we wake up. The other day, I was battling my own insulin resistance. Being a woman, my menstrual cycle changes everything and causes a huge increase in my numbers. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much insulin or how well you eat, the numbers won’t budge. I decided to go hiking with my husband on some nearby trails to help with my insulin resistance. Sure enough, after about 30 minutes I saw a gradual decline. Finally! I didn’t do anything extreme, but did work with the laziness I felt before the hike. The worst part is just putting your shoes on and getting started, I assure you it’s 99% mental! After walking for about 10 minutes, I was fine. It was nice to get fresh air and moving around helped tremendously.
Other forms of exercise that you can turn to when dealing with insulin resistance include lifting light weights, hiking, or yoga. When I’m not experiencing insulin resistance and just looking to keep my blood glucose levels stable throughout the week, I’ll turn to combined exercise – a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise, not just cardiovascular. Since I started CrossFit 4 months ago, I have not experienced a single low. My Dexcom G5 CGM (Continuous Glucose Meter) is my best friend to monitor. For each workout, I can see where my numbers are as I work out. Before I started CrossFit, I was experiencing very frequent low blood sugar levels, which I believe was the result of long sessions of cardio that were aerobic and resistance-based. The combination of movements in CrossFit, which incorporates resistance and cardiovascular exercise, has been the perfect remedy for misplaced blood glucose levels.
For those of you who are battling time like me, I find little opportunities in the day to lower my blood glucose levels. That could be taking a break from sitting at your desk for a quick walk or doing a quick yoga session at home (there are tons of tutorials online, on YouTube, or on TV). For me, laziness only leads to more lethargy and uncooperative blood glucose levels, so get moving!
4. DRINK LIQUIDS IN A SMART WAY
You can do yourself the biggest favor by avoiding soda and sugary drinks at all costs. There is no way to avoid doing it! Sugary liquids contain nothing but artificial ingredients and can be the worst sugar offenders on my mind. They provide zero health benefits and only cause quick sugar spikes to appear, entering the bloodstream quickly and aggressively. Be vigilant with other beverages that have hidden sugars commonly found in our favorite coffees, teas, and alcoholic beverages. Do some good for your body and hydrate with plenty of water. I recently downloaded a water app called WaterMinder and it reminds me to drink my water weight in ounces throughout the day. Sugary drinks will leave you feeling sluggish and dehydrated, causing even more fuss with your Type 1 diabetes control. As you hydrate throughout the day, your blood glucose levels should gradually decrease, leaving you more alert and energized. I stick with the basics: water, tea and black coffee to leave insulin resistance at the door.
When I need my veggies, I drink them! Juicing is one of the best ways I have found to combat insulin resistance and keep blood sugar in control overall. I mostly use green leafy vegetables and opt for a piece of fruit like a pear or apple when I want to add sweetness to it (be careful with store-bought and packaged juices as many are loaded with sugar). If you make your own juices, you can avoid the overloaded sugar and personalize them. My favorites include kale, chard, beets, ginger, turmeric, celery, and carrots. There are LOTS of health benefits to juicing, but the controlled blood glucose is one of the best in my opinion. I try to juice once a day and since I started juicing, I have seen stricter numbers, a lowered A1c, and less insulin resistance.
5. EAT LITTLE, DON’T GET TAKEN AWAY!
Eat little, don’t get carried away! I’m not delivering any kind of devastating news with this tip, but it’s so true! Instead of overeating three meals a day, try to eat three portion-controlled meals and healthy snacks in between. When you go to the grocery store, look for healthy snacks to keep around the home or office. If you don’t buy junk, you won’t be tempted to eat it! It’s as simple as that. Some of my favorite appetizers include pistachios, almonds, vegetables, and protein bars. I also love making protein shakes. I’ve made them so good they taste like milkshakes. They keep me full until the next meal and I also make sure they are loaded with the best supplements like protein powder and collagen. That way, when it’s dinner time, I’m not filling my stomach after spending the entire afternoon hungry and in a bad mood.
Lastly, I would suggest eating early at night to avoid spikes in your sugar levels at night when trying to sleep. Eating and snacking late at night not only causes weight gain, it also throws your metabolism out of control. I try to eat early in the evening after work. If I’m hungry before going to bed, I drink tea to curb my appetite or choose a healthy snack that doesn’t spike my blood sugar like a slice of cheese, an apple and peanut butter, or a handful of almonds.
6. PLAN AHEAD
Don’t you think diabetes turns out to be more inconvenient during some of life’s best times? To be honest, I am often afraid to go to certain outings or celebrations where food is the focal point. 99% of the time, these holiday foods are unhealthy, high in carbohydrates, and certainly not Type 1 friendly. It’s always awkward when someone asks, “Can you eat that?” or “Well here’s a salad … maybe you can eat that” or “Sorry I didn’t realize you would come or else I would have done XYZ …” To avoid all this nonsense, I have learned that it is best to plan with anticipation for these moments mitigating the likelihood that insulin resistance will steal the show. This is what it might look like:
- Cinema: The cinema is known for junk food and for eating a lot. Instead of trying the gallons of butter from the popcorn and sugary treats, I bring my own snacks. I usually stop at a health food store and buy mineral water, coconut and cocoa chips, a protein bar, or healthy popcorn.
- Gatherings where food is brought to share, parties and celebrations: sometimes this is unavoidable. Birthdays, New Years Eve parties, office parties, etc., are marked by a bad food buffet. I’ve learned to offer to bring some things that I know I can eat (and other healthy people will appreciate it, too). Sadly, I’ve been to too blood sugar many parties where the veggie tray is my only option; or I fill myself with the only thing I know I can eat. I’m sure other people with Type 1 diabetes can relate to this.
- Theme parks and sporting events: Disneyland is one of my favorite places. However, it has not always been the “happiest place on earth” when my food options are limited. Clam chowder and bread bowls and churros are all the rage, but not for this person with Type 1 diabetes. I make sure to pack a backpack with fun snacks that she can enjoy throughout the day. I love protein bars, beef jerky, mixed nuts, and chocolate rice crackers. I use this same strategy when I go to sporting events like baseball and soccer games.
- Travel – Snacks found on the road are usually packed with carbs, sugar, and fake ingredients. When I travel, I try to avoid snack options at gas stations when traveling on the highway and at airports when taking flights. This is where pre-snack prepping comes in. Along with all my other Type 1 diabetes supplies and essentials, I don’t travel without a backpack with plenty of water and healthy snacks. Traveling alone is hard on the body of someone with Type 1 diabetes, so anything that helps prevent insulin resistance is a smart move.
These are just 6 practical ways that I have found to be helpful when it comes to insulin resistance. I realize as a person with Type 1 diabetes that diabetes also has an unpredictability factor. Sometimes there are situations that are unavoidable and that is the part that makes this disease often difficult to control. It can be quite frustrating and exhausting! We rely on insulin to keep us alive, but sometimes other methods are needed to work together with the help of insulin to get our blood glucose levels into our target range. Before you jump into increasing your insulin dose, I suggest you give the six strategies I mentioned to combat insulin resistance a try.