When it comes to metabolism and weight loss, it’s mostly about insulin. Insulin is also a major player in many women’s health conditions including PCOS, acne, progesterone deficiency, fibroids, and heavy periods.
Maintaining a normal level of insulin can help to prevent diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, dementia, and heart disease.
Do you have insulin resistance? It’s time to find out.
What is insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance is the condition of having chronically elevated levels of insulin. In other words, you have a lot of insulin, but your body is not sensitive to it.
Insulin resistance is also called hyperinsulinemia, metabolic syndrome, or pre-diabetes and affects at least one in four adults.
How to diagnose insulin resistance
Blood test: The way to identify insulin resistance is to test insulin, not glucose. Ask your doctor to order “fasting insulin” or a “glucose tolerance test with insulin.” Then look at your insulin reading (not just your glucose reading).
Your fasting insulin should be less than 60 pmol/L (8 mIU/L ). One hour after the sugar challenge, your insulin should be less than 410 pmol/L (60 mIU/L). High insulin means 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). As a man, your risk starts when your waist circumference is greater than 36 inches (90 cm).
Tip: You don’t have to be overweight to have insulin resistance. You can be slender and still have the condition.
How to reverse insulin resistance
Stop eating dessert
High-dose fructose causes or worsens insulin resistance more profoundly than any other food. The simplest way to reverse insulin resistance is to stop eating dessert or dessert-like foods.
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” Paleo desserts. Read: Why I Ask Some Patients to Quit Dessert.
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 rhythym 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 in to energy. A healthy response to exercise requires sufficient dietary protein to build new muscle.
Other nutritional supplements that help to lower insulin include berberine, taurine, myo-inositol, chromium, N-acetyl cysteine, and alpha-lipoic acid. I discuss them in Chapter 7 of Period Repair Manual.