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, perimenopause, and heavy periods.
Do you have insulin resistance? It’s time to find out.
Testing for insulin resistance
Blood test: The best clinical test for insulin resistance is a Glucose Tolerance with Insulin Assay or Glucose Tolerance Insulin Response (GTIR). With this test, both glucose and insulin are measured fasting and then at one and two-hour intervals after a glucose drink.
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 indicates insulin resistance.
Measure your waist: Insulin resistance causes a high waist-to-hip ratio, so the larger your waist circumference, the more likely you will have insulin resistance. As a woman, your risk starts at a waist circumference of 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 having sweet drinks
High-dose fructose can induce fatty liver and insulin resistance. The simplest way to reverse insulin resistance is to 1) stop having fruit juice or other sweet drinks and 2) cut back on dessert or dessert-like foods. That means no sweetened yogurt, no granola bars, no date balls, no agave, or other “natural sugar” healthy desserts.
Magnesium deficiency is a significant contributor to insulin resistance. Fortunately, taking magnesium has been found 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. It combines well with taurine, an amino acid that improves insulin sensitivity.
Maintain a healthy circadian rhythm and sleep
Circadian rhythm or body clock has a profound effect on glucose metabolism, and whole-body insulin sensitivity and dysregulation of circadian rhythm is a contributing cause of insulin resistance. The best way to support circadian rhythm is to maintain regular diurnal patterns of eating and light exposure such as protein and bright light in the morning followed by rest and dim light in the evening.
Maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm can also promote better sleep — another important strategy for maintaining healthy levels of insulin.
Move your body
Exercise or movement improves insulin sensitivity in the muscles by increasing the number of mitochondria, which are the powerhouses of the cell and turn food into energy. Building healthy muscle also requires sufficient dietary protein.
Tip: Hormonal birth control can impair muscle gain and causes insulin resistance, particularly birth control with a high androgen index. See my blog post about the role of testosterone and insulin in weight gain.
For more information about insulin resistance in perimenopause, see my book Hormone Repair Manual.