Insulin resistance is a hot topic these days. Which makes sense, because 1 in every 4 Americans is suspected to have insulin resistance. Unfortunately, our fast-paced, high-stress, inactive lifestyles bring about this unwanted condition.
Fortunately, insulin resistance is preventable, and even reversible, by making healthy diet and lifestyle changes! That’s a huge foundation of the 131 Method! If you’re looking for tools and direction on how to naturally prevent or reverse insulin resistance, check out the 131 Method and join our community!
This article will cover the 15 best blogs…aside from 131 Method, of course, to learn how to reverse insulin resistance naturally.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Before we dive in too deep, let’s talk about what is supposed to happen in our body. First, our body naturally releases insulin whenever we eat a meal containing carbohydrates. Our pancreas makes and releases insulin, a hormone. This hormone has one main job: to move sugar (glucose) from our blood and into our cells. Simply put, our cells are a locked door, and insulin is the master key. By moving glucose into our cells, insulin allows our blood sugar to return to a normal level after a meal. Once in our cells, the glucose is either used for energy or stored for later use. Excess glucose gets stored in our liver, muscles, and fat cells (1). Insulin has many other uses as well, including metabolism of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
Here’s where things get a little funky. With insulin resistance, our cells no longer respond appropriately to insulin (2). Our body turns into that vengeful ex who changes the locks to the door. The key (insulin) no longer works as well, and the sugar can’t get in! While insulin resistance isn’t a complete lock-out, it is definitely a dulled response.
Causes of Insulin Resistance
That’s a complicated question! But, from a general standpoint, inflammation is a key suspect for the main cause of insulin resistance (2). When we have inflammation at the cellular level, normal signals that tell the cells to respond to insulin are disrupted. So then, we have to ask the question: what causes unhealthy inflammation in the body?
The foods we eat can either fight or feed inflammation. A diet high in sugar, trans-fats, omega-6 seed oils, and refined carbohydrates is a major cause of inflammation in the body. If the diet is also low in omega-3 fats, antioxidants, and fiber, inflammation can run rampant and easily worsen insulin resistance (3).
While awake, the average person spends 12 hours sitting. As a population, we are much more sedentary than our ancestors. Unfortunately, our lack of physical activity may be leading to inflammation in our body (4). Much of this inflammation is due to the consequences of inactivity, such as weight gain, poor sleep, and overeating.
Stress causes major physical damage to our body. Research consistently shows that chronic stress increases the level of inflammatory chemicals in our blood (3). To make matters worse, we oftentimes sleep poorly when stressed. Since sleeping can heal and lower inflammation in the body, chronic sleep deprivation, paired with uncontrolled stress, is a huge inflammatory nightmare!
Excess Body Weight
Obesity and excess body fat is closely linked to chronic, low-grade inflammation in the body (5). There is more than just one cause of obesity, though. Many of the above causes of inflammation, like poor nutrition, stress, inadequate sleep, and inactivity, are also suspects in the rising obesity rates.
Why You Don’t Want Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is one of the body’s first warning signs before developing full-blown type 2 diabetes. The wear and tear of constantly high blood sugar and insulin levels puts heavy demand on our pancreas, the organ responsible for making insulin. Eventually, the starts making less insulin (6). Paired with a decreased response to the insulin you DO make, this is a recipe for disaster! Left untreated, insulin resistance may lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even cancer (7).
The scary thing about insulin resistance is that many people do not have any obvious symptoms. However, you may be at an increased risk for insulin resistance if you meet any of the following criteria (8):
- Age 45 or older
- Clinically overweight or obese
- Family history of diabetes
- High blood pressure
- History of gestational diabetes
- History of heart disease or stroke
- Diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Any interventions that reduce inflammation and improve our body’s sensitivity to insulin aid in reversing insulin resistance naturally.
Without further ado, here are our top 15 blog recommendations that can help you reverse insulin resistance and lose weight!
Don’t you wish we could go back to all those naps we tried to refuse as a kid? Most of us would love to get more sleep! Unfortunately, life tends to get in the way. Whether it’s kids, work, stress, or overall insomnia, we are not the best generation of sleepers. Now days, 1 in 3 Americans do not meet the recommended seven hours of sleep each night (9). We don’t seem to make it a priority, either. A 2018 poll from the National Sleep Foundation found that only 10 percent of Americans rated sleep as a top health priority (10). The Sleep.org blog is an excellent place to change your mind about sleep importance!
Getting adequate shut-eye is a key component in learning how to reverse insulin resistance naturally. We love Sleep.org because it has lots of great blog posts that discuss the benefits of sleep. For example, sleeping actually lowers inflammation. This is huge considering inflammation is the main driver of insulin resistance! This awesome blog also highlights the value of proper sleep on our blood sugar levels. Sleep is so important, that even ONE night of sleep deprivation (around 4 hours total) can reduce our body’s response to insulin by 25 percent (11)! How crazy is that?
Sleep should be natural, but sometimes it just doesn’t come so easy. Fortunately, Sleep.org has lots of articles about overcoming insomnia, perfecting your sleep environment, how to sleep with a snorer, and more! Our 131 community members consistently report sleep improvements in the first 2 weeks with dietary changes alone!
While poor diet is a main cause of insulin resistance, the food choices we make can also reverse insulin resistance. That’s why we’re all about the blog over at The Real Food RDs. Jessica and Stacie are two Registered Dietitians who are passionate about using real food to nourish our bodies. Specifically, we love this blog because it emphasizes one key component in learning how to reverse insulin resistance and lose weight: cook more from home! Research shows that people who eat more fast-food are at greater risk for developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes (12).
The Real Food RDs create recipes for healthy, wholesome meals that are big on flavor but convenient at the same time! Sounds perfect, right?! Homemade meals don’t have to be complicated to be healthy. Plus, these dietitian bloggers even accommodate special dietary needs, with many of their recipes encompassing gluten-free or dairy-free modifications.
Jeanine and Jack from Love & Lemons are a power couple that run a food blog with a focus on making vegetables taste awesome. They have hundreds of delicious veggie-focused recipes that you can even categorize based on ingredient, special dietary needs, or time of the year! We know that proper nutrition is key to losing weight and balancing our blood sugar. But, eating a vegetable rich diet also gives us more fiber, antioxidants, and magnesium, which have all been shown to reduce insulin resistance (13).
You may be thinking, “that’s great, but how do I reverse insulin resistance and lose weight if I have to spend all this money on healthy food?” You’re not alone! Many of us perceive finances to be a barrier to a healthier diet. But Jeanine and Jack categorize their recipes based on season of the year, which saves money. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand: when there are more veggies growing at that time, the cost for consumers goes down.
Saving money, learning to cook delicious vegetables, and reversing insulin resistance? Don’t mind if we do!
Eating healthy can seem intimidating when we think of cooking from home. Many of us didn’t grow up learning how to cook, so the thought of having to sauté, mince, or roast something may be terrifying. However, cooking doesn’t have to be the barrier to achieving your health goals. Learn to Cook is a blog about (you guessed it) learning how to cook! They have great resources on their blog about different cooking styles, chopping guides, and preparation techniques that will get you from a hesitant to confident chef in no time.
Cooking from home is a huge part of achieving a healthy weight and reversing insulin resistance. When we cook from home, we have complete control over what we put into our food. Unfortunately, restaurants and fast-food joints do not have your health in their best interest. Restaurants often add preservatives, trans-fats, and excess sugar to their foods – which are not our friends when it comes to avoiding insulin resistance.
People who frequently cook at home eat more fruits and vegetables, have lower body fat percentages, and are more likely to be within a healthy weight range (14). These three benefits are huge factors into learning how to reverse insulin resistance naturally. Bon appétit!
Getting adequate exercise is key in learning how to reverse insulin resistance and lose weight. This is because exercise not only burns calories and fat, but also improves your body’s sensitivity to insulin (15). Insulin can then successfully communicate with your cells to allow glucose (sugar) inside, and keep blood sugar levels normal.
Exercising one or two times per week is not enough, though! When looking at how long it takes to reverse insulin resistance, studies show exercise may only affect insulin signaling in muscle for up to 48 hours. What does this mean? For the biggest effect, we may need at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity on most days of the week.
Here’s the good news! If you’re a mom, you will really resonate with Lindsey over at the blog Nourish Move Love. As a new mom herself, Lindsey provides at-home, 20-minute workouts that really provide a big bang for your buck (but don’t worry, these workouts are free)! Lindsey has a whole blog section around HIIT workouts. HIIT can reduce blood sugar levels and help to reduce insulin resistance in just a matter of weeks (16).
Ready to put those yoga pants to work? Yoga with Adriene is a blog providing free, at-home yoga videos for people of all shapes and sizes. Adriene is an actress and international yoga teacher who wants to make yoga accessible to all people. She uploads weekly 15-20 minute yoga videos on her blog, and even has a whole section devoted to yoga for weight loss, which we know is a key component in reversing insulin resistance. In fact, a large research review of over 70 studies even confirmed that yoga is instrumental in improving insulin resistance, blood sugar, and even cholesterol levels (17).
How exactly can yoga help to reverse insulin resistance naturally? Two pathways are thought to play a role. First, yoga is thought to reduce over-activation of your adrenal system, also commonly known as the HPA (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal) axis (17). This is your body’s main stress control center. Your brain communicates with your adrenal glands, which are located above your kidneys. Your adrenals then release certain stress hormones, like cortisol. By practicing yoga, we have greater feelings of well-being, and our stress response is lower.
Yoga can also directly stimulate our vagus nerve. This huge nerve connects our brain-stem to the rest of the body. It allows our brain to monitor, communicate, and understand other bodily functions. Activating this nerve, can lower your heart rate, blood pressure, and even reduce levels of inflammatory chemicals in your blood (17).
So put on your cutest yoga gear, light a candle, and give Adriene’s at-home yoga videos a shot!
As Hippocrates claimed over 2,000 years ago, “all disease begins in the gut.” We really can’t stress enough the importance of gut health! Our digestive tract houses our “gut microbiome” – a diverse community of trillions of bacteria that play a vital role in fighting disease as well as maintaining our health. Each of us has a unique microbiome. Various factors influence the development of our gut bugs including: environment, diet, exercise, stress, medications, aging, and more.
Recently, we’ve started to learn more about our gut health, including its influence on diseases and conditions like insulin resistance. Certain changes in our gut bacteria could actually cause increased inflammation that is connected to obesity and insulin resistance (18). An imbalanced gut microbiome, known as dysbiosis, may be a main factor leading to inflammation and insulin resistance (19).
How can we have a healthier gut? Fortunately, Dr. Michael Ruscio’s blog can help us find out! Dr. Ruscio is a functional medicine doctor and expert in gut-health. With a blog section completely devoted to digestive health, this is one doctor you definitely want to follow! On his blog, he talks about probiotics, how to reset your microbiome and IBS.
If you have a gut feeling that your gut needs some serious R&R, Dr. Ruscio’s blog can help you get started!
While we’re on the subject of gut health, we should mention the awesome gut-focused blog over at Kelsey Kinney’s site! She’s a Registered Dietitian with a holistic, real food mindset. She frequently blogs about various topics related to gut-health and the microbiome.
She dives deep into the research about various topics including getting good quality fats, staying away from inflammatory fats like those coming from seed oils (corn, canola etc.), and ensuring that you get rich sources of fiber in your diet each day. All of this advice not only leads to a healthier microbiome, but can also apply to treating or avoiding insulin resistance!
Creating a healthier microbiome is key to learning how to reverse insulin resistance naturally, and Kelsey’s awesome research-based blog is a great place to learn how to do this with real food!
A major cause of insulin resistance is excess body weight. While there is definitely more to health than someone’s weight, research does show that intentional weight loss can help reverse insulin resistance. Losing just 5 percent of your body weight reduces your risk of worsening insulin resistance as well as type 2 diabetes (8). This is about 10 pounds for someone weighing around 200 pounds.
We know that dieting can feel like a constant roller coaster, which is why we don’t believe in diets here. But, we do believe in something called mindful eating, which means you are fully aware and present in the moment. When we focus on our meal – the taste, textures, aromas, and appearance -we are less likely to overeat (20).
Mindful eating can be difficult to grasp at first. That’s why we love the blog over at The Art of Mindful Eating. Xenia, the mindful eating coach behind this blog, has excellent articles defining mindful eating, the difference between emotional and physical hunger, and how to get started with this concept.
As more “regular” people get their zen on through meditation, we are continually amazed about its incredible health benefits. Emily Fletcher is the owner and meditation guru behind ZivaMeditation. Emily’s mission for Ziva is “to make meditation attractive, accessible and easy to adopt into modern life.” Her blog, called ZivaBlog, has multiple resources to help you easily adopt meditation. You don’t want to miss out on her videos, recordings, and articles.
Did you know meditation literally grows your brain? Even better, it grows the part of your brain that is important for learning, memory, self-awareness, and compassion (21). We all know the world can use a little more compassion, right!? Besides that, meditation can also help reduce our risk of chronic disease, including insulin resistance.
Studies have shown that meditation can reduce blood pressure, lower fasting blood sugar levels, and potentially aide in reversing insulin resistance in just a few weeks (22). Luckily, the benefits of meditation are evident even if you only have a few minutes per day!
Intermittent fasting (IF) has grown tremendously in popularity these past few years. It simply means that you go a certain amount of time without eating. The fasting time varies for different approaches, ranging anywhere from 12-18 hours of fasting. Most of the fast is overnight, with the first meal occurring late in the morning. Although the clinical research on intermittent fasting is still new, the concept of IF dates way back to the hunter-gatherer era! Back then, humans did not have constant access to food like we do now. IF was basically a requirement, and scientists suspect that humans had to evolve to survive under these conditions. So far, research shows promising benefits in using intermittent fasting to help reverse insulin resistance (23).
Precision Nutrition has a whole blog “book series” all about intermittent fasting. This blog gives you more information about the types of IF, why it works for many, as well as tips and tricks for success.
Stress is inflammatory (24). The demands of our busy, modern life plays a huge role in our constantly elevated stress levels. Many of us may have physical or mental symptoms of stress including: weight gain, acne, high blood pressure, irritability, insomnia and more. The research is quite clear – we can’t truly heal our bodies if we are constantly living in a state of uncontrolled stress!
Chronic stress greatly increases your chance of developing or worsening insulin resistance (25). But why is stress so toxic? When we’re stressed, our body releases stress hormones, specifically cortisol. Researchers suspect that constantly elevated cortisol levels lead to fat build-up around the organs, also known as visceral fat, and increase our blood sugar levels (25). While there are many other factors involved, these two consequences of stress are strongly connected to insulin resistance.
Are you stressed out about being stressed yet? Don’t worry! The blog over at True Stress Management is another great resource we love for helping us calm down and effectively managing our stress. Can we have a completely stress-free life? For most people, probably not. However, we can control how we react to and treat our feelings of stress! Posts on this blog include topics around finding your stress triggers, how to stop stress nausea, and tons of healthy ideas to relieve stress.
Psst! Curious if there are any herbal treatments that can help you manage your stress? Read about ashwagandha to learn how it can help reduce stress hormones naturally.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that is closely connected to insulin resistance, with nearly 65 percent of women holding both diagnoses (26). Women with PCOS have hormone imbalances, and produce too much testosterone and insulin. When these two hormones are overproduced, symptoms like abnormal periods, acne, facial hair, and insulin resistance can occur (27).
Learning how to reverse insulin resistance naturally can also help treat PCOS. The PCOS Nutritionist blog can help you do just that. Clare is a functional medicine nutritionist that specializes in treating PCOS and insulin resistance. She can speak to the disease personally, as she discusses her past struggles with the diagnosis, failing conventional treatment, and eventual success with nutrition and lifestyle.
If you suffer from PCOS and suspect that you may also have insulin resistance, you will want to check out Clare’s blog, specifically the one investigating whether or not insulin resistance causes PCOS. By fixing the root cause of your PCOS with a healthy diet and lifestyle, you can oftentimes reverse insulin resistance in the process!
It’s pretty common knowledge that smoking is not good for us. But, like many things in life, we may continue to do it even though we know it’s super unhealthy. Besides the obvious damage to our lungs and increased risk of cancer, smoking tobacco also greatly increases our risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Smoking causes increased inflammation and impairs our body’s immune function (28). These two side-effects play a large part in creating the “perfect storm” for insulin resistance.
Quitting smoking is really hard! Similar to the diet roller-coaster, many of you may have tried to quit smoking before, only to start again due to a stressful time or some other trigger. Any help in the quest to quit smoking shouldn’t be overlooked. That’s why we love the blog over at I Quit Monday. This blog is completely geared towards helping other people to quit smoking. They talk about making a plan, understanding your smoking triggers, and how to keep up your confidence during this difficult journey.
How long does it take to reverse insulin resistance after quitting smoking? While we know there are lots of other diet and lifestyle changes that must occur to completely reverse insulin resistance, some studies show that insulin sensitivity improves after just 8 weeks of smoking cessation (29). This time-frame even accounts for the modest weight gain that may occur after quitting smoking! So, if you’re worried about gaining some weight after you quit smoking, know that you can still improve the health of your body and decrease insulin resistance just by quitting tobacco.
You know that feeling late at night, when you shouldn’t feel hungry, but you have this irresistible urge for something sweet? All day, you ate super healthy, and even made it to the gym for a quick workout. You’ve been down this road before. That dang sweet tooth gets the best of you, and makes you feel like you “fall off the wagon” each night.
Unfortunately, too many sugary treats can lead us down a dangerous path towards insulin resistance (30). Over-consumption of added sugar (sugar that is not naturally found in food) drives insulin resistance by causing our blood sugar to remain high for longer periods of time. Chronically elevated blood sugar levels causes excessive insulin release, and puts stress on our pancreas and other organs. We also can get caught in a vicious cycle of eating excess sugar due to our habits surrounding inadequate sleep, stress, and poor meal planning.
We know that too much sugar, along with other unhealthy habits, can lead to insulin resistance. But, we also know that life is about balance. That’s why we love the Desserts With Benefits blog. Jessica, the food blogger behind Desserts With Benefits, has a degree in nutrition and strives to make delicious, wholesome desserts that are guilt-free and nutrient packed. Her healthy dessert recipes are low in sugar, but rich in flavor! One of our favorite pages on her blog is the “Single-Serving” section. Oftentimes, we crave something sweet, but end up making or buying way more than one serving.
Testing for Insulin Resistance
While there isn’t one main test to check for insulin resistance, there are a few tests that your doctor can run to gauge your risk for this condition.
- Fasting Glucose – Fast overnight for this test. High levels of glucose in the morning means that your cells may not be responding as well to insulin, thus leaving higher levels of glucose out in the blood (i.e. insulin resistance).
- Hemoglobin A1c – This lab reflects your average blood glucose over the past 3 months. High levels may be an indicator of insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, or type 2 diabetes.
- Fasting Insulin – When our cells can’t respond as well to insulin, our body mistakenly releases more insulin as a result. The reliability of testing fasting insulin levels is variable, but this lab may be elevated in people with severe insulin resistance.
- Triglycerides – This lab is part of the cholesterol panel. A high triglyceride level is commonly due to excessive intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar, so it is more specific than other cholesterol markers for determining your risk of insulin resistance.
- C-Reactive Protein (CRP)– Elevated levels of CRP in the blood is an indication that there may be some undesired inflammation occurring in your body.
Make a Game Plan for Reversal
All of this may seem pretty overwhelming at first! While these blogs are an excellent way to learn how to reverse insulin resistance naturally, putting it into action is the most important step.
As with any big goal in life, it’s best to start with small, attainable, and realistic goals. We now know that the main factors which help us reverse insulin resistance and lose weight include: more nutritious food cooked from home, lots of veggies, adequate sleep, proper stress management, smoking cessation, and physical activity.
Which one of these things do you feel most confident in changing? Start there! Think of a small goal, like cooking dinner from home at least 5 days a week, meditating for 10 minutes daily, or avoiding your phone before bed time. As you become more successful in meeting this goal, add more to it! Write these goals down, and tell a family member or friend who will help keep you accountable. Small steps lead to healthy and meaningful lifestyle habits!
It’s also important to maintain regular check-ups with your doctor. Even if you feel healthy, with no apparent symptoms, it’s still good to have preventative check-ups and lab monitoring as often as recommended by your physician.
Insulin resistance can seem like a big monster to tackle. But, with the right information, mindset, and support, you can make positive, lifelong changes in your life. You got this!
We’re here to support you on your health journey! ~ 131 Method