In the newsletter this month, we were chatting about insulin resistance and its role as a driver in PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), as well as being a factor for many people as they get older, particularly women going through perimenopause and menopause.
Symptoms such as fatigue, constant hunger, inability to lose weight, sugar cravings, fatigue after meals, central weight gain and tiredness after eating. Do any of these sound familiar to you? But what can we do to battle it? Here are my top tips:
These foods are the main trigger for insulin production, as your body needs the hormone insulin to move the glucose from these foods out of your bloodstream. Reducing your intake of these kinds of foods can improve your insulin sensitivity as you won’t need to produce as much insulin. Firstly, ditch all those sugary snacks entirely – you really don’t need them. I’m talking cakes, biscuits, ice cream, sugary drinks, desserts. And then think about the quality and the quantity of complex carbohydrates that you’re having. Maybe replace your big bowls of spaghetti with some courgetti, or think about eating sweet potatoes instead of jacket potatoes.
Stress is a major contributing factor to your blood sugar balance. When we are stressed, our body switches into ‘fight or flight’ mode so that we can battle or evade danger. One of the things that happens is the stress hormones we produce encourage our body to break down its energy stores into glucose, so that it will enter our bloodstream and be ready for fuel for our muscles. However, if this stress is constant rather than acute (I’m thinking work or family stress as opposed to facing a tiger), then we can end up with persistently high blood sugar levels ergo high insulin and, bam, possible insulin resistance. Whilst we can’t always change or remove the stressors in our lives, we can learn to build resilience to those stressors. Yoga, tai chi and meditation have been shown in research to help build stress resilience. Something to think about adding to our daily routines.
We all know that sleep is great for our health! But studies have linked poor sleep to reduced insulin sensitivity. Our body does a lot of repair and resetting work while we sleep, so if we are not having enough sleep, this work won’t be getting donw. Research shows that how much a person sleeps impacts both their insulin and their cortisol (stress hormone) levels, thereby affecting their insulin sensitivity. Aim for 7-9 hours per night, but with a regular sleep and wake-up time.
Regular exercise is an excellent way to improve our insulin sensitivity. It helps us move sugar into the muscles for storage and it immediately improves our insulin sensitivity for up to 48 hours dependent on the type and duration of exercise undertaken. While both weight training and aerobic exercise have been seen to be beneficial, research shows that it’s a combination of both that is most effective in increasing insulin sensitivity.
Replacing refined carbohydrates with more veggies makes sense when we want to be healthy, doesn’t it? But eating more veg can make us more insulin sensitive too. Firstly, many vegetables are excellent sources of fibre, particularly soluble fibre. Soluble fibre feeds the friendly bacteria in our guts and having a balance microbiome has been linked to increased insulin sensitivity. Brussel sprouts, avocados, broccoli, black beans and sweet potatoes are all good sources.
So, these are my tips to getting you back on track! Try them out and see if they can help relieve your symptoms, particularly if you are suffering with PCOS, perimenopause symptoms, or you just can’t move the weight around your midriff. Or why don’t you book in a free 30 minute health review with me – just click here.
There’s a lot of chat about blood sugar balance, but what does it actually mean? Well, if your blood sugar is out of whack you may be experiencing the following symptoms:
You can’t go for more than three hours without eating something
If you’re hungry, you get irritable, moody or anxious
You find it hard to concentrate
You feel weak or dizzy
You experience trembling or shakiness
You often crave caffeine and need your coffee fix
You have a mid-afternoon slump where you find yourself reaching for the biscuits
You sometimes wake up unexpectedly in the middle of the night
These might be signs that you are suffering with blood sugar imbalance. In today’s busy world, our diets often comprise an array of refined carbohydrates, such as bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, cakes and biscuits, but we may not have enough protein or good fats with each meal. How does this affect us?
Well, this style of Western diet tends to be high in sugar and low in fibre, meaning foods are rapidly digested, converted into sugar and absorbed, and can therefore cause blood sugar spikes. A blood sugar spike can result in a large compensatory release of insulin, as insulin is a hormone which is produced in response to blood sugar levels, allowing it to be taken into cells for energy production. However, a large amount of insulin may temporarily lower blood sugar levels too far, resulting in blood sugar levels falling below normal.
This may cause you to want to eat more food, in turn possibly causing you to overeat leading to possible weight gain. Equally, the brain needs a constant supply of energy for optimal performance, therefore a drop in blood sugar levels may affect brain function leading to symptoms such as lack of concentration, fatigue, racing thoughts, and a need to grab those crisps right away.
If this happens on a regular basis, your body starts to think something has gone awry and see these episodes as a form of stress. So in steps the stress hormone cortisol, as one of its roles is to maintain blood sugar balance to allow enough fuel for the body to fight or flee. Remember getting away from that tiger? By coming to the rescue, cortisol causes the body to generate more energy supplies, as a fuel to escape the stressor (that sabre-toothed tiger again), which may in turn continue the blood sugar imbalance causing a vicious cycle. Regular episodes like this may result in a blood sugar rollercoaster. It is this rollercoaster that leads to many of the symptoms mentioned above.
So how can you step off this unwanted fairground ride, and balance your blood sugar? Check out my free eBook - 5 Steps to Blood Sugar Balance for more information. This is a free gift when you sign up to the newsletter.
Reference: Szablewski L (2020) Blood Glucose Levels Intechopen
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