This week we will be exploring how to reduce insulin resistance by replacing some key foods and beverages you may be consuming. Doing this and getting a little nutrition education under your belt will help you prevent or reverse type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome — and tighten that belt a couple notches, too.
Don’t think these small actions can’t have a big impact. Many disease states are precipitated by repeated overconsumption of the wrong foods that trigger a cascade of metabolic imbalances in the body. We can change that trajectory by changing the foods we eat. It’s really quite amazing and simple. Let’s take a closer look.
Initially, in response to that bowl of Sugar Ohs or that Big Sugar Slurp the body secretes insulin to pack away all that sugar for energy later. It first goes into our muscles and liver, but they can only hold a small amount. So the extra gets stored in our fat cells around our middle. It’s stored quickly to protect us from sugar in the bloodstream, which is very dangerous over a certain threshold and causes tissue damage. This is the body’s intelligent way of protecting us from sugar damage while not letting any potential energy go to waste.
If the sugar and high glycemic carbs keep coming with regularity or if there is too much at once, the body’s insulin generating capacity kicks it up a notch. It excretes even more insulin to reduce blood sugar levels quickly, which causes blood sugar levels to drop quite low. We now need that stored energy, but unfortunately, we can’t access it.
You see, insulin inhibits our body’s ability to access fat stores for energy. This is why people have such a hard time losing weight on a high carb diet. Sure, we can expedite this with exercise, but who feels like exercise when their blood sugar is low?
When blood sugar is low we typically feel it. Suddenly we have become hangry (hungry-angry) and are roaming around snarling at everyone in our way, hunting for a quick pick-me-up. Why doesn’t our partner lift a finger to help around the house — are their hands broken? They seem to work for the remote/ cellphone just fine. And would it kill the kids to pick up after themselves for once and use some manners? And who in the world named your mother-in-law God? Does God know She’s been replaced? And why can’t Patricia at work mind her own bloody business and stop trying to micromanage yours? And where is that ever-loving receipt for the dry cleaning? Never mind the diet, we NEED a muffin/ doughnut/ ice cap/ biggie meal and we NEED IT NOW dammit! Where is the nearest drive-through? And. We. Get. In. Our. Vehicles. And. Drive. In. This. State.
And that is my explanation for current divorce rates, ADD, the terrible teens, and road rage: it’s actually double-double-super-sized-caffeinated-bevy-and-carby-zero-nutrient-processed-junk-food-syndrome. Say that five times fast!
And changing our diets would do much to restore a happy home life, harmony on the roads, and savings in police and court budgets, all while reducing mortality from many diseases, giving us healthier bodies with greater energy, and helping us get many years of getting even with the kids when they have their own children! It's genius (holding my organic-celery-wielding-fist high for emphasis in a silent salute)! But I digress.
This state of hangry is perplexing because we’re eating more than we ever have before. In fact, portion sizes have about doubled since the 1950s. And yet we’re hungry! When it hits, we have often just eaten a meal (or a candy bar or a bag of woo hoos or drank a super-sized hip-whip-whatsit) an hour or two ago and gotten high off the sugar no less, but now we feel like we need a nap or are starving out of our minds! This is because the energy we’ve stored can’t be released when insulin is present. And insulin is always around in the presence of excess sugar and carbs.
This is why we are so tired and wired. And this is why I firmly assert that obesity is actually a starvation state. We’re eating and eating but not getting any energy from the food.
To make matters worse, when we get a blood test in this state we can be diagnosed as hypoglycemic (having low blood sugar), for which the mainstream medical prescription is to eat something sugary or carby to get our blood sugar back up. Do you see where this is headed? The prescription only signals more insulin to be released, which, in turn shuttles all that sugar to your waistline and keeps you hangry and initiates the cycle all over again!
Human beings have never in our history had such access to so many super tasty, high glycemic, processed, carb and sugar-laden foods. And our lifestyles have never been so sedentary. Our food supply has changed more in the past 70 years than in our entire evolutionary history.
Our bodies haven’t adapted. So when this excessive insulin is produced repeatedly and everything we eat goes to our waistline and our bodies can’t use the fat they’ve stored, we have to have a shut down mode. Our bodies signal the cells to stop accepting the insulin. When that happens and sugar continues to circulate in the bloodstream for too long, it inevitably damages the tissues, causing slow degradation that we don’t always notice until we lose function.
And this is what we call insulin resistance or type II diabetes. It comes with a whole host of downstream health problems.
By this point our metabolic system is seriously tired and over-reactive. In addition we have often become depleted in several key nutrients that help regulate that system and we’re hooked on that sweet stuff that gives us a temporary lift. Our muscles are weak from the lack of nutrients and lack of exercise due to chronic low energy. And our blood sugar is all over the place.
The holistic solution is different than the medical model. Rather than trying force more sugar into the cells we focus on restricting carbohydrates of all kinds and fasting to reduce insulin and liberate the stored fat from the cells for energy. Once the body starts to burn fat for energy, it remembers how to do that and energy levels balance out, appetite drops, and the incessant cravings stop. It’s truly miraculous to experience.
We just have to know what to eat and what to avoid. So let’s tackle some of the biggest offenders and what you can replace them with to reduce blood sugar naturally!
- Sugar — all kinds, even maple syrup, agave, and honey. Replace with monkfruit, stevia, xylitol, or erythritol for occasional sweets. I teach people how to replace sugars with healthier ones in my stop the sugar and healthy treats classes.
- Artificial sweeteners — all of these can spike insulin just like sugar does, which is why so many people struggle with weight loss when frequently consuming them. Replace with the sweeteners above.
- Soda — even those with artificial sweeteners. The one made with stevia is far better, or you can switch to homemade kombucha, which is an effervescent, fermented drink that helps put healthy bacteria in your gut for better digestion. I teach people how to make it in my kombucha and fun with fermenting classes.
- Vegetable oils — canola, soy, margarine, crisco, sunflower, safflower, hydrogenated and trans fats. Replace these with organic coconut, olive, avocado, and macadamia nut oils or organic butter or ghee. Or use lard, tallow, goose grease, or other animal fat. These will help improve the lining of every cell in your body.
- Processed foods — replace anything that is heavily processed and comes from a factory with whole foods that come from an animal or a plant and are in their natural form.
- Baked foods — replace all but homemade ones. And bake with low carb flours like almond and coconut flour. We tend to think of baked foods as natural but even if they are made with the best whole grains they still often spike blood sugar!
- Breads — all but low carb varieties. We tend to think of whole wheat bread as healthy but two pieces of whole wheat bread spike blood sugar more than a tablespoon of white sugar or a snickers bar. And wheat is not an optimal food for many reasons.
- High carbohydrate snack foods — chips, sweetened peanut butter, popcorn, candied nuts, corn chips, or others. Sure, nuts with honey on them look natural, but that honey is usually high fructose corn syrup and they’re fried in vegetable oils. For snacks reach for natural or salted nuts and seeds or unsweetened yogurt and a bit of fruit or homemade grain free granola or fresh veggies and dip or snacks with almond and coconut flours. I teach many great ones in my healthy treats class.
- Potatoes and starchy tubers — if you are insulin resistant or overweight you want to limit these to a very small amount once in a while, as they are high in carbs that spike insulin.
- Processed meats — use natural meats or canned or smoked seafood instead of hyper processed deli cuts. The exception to this is quality cured or smoked meats. Read a more indepth analysis of this here.
Replacing these foods for the healthier substitutes will go a long way to helping you reduce your blood sugar naturally and prevent or stop the progress of insulin resistance. To learn how to optimize your health and potentially reverse insulin resistance completely, you can contact me to work together one on one. I also offer an email newsletter full of health news if you’d like to sign up to receive it, and during COVID-19 I will be offering a variety of reduced-fee cooking and nutrition classes online. All of this can be accessed through my website at hopenotdope.ca.
Nonie De Long is a registered orthomolecular nutritionist with a clinic in Bradford West Gwillimbury, where she offers holistic, integrative health care for physical and mental health issues. Check out her website here. Do you have a question about health and wellness? Email email@example.com
Information in this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be misconstrued as medical advice, for which you should see a licensed medical practitioner.