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Could insulin resistance be the missing piece in puzzle of your health?

Belly fat that just won’t budge? Relying on coffee to get through the day? Craving sugar as soon as 3pm hits? 

If this sounds familiar, you might be experiencing insulin resistance.

If we go back to Year 8 anatomy, we (might) remember that the pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin. When we consume a meal containing carbohydrates, our body breaks that carbohydrate down into its simplest unit, glucose (sugar). Our cells, tissues, muscles and brain all rely on glucose for fuel. 

Imagine insulin as a key that unlocks the doors of our cells, allowing glucose to enter and provide us with the energy we need each day. When cells become resistant to insulin, it's like the lock becomes rusty, making it harder for insulin to open the door. This leads to higher levels of sugar in the blood, leaving us feeling fatigued, irritable and craving sugar (you know the feeling).

When glucose cannot get where it needs to go, it will travel through our circulation to the liver, where it will be converted to triglycerides and stored in our adipose tissue (fat cells). Over time, gradual accumulation and expansion of these fat cells will lead to weight gain, particularly around the abdomen aka that stubborn fat that won’t budge!

As insulin becomes more resistant, the pancreas has to pump out more and more insulin in an effort to get glucose into the cells. This creates a vicious cycle of blood sugar issues, and if left unaddressed can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes. Whilst insulin resistance is quite common in Western countries, particularly Australia, it’s not normal and something we want to address early to avoid developing a chronic metabolic condition. 

The good news is, insulin resistance is reversible!

There are many diet and lifestyle strategies, in addition to targeted nutrients, that can improve insulin sensitivity and promote good metabolic health. 

Diet: focus on a wholefoods diet that features food in its least processed form - think plenty of vegetables, fruit, legumes, wholegrains, nuts and seeds with a focus on lean protein such as red meat, small fatty fish & seafood, and moderate amounts of fermented dairy. Prioritising protein at all meals will have an important impact on blood sugar regulation and promoting satiety. 

Limiting consumption of sugary drinks and snacks, as well as refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta and rice, and sugary cereals, can also make a big difference. Enjoying these from time to time is fine - it’s about balance, not restriction!

Lifestyle: moving your body regularly, in a way that feels good for you is a great way to sensitise insulin and get glucose into your muscles to fuel whatever activity you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be an extreme HIIT workout (unless that’s your jam), even a walk around the block or some yoga stretching will be beneficial. 

Stress management is another important aspect to consider. When we're stressed, our bodies release hormones like cortisol, which can lead to insulin resistance over time. Stressing less is easier said than done - I get it! But regularly engaging in activities and practices that bring enjoyment and foster relaxation is a great place to start. This might look like mindfulness, meditation, getting into nature, reading, journaling, painting or even baking - whatever rows your boat!

Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night, as lack of sleep can disrupt hormones involved in blood sugar regulation and lead to insulin resistance. Sticking to a nighttime routine is key - aim to reduce screens 2 hours before bed, create a dark and peaceful environment by limiting artificial light (e.g., the light coming from your phone as you doomscroll TikTok) and do something like reading, stretching or journaling before bed. 

There a number of targeted nutrients that can help to improve insulin sensitivity and promote blood sugar management, these include:

  • Protein

  • Magnesium

  • Omega-3 fatty acids

  • B vitamins

  • Chromium

  • Inositol

  • Lipoic acid

Every body is different, so it’s important to work with a qualified practitioner who can tailor a treatment plan to your individual needs and health goals. 

Sienna is a degree qualified Clinical Nutritionist who has a passion for helping people unlock their optimal health through their food. To book your appointment with Sienna click HERE


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