How to reverse Insulin Resistance?
Stop eating dessert
High-dose fructose causes or worsens insulin resistance more profoundly than any other food. (But low-dose fructose is okay!) So the best thing you can do 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 Sugar (and What I Mean By Sugar).
You can have whole fresh fruit because low-dose fructose is healthy and actually improves insulin sensitivity. You can have starch (Gentle Carbs) in moderation. In fact, you need some starch to maintain healthy insulin sensitivity. And if you cut all starch, you could very well lose your period.
Magnesium deficiency can cause insulin resistance. Conversely, a magnesium-rich diet improves insulin sensitivity and reduces the risk of diabetes. You can get some magnesium from food (green leafy vegetables, legumes, and nuts), but you probably need to supplement it because magnesium is depleted by stress and exercise. Magnesium is my front-line treatment for insulin resistance. It works so well that I refer to magnesium as “natural metformin.”
Magnesium has many nice side benefits such as regulating the HPA (adrenal) axis, improving sleep, boosting progesterone, curbing sugar cravings, and reducing inflammation. Please read 8 Ways Magnesium Rescues Hormones.
Just four nights of bad sleep is enough to reduce insulin sensitivity by 30 percent. Imagine what happens after months, or even years, of bad sleep. Aim for seven or eight hours of sleep each and every night.
If you don’t sleep well, then figure out why. Are you stressed? Do you suffer magnesium deficiency? Is PMS or perimenopause affecting your sleep?
Exercise dramatically improves insulin sensitivity. You can start in a simple way by simply walking around the block. Climb some stairs. Then, take it a bit further and consider strength training for its many benefits on insulin and general health.
👉 Tip: Hormonal birth control prevents muscle gain and worsens insulin resistance. That’s why hormonal birth control can cause weight gain and is a particularly bad choice for PCOS.
You can also improve insulin sensitivity by maintaining a healthy gut bacteria and healthy levels of both estrogen and thyroid hormone.
Reverse Insulin Resistance With These 8 Foods
Over 80 million Americans have insulin resistance that can lead to diabetes. And you could be on the road to diabetes for 10 years or more and never even know it. Here’s what happens.
The hormone insulin directs your cells to open up and take in glucose from the blood. With insulin resistance, your cells become desensitized to insulin. They ignore the instructions to open up and take in glucose. Your body keeps producing more insulin to try to get the message heard. But it doesn’t work. And your insulin levels rise higher and higher.
Those chronically high insulin levels cause rapid weight gain, premature aging, high blood pressure, heart disease, and higher cancer risks. Eventually they lead to type 2 diabetes.
Herbs, spices and foods are your first line of defense. Here are eight that can help restore and maintain your cells’ sensitivity to insulin.
1. Turmeric: 100% Effective In Preventing Diabetes
A 2009 study found curcumin, an active compound found in turmeric, was 500 to 100,000 times more effective than the prescription drug Metformin at activating glucose uptake.[i]
In another study of 240 pre-diabetic adults, patients were given either 250 milligrams of curcumin or a placebo every day. After nine months, NONE of those taking curcumin developed diabetes but 16.4% of the placebo group did.
2. Ginger: Lowers Fasting Blood Glucose by 10.5%
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial 88 diabetics were divided into two groups. Every day one group received a placebo while the other received 3 one-gram capsules of ginger powder. After eight weeks, the ginger group reduced their fasting blood sugar by 10.5%. But the placebo group INCREASED their fasting blood sugar by 21%. In addition, insulin sensitivity increased significantly more in the ginger group.[ii]
In another study, researchers proved that 1600 mg per day of ginger improves eight markers of diabetes including insulin sensitivity.[iii]
3. Cinnamon: Less Than Half a Teaspoon A Day Reduces Blood Sugar Levels
Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices and most popular spices. It’s been used for millennia both for its flavoring and medicinal qualities.
Cinnamon has been shown to normalize blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics by improving the ability to respond to insulin. A meta-analysis of eight clinical studies shows that cinnamon or cinnamon extracts lower fasting blood glucose levels.[iv]
Cinnamon works in part by slowing the rate at which the stomach empties after eating. In one study subjects ate about a cup of rice pudding with and without about a teaspoon of cinnamon. Adding the cinnamon slowed the rate the stomach emptied from 37% to 34.5% and significantly slowed the rise in blood sugar levels. Even less than a half of a teaspoon a day reduces blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics.[v]
4. Olive Leaf Extract: Results Comparable to Metformin
University of Auckland researchers proved that olive leaf extract decreases insulin sensitivity.
In a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study, 46 overweight men were divided into two groups. One group received capsules containing olive leaf extract and the other group received a placebo. After 12 weeks, olive leaf extract lowered insulin resistance by an average of 15%. It also increased the productivity of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas by 28%.[vi]
The researchers noted that supplementing with olive leaf extract gave results “comparable to common diabetic therapeutics (particularly metformin).”
5. Berries Lower After-Meal Insulin Spike
Studies show the body needs less insulin for sugar balance after a meal if berries are also eaten. In a study of healthy women in Finland, subjects were asked to eat white and rye bread with or without a selection of different pureed berries. Starch in the bread alone spikes after-meal glucose levels. But the researchers found that adding berries to the bread significantly reduced the after-meal insulin spike.
Strawberries, bilberries, lingonberries, and chokeberries were effective. So was a mixture consisting of strawberries, bilberries, cranberries, and blackberries.[vii]
6. Black Seed (Nigella Sativa): Just 2 Grams Reduces Insulin Resistance
In a study of 94 diabetic patients, researchers prescribed either 1, 2 or 3 grams a day of Nigella sativa capsules. They found that at the dose of 2 grams per day, black seed significantly reduced fasting blood glucose and insulin resistance. The higher dose of 3 grams per day did not result in additional benefits.[viii]
Black seed has been treasured for thousands of years for its healing properties. It is sometimes referred to as Roman coriander, black sesame, black cumin, and black caraway. It’s been called the remedy for everything but death.
7. Spirulina Increases Insulin Sensitivity by 225%
In a randomized study of insulin-resistant patients, researchers compared the power of spirulina and soy to control insulin levels.[ix] They assigned 17 patients to receive 19 grams of spirulina a day. The other 16 patients received 19 grams of soy. After eight weeks the spirulina group on average increased their insulin sensitivity by 224.7% while the soy group increased their insulin sensitivity by 60%.
In addition, 100% of the spirulina group improved their insulin sensitivity while only 69% of the soy group improved.
8. Berberine Just As Good as Three Different Diabetes Drugs
Berberine is a bitter compound found in the roots of several plants including goldenseal, barberry, and Oregon grape. Studies prove it’s just as good as prescription diabetes drugs.
Chinese researchers compared berberine to metformin in a pilot study of 36 patients. They found berberine lowered blood sugar levels just as well as metformin in just three months. The patients also significantly decreased their fasting blood glucose, and their after-meal blood glucose.
In the same study, researchers gave berberine to 48 diabetics for three months. After only one week, berberine lowered both fasting and post-meal blood glucose levels. In addition, their insulin resistance dropped 45%.[x]
Other researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 14 studies involving 1,068 participants. They found berberine performed just as well as metformin, glipizide and rosiglitazone. Those are three of the top diabetes drugs on the market.[xi]
And berberine has no serious side effects.
Avoiding Alzheimer’s Disease Could Be Easier Than You Think
Science shines bright light on root cause of memory problems.
Do you have insulin resistance?
If you don’t know, you’re not alone. This is perhaps the single most important question any of us can ask about our physical and mental health—yet most patients, and even many doctors, don’t know how to answer it.
Here in the U.S., insulin resistance has reached epidemic proportions: more than half of us are now insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is a hormonal condition that sets the stage throughout the body for inflammation and overgrowth, disrupts normal cholesterol and fat metabolism, and gradually destroys our ability to process carbohydrates.
Insulin resistance puts us at high risk for many undesirable diseases, including obesity, heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Scarier still, researchers now understand that insulin resistance is the driving force behind most cases of garden-variety Alzheimer’s Disease.
What is insulin resistance?
Insulin is a powerful metabolic hormone that orchestrates how cells access and process vital nutrients, including sugar (glucose).
In the body, one of insulin’s responsibilities is to unlock muscle and fat cells so they can absorb glucose from the bloodstream. When you eat something sweet or starchy that causes your blood sugar to spike, the pancreas releases insulin to usher the excess glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells. If blood sugar and insulin spike too high too often, cells will try to protect themselves from overexposure to insulin’s powerful effects by toning down their response to insulin—they become “insulin resistant.” In an effort to overcome this resistance, the pancreas releases even more insulin into the blood to try to keep glucose moving into cells. The more insulin levels rise, the more insulin resistant cells become. Over time, this vicious cycle can lead to persistently elevated blood glucose levels, or type 2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance and the brain
In the brain, it’s a different story. The brain is an energy hog that demands a constant supply of glucose. Glucose can freely leave the bloodstream, waltz across the blood-brain barrier, and even enter most brain cells—no insulin required. In fact, the level of glucose in the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding your brain is always about 60% as high as the level of glucose in your bloodstream—even if you have insulin resistance—so, the higher your blood sugar, the higher your brain sugar.
Not so with insulin—the higher your blood insulin levels, the more difficult it can become for insulin to penetrate the brain. This is because the receptors responsible for escorting insulin across the blood-brain barrier can become resistant to insulin, restricting the amount of insulin allowed into the brain. While most brain cells don’t require insulin in order to absorb glucose, they do require insulin in order to process glucose. Cells must have access to adequate insulin or they can’t transform glucose into the vital cellular components and energy they need to thrive.
Despite swimming in a sea of glucose, brain cells in people with insulin resistance literally begin starving to death.
Insulin resistance and memory
Suzi Smith, used with permission
Which brain cells go first? The hippocampus is the brain's memory center. Hippocampal cells require so much energy to do their important work that they often need extra boosts of glucose. While insulin is not required to let a normal amount of glucose into the hippocampus, these special glucose surges do require insulin, making the hippocampus particularly sensitive to insulin deficits. This explains why declining memory is one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s, despite the fact that Alzheimer’s Disease eventually destroys the whole brain.
Without adequate insulin, the vulnerable hippocampus struggles to record new memories, and over time begins to shrivel up and die. By the time a person notices symptoms of “Mild Cognitive Impairment” (pre-Alzheimer’s), the hippocampus has already shrunk by more than 10%.
Alzheimer’s Disease is Type 3 Diabetes
Suzi Smith, used with permission
The major hallmarks of Alzheimer’s Disease—neurofibrillary tangles, amyloid plaques, and brain cell atrophy—can all be explained by insulin resistance. A staggering 80% of people with Alzheimer’s Disease have insulin resistance or full-blown type 2 diabetes. The connection between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s Disease is now so firmly established that scientists have started referring to Alzheimer’s Disease as “Type 3 Diabetes.”
This does not mean that diabetes causes Alzheimer’s Disease—dementia can strike even if you don’t have diabetes. It’s more accurate to think of it this way: Insulin resistance of the body is type 2 diabetes; insulin resistance of the brain is type 3 diabetes. They are two separate diseases caused by the same underlying problem: insulin resistance.
Are you already on the road to Alzheimer’s Disease?
You may be surprised to learn that Alzheimer’s Disease begins long before any symptoms appear.
The brain sugar processing problem caused by insulin resistance is called “glucose hypometabolism.” This simply means that brain cells don’t have enough insulin to burn glucose at full capacity. The more insulin resistant you become, the more sluggish your brain glucose metabolism becomes. Glucose hypometabolism is an early marker of Alzheimer’s disease risk that can be visualized with special brain imaging studies called PET scans. Using this technology to study people of different ages, researchers have discovered that Alzheimer’s Disease is preceded by DECADES of gradually worsening glucose hypometabolism.
Brain glucose metabolism can be reduced by as much as 25% long before any memory problems become obvious. As a psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of college students, I find it positively chilling that scientists have found evidence of glucose hypometabolism in the brains of women as young as 24 years old.
Real hope for your future
We used to feel helpless in the face of Alzheimer’s Disease because we were told that all of the major risk factors for this devastating condition were beyond our control: age, genetics, and family history. We were sitting ducks, living in fear of the worst—until now.
The bad news is that insulin resistance has become so common that chances are you already have it to some degree.
The good news is that insulin resistance is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease that you CAN do something about.
Eating too many of the wrong carbohydrates too often is what causes blood sugar and insulin levels to rise, placing us at high risk for insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s Disease. Our bodies have evolved to handle whole food sources of carbohydrates like apples and sweet potatoes, but they simply aren’t equipped to cope with modern refined carbohydrates like flour and sugar. Simply put, refined carbohydrates cause brain damage.
You can’t do anything about your genes or how old you are—but you can certainly change how you eat. It's not about eating less fat, less meat, more fiber, or more fruits and vegetables. Changing the amount and type of carbohydrate you eat is where the money's at.
3 steps you can take right now to minimize your risk for Alzheimer’s Disease:
1. Find out how insulin resistant you are.
Your health care provider can estimate where you are on the insulin resistance spectrum using simple blood tests such as glucose, insulin, triglyceride, and HDL cholesterol levels, in combination with other information such as waist measurement and blood pressure. In my article this article, I include a downloadable PDF of tests with healthy target ranges for you to discuss with your health care provider, and a simple formula you can use to calculate your own insulin resistance.
2. Avoid refined carbohydrates like the plague, starting right now.
Even if you don’t have insulin resistance yet, you remain at high risk for developing it until you kick refined carbohydrates such as bagels, juice boxes and granola bars to the curb. For clear definitions and a list of refined foods to avoid, click here.
3. If you have insulin resistance, watch your carbohydrate intake.
Unfortunately, people with insulin resistance need to be careful with all carbs, not just the refined ones. Replace most of the carbs on your plate with delicious healthy fats and proteins to protect your insulin signaling system. The infographic below provides key strategies you'll need to normalize blood sugar and insulin levels.
You can wield tremendous power over insulin resistance—and your intellectual future—simply by changing the way you eat. Laboratory tests for insulin resistance respond surprisingly quickly to dietary changes—many people see dramatic improvements in their blood sugar, insulin, and triglyceride levels within just a few weeks.
If you already have some memory problems and think it’s too late to do anything about it, think again! This 2012 study showed that a low-carbohydrate high-fat diet improved memory in people with “Mild Cognitive Impairment” (Pre-Alzheimer’s Disease) in only six weeks.
Yes, it is difficult to remove refined carbohydrates from the diet—they are addictive, inexpensive, convenient, and delicious—but you can do it. It is primarily your diet, not your DNA, that controls your destiny. You don’t have to be a sitting duck waiting around to see if Alzheimer’s Disease happens to you. Armed with this information, you can be a proactive, swimming duck sporting a big, beautiful hippocampus who gets to keep every single one of your marbles for the rest of your life.
Certain highly-revered Ayurvedic herbs have been shown in scientific studies to be beneficial in promoting healthy metabolic function by addressing blood sugar imbalances and other critical diabetes and metabolic health issues.
Some of these beneficial herbs include gymnema leaf, cassia bark, fenugreek seed, holy basil leaf, jambolan seed, and other natural ingredients, which all work synergistically to balance and maintain a healthy metabolic system, thus helping to prevent and control Metabolic Syndrome and diabetes type 2.
Here are a few of my top recommended Ayurvedic herbs:
1 - Gymnema Leaf - Studies of the effects of gymnema leaf have demonstrated its ability to support healthy insulin levels. In Hinduism, gymnema is called gurmar, which means “destroyer of sugar,” and research shows that this plant contains substances which decrease the absorption of sugar in the intestine. Gymnema may also increase the amount of insulin in the body and may enhance pancreatic cell growth, further benefiting insulin production in the body, as insulin is made in the pancreas.
2 - Cassia or Cinnamon - Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic health systems have used Cassia cinnamon, or Chinese cinnamon, for thousands of years. Recent research indicates that cinnamon may reduce fasting blood sugar levels, with polyphenols that help maintain insulin sensitivity. It's one of the oldest known spices that comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree, and is dried and commonly rolled into cinnamon sticks that may be used in tea. Cinnamon can also be ground into a powder and sprinkled on foods for added flavor and spice.
3 - Fenugreek Seed - Several human intervention trials have also shown that fenugreek seeds positively affect metabolic health. Fenugreek seeds have a slightly bitter taste when raw, but when they are sprouted, the flavor becomes pungently sweet, adding a unique taste to salads and other foods. Fenugreek seeds may also be lightly dry roasted to enhance their flavor and reduce their bitterness.
4 - Holy Basil Leaf - Holy basil, called Tulsi in India, is also widely used for a broad range of health conditions, including blood sugar imbalances, and is an essential herb in Ayurveda. Holy basil tea, dried leaves and extracts are widely available and used to aid meditation, correct internal imbalances, and strengthen overall health and well being.
These various herbs have a long tradition of use in Ayurveda, to heal the body and harmonize the mind and spirit. The numerous beneficial compounds found within these botanicals offer strong antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, adaptogenic, and immune-enhancing properties, which effectively promote overall health and support the body's natural defenses. These time-tested ingredients have been shown in studies to support healthy blood glucose levels, reduce inflammation and help correct imbalances in the body, among other health benefits. For more valuable health information on traditionally used herbs and botanicals, visit dreliaz.org
Herbs That Balance Your Blood Sugar
Eating red pepper powder can lower the amount of insulin required to process the sugar contained in a meal. This effect is best seen when chili powders are made a regular part of a person’s diet. Insulin secretion can be improved (lowered) by as much as 24 percent following regular chili consumption, as reported by a 2006 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The chili powder was also able to improve the production of a substance linked with the clearing of insulin by the liver.
Why not spice up scrambled eggs, sautéed chicken or a lentil dish with some chili powder or cayenne pepper?
Coriander or cilantro
This fragrant herb has a stimulating effect on the endocrine glands, including the pancreas. Coriander, also known as cilantro, helps to ensure that sufficient levels of insulin are produced in order to process blood sugar effectively. Try adding fresh coriander to salads or guacamole, or mix the seeds into dressings and sauces.
Black cumin seeds have been studied for their ability to stabilize blood glucose and reverse diabetes. One study group that consumed two grams of cumin seeds daily saw a reduction in blood glucose averaging 62 mg/dl after eight weeks of supplementation.
This earthy spice works well in rubs and marinades for meats, or mixed into hummus or dukkah.
This fresh green herb is used traditionally in Turkey to treat diabetes. A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research reported that parsley consumption in diabetic rats benefited liver function and resulted in lower blood glucose levels. These benefits were seen after one month of parsley consumption.
Fresh parsley goes great on salads, in soups, or mixed into hummus or guacamole. Also try blending it into smoothies and green juices. Its cleansing flavor is invigorating and delicious.
Researchers at the University of Illinois’ Division of Nutritional Sciences have found that rosemary works in a similar way to pharmaceuticals designed to fight diabetes. The fresh herb targets an enzyme that positively affects the processing of blood sugar. It was found to be so effective that treatments based on the herb may be developed in the future.
The good news is you can start benefiting from the medicinal properties of rosemary right away. Try using this pungent herb in a variety of dishes, including meats, vegetables and soups.