How Do I Improve Insulin Responsiveness & Sensitivity?
Lifestyle changes (for example, diet and exercise) clearly are important, and education about these changes needs to be directed to groups at risk for diabetes. Below are some natural ways to improve insulin responsiveness:
Eat Healthy Fats: Eating a variety of foods high in short, medium and long-chain fatty acids is key to keeping your hormones in check. Your body needs various types of fats to create hormones, including saturated fat and cholesterol. Not only are these essential fats fundamental building blocks for hormone production, but they keep inflammation levels low, boost your metabolism and promote weight loss. My four favorite sources of anti-inflammatory, healthy fats include: coconut oil, avocados, grass-fed butter and wild-caught salmon.
Balance Your Intake of Omega-3 to Omega-6 Fats: I’ve seen an onslaught of chronic diseases caused by inflammatory processes literally take over our society, and a major reason why is because of very disproportionate fatty acids in our modern diet. Be sure to steer clear from oils high in omega-6 fats (safflower, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, canola, soybean and peanut), and load up on rich sources of natural omega-3s instead (wild fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts and grass-fed animal products).
Improve Gut Health & Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome: Leaky gut is a condition that not only affects your digestive tract, but also causes hormone issues. Gut problems have been found to trigger autoimmune reactions, including arthritis and thyroid disorders. Most people with leaky gut have a deficiency of probiotics in their guts. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can actually improve your production and regulation of key hormones like insulin, ghrelin and leptin. Steer clear of the foods that can cause damage in your digestive system most, including: processed foods, gluten, hydrogenated oils and added sugar.
Exercise: One of the best all-around activities you can do for your health is high intensity interval training (HIIT) – including one of my favorite types called burst training. If there is a silver bullet out there to help with a sluggish metabolism, weight gain and other issues, this just might be it! Exercise in general is great for balancing hormones because it reduces inflammation, can help you maintain a healthy weight, lowers stress, helps regulate your appetite, and aids in getting better sleep.
Reduce Stress & Get More Sleep: Unless you get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, you’re doing your body no favors. A Lack of sleep or disturbing your natural circadian rhythm can be one of the worst habits contributing to a hormone imbalance. Excessive stress and poor sleep are linked with higher levels of morning cortisol, decreased immunity, trouble with work performance, and a higher susceptibility to anxiety, weight gain and depression.
Watch Your Caffeine & Alcohol Intake: Caffeine in moderate amounts might be okay for some people, but drinking too much caffeine is almost as bad as not getting enough sleep. Caffeine, which can stay in your system for up to six hours, is a chemical that affects the central nervous system (CNS) and raises your heart rate, increases alertness, and changes the way your brain produces hormones.
Supplement with Vitamin D3: According to an article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vitamin D affects “the adaptive immune system, the innate immune system, insulin secretion by the pancreatic ß cell, multifactorial heart functioning and blood pressure regulation, and brain and fetal development.” Vitamin D almost acts like a hormone inside the body and has important implications for keeping inflammation levels low.
Liver: The #1 Superfood to Balance Hormones: Gram for gram, liver is the most nutrient-dense food on the planet. Due to its unique nutritional profile, liver easily deserves the title, “Ideal Superfood to Balance Hormones.” Most importantly, liver provides the highest source of vitamin A, one of the most valuable vitamins to balance hormones. Vitamin A not only improves thyroid function, it improves liver health so we can synthesize and detox hormones well. Hormonal imbalance further compromises your ability to convert the carotene into usable vitamin A.
Avoid Harmful Chemicals: Harmful chemicals found in pesticides, plastics, household cleaners, and even mattresses can contain hormone disrupting chemicals that mimic hormones in the body and keep the body from producing real hormones. Things like hormonal birth control can (obviously) do the same thing. For those with a hormone imbalance or who are struggling to get pregnant, avoiding these unnecessary chemicals is very important! Cook in glass or non-coated metal pans and avoid heating or storing foods in plastic. Find organic produce and meat whenever possible and don’t use chemical pesticides or cleaners. Beauty products are another source of chemical exposure for many people.