Insulin and Diabetes


In light of diabetes awareness month, we’d like to focus on explaining all things insulin.

Did you know, you can develop insulin resistance before you’re ever diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?

And it’s not as uncommon as you’d think.

Insulin is a hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) levels. It moves sugar out of your blood stream and into your body’s cells where it’s stored. This is what happens in a healthy body.

‘Insulin resistance’ is what happens when your cells don’t respond to insulin properly – so, rather than the sugar being kept in storage, they hang out in your bloodstream. That’s what causes high blood sugar.

Improving insulin sensitivity can reduce insulin resistance and hence prevent type 2 diabetes.

Here are our Toronto naturopath’s top 3 pieces of advice for improving insulin sensitivity, naturally.

1 – Exercise

Exercise helps your cells become more sensitive to insulin. Exercise induces your muscles to take sugar out of the blood and into the muscle cells so that it can be used. Positive effects have been noted in studies where insulin sensitivity improved almost immediately after exercise.

It’s best to include both cardio and resistance focused training. Specific regimens need to be created based on what your current lifestyle and level of fitness allow for, and make sure to do frequent check-ins with a professional so that you’re constantly working on improvement and not staying stuck.

2 – Sleep

Sleep for a minimum of 8 hours a night. Easier said than done, but there is so much a naturopath on our team can do to help you ease back into a full and restful night’s sleep, despite lifestyle factors that might prevent you from doing so right now.

One study has compared those who sleep for 4 hours versus those who sleep for a minimum of 8 hours, and no surprise here – sleep deprivation induced insulin resistance.

3 – Protein

Make sure you’re having enough dietary protein daily (exact amount are based on your current weight, goals, and lifestyle demands).

Protein stimulates insulin release without spiking blood sugar too high like carbohydrates or sugar would. Additionally, protein also stimulates glucagon. Glucagon is another hormone, but has the opposite effect of insulin. Glucagon causes blood sugar elevation. The fact that protein is able to stimulate both hormones helps to keep your environment stable.

It’s best to have a form of protein with every meal. This will help to rebalance the relationship between insulin and blood sugar, while keeping you full, lean, and cravings at bay.

Of course, there are more specific recommendations that can be made for improving insulin sensitivity based on your own health history, like fasting protocols, nutraceuticals and herbal supplements.

The relationship between insulin and sugar is so important not only for diabetes prevention, but for keeping your metabolism happy, staying lean, making weight-loss sustainable, and maintaining general health.

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