Part 2: Overcoming Insulin Resistance: What It Takes To Heal.
Updated: Apr 12
2-Part Series: Coach Lisa Carroll here to give you the Lowdown on Insulin Resistance. In a previous post we discussed what it is, its effects, and as promised, today's topic deals with what it takes to heal.
I am absolutely passionate about educating others on Insulin Resistance and its effects on the human body. So I'm here today to shed some light on the subject!Insulin Resistance is one of the most under-diagnosed conditions existing today and it is the largest underlying cause of most the health problems we experience on a day-to-day basis.
Understanding the root cause of a problem is the first step in correcting that problem. In the case of Insulin Resistance, simply understanding that excess insulin is the root of the problem can go a long way in terms of correcting it.
If excess insulin is the problem, what do you need to do to correct it?
The simplest solution to a problem is usually the correct one. In the case of insulin resistance, the simplest solution is lower your insulin, which begs the question:
How do we do that?
The absolute best way to lower insulin is to adopt a very clean ketogenic lifestyle, and get serious about doing so. For Insulin Resistant folks, that means no lazy keto and no half-hearted efforts. You must realize that insulin resistance (IR) is a serious medical condition, and if left untreated it will progress to full-blown diabetes!
The good news is: It doesn’t have to!
Concrete steps you can take to overcome Insulin Resistance are:
Track your food intake
It’s impossible to know how you are truly doing, food-wise, unless you track. Yes, it’s a pain, but if you want to heal it’s a fairly small price to pay. You need to not only track carbohydrates, but also keep a close eye on the actual sugars that are in the items you are consuming. Using the scan function on MFP, or your preferred tracker, is an easy way to make sure you are tracking accurately.
Do not consume added sugar of any kind
This means no sugar, no hidden sugars, no artificial sweeteners, no MSG, no modified food starch, no maltodextrin, and especially no high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). If you are consuming any item that has a label, read it! The grams of sugar per serving should be less than one on most products you consume, and keto compliant foods should never have a sugar or sugar derivative in the ingredients. For IR folks, sticking primarily to whole foods (things without a label) will help you to avoid hidden and/or added sugars.
Every time you put something in your mouth, you spike insulin. This includes things like chewing gum and mints. Yes, even if it’s sugar free! If you are drinking coffee or tea, especially if you add anything to your cup (sweeteners, heavy cream, etc), and sipping on this throughout the day, you are probably spiking insulin. This may even include approved non-caloric beverages like Le Croix and Zevia. Many times, the “natural flavors” these drinks contain are made of ingredients that are anything but natural. It’s generally a good idea for IR folks to avoid having anything other than plain water outside of meals.
Decrease meal frequency
Consider beginning an intermittent fasting routine, with the full intention of moving toward extended day fasting. Decreasing the number of times you eat per day can go a long way in healing insulin resistance, because it lowers the frequency and duration of circulating insulin. Start by skipping one meal and make it a true, water only fast during that period. Once you are able to do this with ease, you may be able to safely increase this to skipping two meals. You will have then progressed to eating only one meal per day (OMAD), after which you may be able to begin extending your fasts past the 24 hour period. Remember: There is a difference between eating low calorie and OMAD. Many people try this, but they don’t often do it correctly and end up tanking their metabolism by chronically consuming too little.
Consider incorporating extended day fasting
All foods increase insulin to some degree. Eating the right foods will prevent an increase in insulin production and circulation, but it won’t do much to lower those levels. We need to periodically sustain very low levels of insulin in order give our bodies a break and allow them to heal. Nothing does this like extended fasting.
For severely insulin resistant folks, it may take a lot to tap into stored body fat. Sometimes the liver of IR sufferers is so packed with fat, it takes a long time to for it to release stored, excess triglycerides back into the bloodstream, which manifest as glucose. It can also be one reason you are not seeing the weight loss you desire. The liver first rids itself of this unhealthy fat, and this often causes the blood sugar to temporarily rise. The result is a temporary state of excess insulin, as these glucose increases elicit a response. For this reason, it should be noted that those who are insulin resistant may have insulin secretions while fasting.
If there is any medical reason why fasting may be dangerous, please consult with your physician for further guidance.
Limit your protein intake to no more than 30 grams per meal (highly active men may need more per meal). Most IR folks cannot handle a lot of protein, especially not in one sitting, and a good number need to be eating toward the lower end of their individual protein range. Typically, more than 3-6 ounces of protein in one sitting will trigger an insulin release in those with more severe resistance. Remember, this can mean you experience a release of insulin between 2-10 times that of someone without insulin resistance. Many with IR should also avoid highly concentrated protein sources, like whey and other protein isolates, as they tend to elicit a very high insulin response. Please be mindful that there are many foods that don’t increase blood glucose that are highly insulinogenic (aka, still trigger an insulin response). Protein powders tend to fall into this category.
Fat is an extremely important macronutrient, as it is the source of the vast majority if a ketogenic person’s energy intake. Generally speaking, an IR person should consume 2-3 times as much fat as protein, in grams, at every meal. This should result in a smaller insulin release. Too much lean protein will spike insulin, so it is important to choose fatty cuts. Adding fat to the meal, in the form of butter or other fatty condiments, should result in better satiety, allowing you to fast longer periods between meals.
Consume Apple Cider Vinegar
Vinegar consumption helps lower circulating insulin. Taking 1-2 tablespoons in water with meals (use a straw to avoid damage to your tooth enamel) is ideal. Please make sure that the Apple Cider Vinegar you use does not contain honey or any other sweetener, and it should contain “the mother.”
Eat fermented foods
Eating fermented foods like pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi may help lower insulin, providing they contain no added sugars. Be sure to watch for hidden sugars often listed under other names. Please look at the ingredients list, and not just the nutrition label.
Consume a good quality nutritional yeast
This is different from the yeast you used to cook with. You can get all your B vitamins for the day by simply consuming 1 tsp-1 tbsp. (depending on the brand) nutritional yeast per day. You can sprinkle it on your foods or eat it right off the spoon. The vitamin B1 found in nutritional yeast specifically works to decrease the need for insulin.
Increase potassium rich foods
Adequate levels of potassium decreases the need for insulin. Getting the recommended 4,700 mg daily also helps to balance blood sugars and kick sugar cravings to the curb. It should also be noted that consuming a fiber-rich diet from dark leafy greens (which are a fabulous source of potassium) also decreases the need for insulin helps to cleanse the liver of toxins.
Chromium is known to lower blood sugars, and therefore decrease the need for insulin. Berberine is also a well-known helpful supplement for those with blood sugar and insulin problems. People with insulin resistance usually also suffer from poor nutrient absorption. When the cell is closed, as a result of insulin resistance, not only can energy not get into the cell, neither can much-needed micronutrients. A good quality K-2 supplement in the form of MK-7 can go a long way in helping you to absorb vitamins and minerals.
As always, check with your doctor and qualified pharmacist about the suitability of any dietary supplement prior to taking them.
Exercise, if not over-done, can reduce insulin. Long walks, heavy lifting, and HIIT workouts all help to deplete stored glycogen, increase growth hormone, and help you to tap into stored body fat. The right kind of exercise, followed by proper recovery time can significantly decrease insulin.
Get more sleep
Sleep helps to lower insulin, and helps the body to use its stored fat as energy. When you don’t sleep well, insulin rises in response to stress in the system. Reducing stress, in and of itself, helps to lower insulin. Stress increases cortisol which increases glucose, and causes a corresponding insulin response. Paying proper attention on these areas and working to remove or to reduce any underlying problems associated with sleep can really make a significant impact reducing the insulin levels that cause insulin resistance. I have found that a good quality magnesium glycinate gives me a very restful sleep. Please be sure to always check the ingredients label for ingredients that are non-compliant.
As you can see from the long list of do’s and don’ts, insulin resistance is not something to play around with. This is all the more reason why a very clean, ketogenic protocol is ideal for IR sufferers. Every day, people we care about are developing this “silent precursor” to Type II Diabetes, and most people are simply unaware of what’s really going on beyond their fasted blood glucose numbers.
If you are one of those people who wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I lose weight?” my hope is that this series has shed some light on a potential underlying reason. Please be encouraged, as there is hope! I had very severe insulin resistance and fatty liver disease, and have healed both significantly by following a well-formulated ketogenic diet, and we daily see thousands of others- in my groups and through my coaching program- who experience this same healing.
With a targeted Ketogenic diet, some help, and patience you can too!
If you have insulin resistance and are having a hard time dialing in your macronutrients, I'm here to help! Consider my Coaching Program or a one-time Macro Evaluation which includes personalized Macros as well as an evaluation of up to two weeks of your food logs to help you maximize your results.
You might also consider myKeto Quick-Start Online Course. This course will help you to understand Insulin Resistance and how to begin the healing process through the use of a Well-Formulated Ketogenic Diet.