Although not preventable in all cases, avoiding a state of insulin resistance by improving insulin sensitivity within the body can be a way to prevent the development of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes in many individuals.
What is Insulin?
Insulin is a hormone that helps control the body’s blood sugar (glucose) levels, which is made by the pancreas and released into the bloodstream. (Blood sugar is responsible for giving cells the energy they need to do their daily tasks.) When the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body cannot use the insulin effectively, this results in a condition called diabetes.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance is when the body builds up a tolerance to insulin, basically meaning that insulin is no longer as effective at doing what it needs to do. Once the tolerance has been reached, the pancreas creates and releases larger amounts of insulin to keep blood sugar levels under control and give the cells energy. This means the pancreas is working overtime making so much extra insulin to compensate for the resistance. The effects of this might not be felt at first, however eventually the pancreas becomes very weary of this process. This extended state of elevated insulin levels in the blood is called Hyperinsulinemia, and may eventually lead to the development of pre-diabetes, and then type 2 diabetes.
5 Ways to Improve Insulin Sensitivity
While being in a state of sensitivity towards something is often described as a negative quality (such as when we talk about food sensitivities, heat sensitivity, etc), when it comes to insulin, you actually want to be more sensitive to it. Being sensitive to insulin means your pancreas does not need to work as hard to balance your blood sugar. Here are 5 ways that you can start to improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin:
- Exercising more. Exercise has been found to be the most effective way to increase insulin sensitivity in both diabetic and non-diabetic individuals. This is because exercising helps to move glucose into the muscles for storage. Every type of exercise is helpful, but routines that combine both aerobic and resistance training have been found to be the most effective in increasing insulin sensitivity.
- Losing excess body fat – particularly around the middle. Belly fat makes hormones that promote insulin resistance in the muscles and liver. Studies have shown a link between lower amounts of insulin sensitivity with higher amounts of belly fat.
- Smart carb consumption. Diets higher in carbohydrates can lead to blood sugar spikes, which add more pressure on the pancreas to remove glucose from the blood. Low-glycemic carbs such as brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes are a better choice than high glycemic carbs because they slow the release of sugar into the blood. This gives insulin more time to work efficiently instead of sending it into overdrive. Eating carbs in smaller servings at an even pace throughout the day increases insulin sensitivity and can prevent large fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
- Minimizing stress. Multiple studies have found that having higher levels of stress hormones like cortisol in the body can reduce insulin sensitivity. Stress hormones break down the stored sugar in the body (glycogen) into glucose, which then enters the bloodstream as a quick source of energy. Chronic stress keeps stress hormone levels high all the time, which increases blood sugar levels and causes nutrient breakdown over time.
- Getting enough sleep. Experts recommend most adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Experiencing even just one night of sleep deprivation has a negative effect on insulin sensitivity.
With today’s face-paced lifestyle, it is easy to see why so many of us eventually develop problems with insulin sensitivity. In the name of convenience and efficiency, it can be easy to neglect good habits like getting enough sleep, choosing the right foods, and exercising. However, prioritizing making time for healthy habits now will save time in the long run. Following these guidelines for increasing insulin sensitivity within the body can help reduce the chances of developing insulin resistance, which in turn can reduce the occurrence of chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes.