Unless you have diabetes, insulin probably doesn’t contribute very much to your daily inner dialogue of things to frantically track.
But it should.
Public education in most parts of the country stops just short of how vital our hormones are to the many autonomic processes our body must successfully complete to be healthy and whole.
Hormones are messengers that travel by blood to different organ systems. Their coded information results in the regulation of our behavior and psychology.
And anything that prevents normal hormone functionality — production disruption, travel roadblocks, encoding issues — can have profound effects on everything else happening in your body.
While there are many foundationally important hormones, from melatonin to cortisol to estrogen, insulin is arguably at the top of the list.
It controls your blood sugar.
Hormones are produced by the glands of the endocrine system — pituitary, thyroid, pancreas, adrenal, etc. Insulin is made in the pancreas.
Its job is to carry sugar through your blood and deliver it to cells for storage. Here’s where things can get tricky…
If your cells are
Insulin resistant: then they aren’t responding to insulin as they should, meaning they can’t accept (or have a harder time accepting) the sugar from insulin hormones to be stored or used as energy. That lets sugar build up in the blood, resulting in high blood sugar. The pancreas then makes more insulin to correct the high blood sugar, and the cycle goes in.
Insulin sensitive: then they sense and respond well to insulin hormones, allowing blood to be delivered, transferred into cells, and then used for energy or stored. That keeps blood sugar levels well regulated and the pancreas continuing to make insulin at an even pace, preventing the eventual breakdown in insulin production that insulin resistance can lead to.
Now, the biggest causes of insulin resistance are obesity, PCOS, chronic stress, a sedentary lifestyle, and a diet high in carbs or sugar.
And if your chronic high blood sugar persists and turns into insulin resistance…
That can turn into metabolic syndrome, which includes high cholesterol, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and excessive body fat around your midsection.
If you’ve been told (or suspect) that you’re insulin resistant, there are plenty of ways to work yourself back towards insulin sensitivity.
Let’s explore a few…
Movement and Exercise
Cell’s inability to accept sugar from insulin is what causes insulin resistance.
Exercise and movement markedly encourage cell’s absorption and receipt of glucose. This is because while you’re expending energy, glucose gets sent to the muscles for storage which lowers blood sugar immediately.
In fact, it happens really quickly — one 30 minute workout or movement session can low insulin resistance and heighten sensitivity for 2–48 hours.
Experts recommend an even balance of aerobic and resistance exercising.
Eat More Soluble Fiber
Insoluble fiber is the kind that doesn’t get digested in the microbiome and instead helps move waste out of the body.
Soluble fiber, however, is the kind that feeds the beneficial bacteria in your microbiome as well as make it harder for the body to turn carbs into sugar which get absorbed by the bloodstream, thus blocking raised blood sugar.
Legumes, vegetables in the Brussels sprout family, flaxseeds, fruits like oranges, and more are heavy insoluble fiber.
Pack a Stronger Plant Compound Punch
Spices and herbs were once much more medicinal than ornamental, and we can use them to supplement our health in this way by focusing on those that have the broadest range of helpful plant compounds.
Turmeric, for example, contains curcumin and has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity through its antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties, which reduced fatty acids and glucose in the blood.
Ginger, and its active compound gingerol, helps increase the availability of sugar receptors in muscle, thus lowering blood sugar.
Cinnamon also helps muscles absorb sugar, but it’s been shown to mimic insulin and act directly upon cells too!
Eat Fewer Carbs, Sugars, and Trans Fats
Carbs turn into glucose, as do sugars, and trans fats in animal studies have increased insulin resistance and lowered blood sugar control.
When the body is struggling to manage the sugar it already has, the last thing you should do is feed it more!
If a magic bullet exists in the health and wellness space, it is this: reduce your stress.
Excess stress means higher and more prolonged production of cortisol, which breaks down glycogen (a kind of stored sugar) into glucose, in order to prepare for whatever big bad thing the body thinks is going to happen.
That glucose is released into the bloodstream.
No doubt about it, high levels of stress hormones make the body more insulin resistant.
It’s hard to keep track of everything. We know.
But the solutions to keeping our bodies running optimally are often so similar because failing to do those things cause a cascading domino effect of issues — like insulin resistance — that ultimately damage the quality of your one and only life!
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