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.
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