Understanding Insulin Resistance and How to Improve Sensitivity

Insulin is a vital hormone produced by the beta cells in your pancreas. It regulates blood glucose levels by moving glucose (sugar) from your blood into your cells for energy and storage. If you are living with diabetes, you have likely heard the terms insulin resistance and sensitivity. Here, we explain these concepts and provide simple yet effective strategies you can incorporate to make your body more receptive to insulin. 

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance is when the body builds up a tolerance to insulin, and the cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don't respond well. When this happens, the cells can't effectively take up glucose from your blood, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels. As a result, the pancreas increases the release of insulin in an attempt to regulate blood sugar levels and move glucose into the cells.

Initially, this increase in insulin may work, but over time, the beta cells in the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin to overcome the body's resistance. This leads to chronic high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia), which can ultimately result in prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Manyfactors, such as excess body weight, physical inactivity, genetics, and chronic inflammation, may cause insulin resistance. 

How about insulin sensitivity?

Insulin sensitivity refers to how responsive the cells in your body are to insulin. Having low insulin sensitivity means that you have some degree of insulin resistance. In that case, your body is less receptive to insulin and will try to compensate by producing more insulin. In the long term, high circulating insulin levels can increase the risk of health complications. Therefore, improving insulin sensitivity can provide numerous health benefits. The good news is that there are many simple ways to do that!

5 ways to improve insulin sensitivity:

  1. Keep a healthy weight.Excess weight promotes insulin resistance in the muscles and liver. Losing a few pounds can be an effective strategy, as weight loss is the strongestpredictor of improved insulin sensitivity.
  2. Stay active. Exercise isassociated with significant improvement in insulin sensitivity, especially in those withtype 2 diabetes. Physical activity promotes the growth of muscle tissue, which requires glucose for energy. As a result, exercise increases the uptake of glucose. 
  3. Get enough sleep. Having poor sleep habits islinked to reduced insulin sensitivity. Aim to get at least 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. 
  4. Improve your diet. Increasing fiber consumption and reducing refined sugars can be crucial in diabetes management.Soluble fiber, the type found in whole grains such as oats and legumes such as beans, improved insulin sensitivity significantly. 
  5. Reduce stress. Stress produces hormones such as cortisol and glucagon. These hormones stimulate the production and release of glucose into the blood, which increases blood sugar levels and makes the body more insulin resistant. Managing stress through exercise and breathing techniques can be an effective way to improve insulin sensitivity. 

Taking control of your health

Having diabetes should not get in the way of you living a happy, healthy, and meaningful life. If you're experiencing insulin resistance, there are simple lifestyle modifications you can make to take control of your health. Beyond managing what is happening inside your body, you should also pay attention to the outside, including your feet. Diabetes-related foot problems are very common and inconvenient, but the good news is that simply wearing theright socks can go a long way in improving quality of life! 

Always consult your physician before beginning any program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. If you experience any pain or difficulty, stop and consult your healthcare provider. 

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