Insulin resistance is the condition of having chronically elevated levels of insulin. It’s also called hyperinsulinemia, metabolic syndrome, or pre-diabetes and is a major player in many women’s health conditions including PCOS, acne, fibroids, and heavy periods.
Insulin resistance also causes abdominal weight gain and is a risk factor for diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, dementia, and heart disease.
Do you have insulin resistance? It’s time to find out.
Testing for insulin resistance
Blood test: The test for insulin resistance is NOT a test for glucose. Instead, it’s a test for the hormone insulin — either as “fasting insulin” or an “oral glucose tolerance test with insulin, otherwise known as a “Kraft test.”
A glucose tolerance test is the test where you give a fasting blood sample and then drink a glucose drink before giving two more samples at one and two hour intervals. If you’re going to have this test, it is so much more useful to have it “with insulin” so you can also see your insulin readings!
A healthy “fasting insulin” should be less than 10 mIU/L (60 pmol/L). One and two hours after a sugar challenge, a healthy insulin reading should be less than 60 mIU/L (410 pmol/L). High insulin means you have insulin resistance.
Measure your waist: Insulin resistance can cause apple-shaped obesity, so the larger your waist circumference, the more likely you are to have insulin resistance. As a woman, your risk starts when your waist circumference is greater than 32 inches (80 cm).
Tip: You don’t have to be overweight to have insulin resistance. You can have a normal BMI and still have elevated insulin.
How to reverse insulin resistance
Stop eating dessert
High-dose fructose can induce fatty liver and insulin resistance. The simplest way to reverse insulin resistance is to stop eating dessert or dessert-like foods.
That means no desserts. No cakes. No fruit juice. No sweetened yogurt. No granola bars. No dried fruit. No dates. No agave. No honey. No “natural fruit sugar” healthy desserts.
Magnesium deficiency may be a significant contributor to insulin resistance. Fortunately, supplementing magnesium has been shown to improve insulin resistance.
Magnesium has many nice side benefits including regulating the HPA (adrenal) axis, improving sleep, supporting progesterone, curbing sugar cravings, and reducing inflammation. Read 8 ways magnesium rescues hormones.
Maintain a healthy circadian rhythm and sleep
Circadian rhythm or body clock has a profound effect on glucose metabolism and whole-body insulin sensitivity. Some scientists go so far as to say that misalignment of circadian rhythm could be an important contributor to insulin resistance.
The best way to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm is to observe regular daily patterns with food, sleep, and light. For example, protein and bright light help to signal the body that it’s morning. Rest and dim light help to signal the body that it’s evening.
Maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm can also promote better sleep — another important strategy for maintaining healthy levels of insulin.
Exercise improves insulin sensitivity in the muscles — both directly and by increasing the number of mitochondria, which are the parts of the cell that turn food into energy. A healthy response to exercise requires sufficient dietary protein to build new muscle.
Other nutritional supplements to lower insulin include berberine, taurine, myo-inositol, chromium, N-acetyl cysteine, and alpha-lipoic acid, which I discuss in Chapter 7 of Period Repair Manual.