What is insulin resistance and why is it such a problem today, particularly for women in midlife? Insulin affects all of our hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. When insulin is not working correctly in our body, we notice it in the form of hot flashes, night sweats, and midlife weight gain. Therefore getting insulin back into balance is important for reversing these symptoms.
Insulin is produced in the pancreas and is responsible for how the body uses glucose for energy. After a meal is digested, blood sugar levels go up and the pancreas releases insulin to help the body absorb glucose. Then the liver steps in to convert stored glucose to glycogen to be used later. This regulatory system also works to bring blood sugar levels back up if they become too low.
Insulin resistance happens when the pancreas releases insulin but the regulatory system malfunctions causing blood sugar to remain high instead of bringing it back into balance. This malfunction can occur when we eat too many refined carbs. Of course, there are other factors as well, including a sedentary lifestyle, use of certain medications and even holding onto emotions such as fear or anger.
There are ways you can find out if you have insulin resistance, but regardless of whether you have it or not, the ways to bring insulin and glucose levels back into balance are a good idea for everyone. It is simply a matter of making healthier diet and lifestyle changes.
Here are five things you can do to prevent or reverse insulin resistance, support hormonal balance and reduce the chances of disease such as diabetes.
- Eliminate sugar, refined flour such as white bread and pasta, sugary drinks and alcohol and increase healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and avocados.
- Smoking is associated with insulin resistance, so quitting smoking is essential if you want to reverse insulin resistance.
- Start walking! Build up to 30-60 minutes a day (this can be divided up), and eventually you will want to add some kind of resistance training as well.
- Reduce stress. Constant low-level stress can lead to blood sugar imbalances, weight gain, and diabetes. Find ways to reduce stress by getting out in nature, meditating, reading or using EFT (emotional freedom technique).
- Practice intermittent fasting. This is a fairly new technique that has been shown to be very effective in lowering high insulin levels. You simply fast for 12 hours, which is easy to do when you include sleeping hours. So basically, you stop eating at 7:00 pm until morning at 7:00 am a couple of days per week. Over time you can increase your fasting to longer periods of time as it’s convenient to do so. This does not lower your metabolic rate or result in loss of muscle. In fact, many athletes choose to train in a fasting state due to the benefits.
Debra Betterly, PhD is an Integrative Wellness & Life Coach and Metaphysician whose passion is to help women expand their health, joy and purpose in midlife and beyond.
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