Insulin is a hormone the body uses to gain energy from carbohydrates in food. Without insulin, a person's blood sugar levels can build up too high and cause damage to the body, especially to the kidneys, nerves of the hands and feet, and eyes.
Ideally, there is a balance between blood sugar and insulin in the body. Some instances exist, however, where insulin does not work as well as it should, forcing the body to produce an excessive amount of insulin. This is known as insulin resistance, which is a risk factor for developing diabetes, as well as a primary feature of type 2 diabetes.
A person who is insulin resistant and wants to maintain a healthy weight and body may need to control their insulin levels.
Many of the steps associated with improved insulin resistance are already considered to be healthful habits that many people would do well to adopt anyway. We take a look at some of them in this article.
1. Eating foods that keep blood sugar levels low
Often, the foods that keep blood sugar levels low are also foods that will help keep insulin levels low.
Some foods are known to maintain a slower, steady need for insulin instead of causing sudden spikes. These are known as low glycemic index foods and are preferred sources of carbohydrates.
The Diabetes Council recommend eating the following foods to keep insulin and blood sugar levels low:
- peanut butter
- slow-cooked oatmeal
- yogurt without added sugars
2. Avoiding foods that cause insulin spikes
Just as there are foods that are beneficial to lowering insulin levels, there are some that cause spikes. These include high-sugar foods, such as candies and chocolates.
Dried fruits and energy drinks can also be sources of sugar that lead to insulin spikes. Avoiding these foods can help keep insulin levels down.
3. Following a low-carbohydrate diet
There are several types of low-carbohydrate diets a person can choose from, depending on how many carbs they are allowed to consume. Examples include the Atkins, South Beach, and the Mediterranean diet, which favors carbohydrates that come from healthful, fiber-rich sources, such as wheat and beans. It also includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, and fish.
1. Losing weight
If a person is overweight, weight loss can likely help them decrease their insulin levels, according to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics. This is because excess weight and body fat is associated with insulin resistance, and therefore an increased level of insulin.
The link between body fat and having too much insulin is why many doctors recommend that women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) lose weight. This syndrome causes a woman to produce excess amounts of "male" hormones known as androgens, as well as excess amounts of insulin.
Losing weight is not easy for women with PCOS, nor is it easy for anyone who has a hormone-related condition. However, some lifestyle changes can make weight loss possible. Losing weight can result in lower insulin levels.
2. Exercising regularly
Fitting in 60 minutes of exercise on a daily basis or several 15- or 30-minute sessions can be very helpful. The exercise can include walking, taking an exercise class, riding a bicycle, or taking part in another physical activity that gets the heart beating faster.
3. Engaging in resistance training
According to another article in the journal Diabesity, resistance training improves muscle mass, which increases the amount of glucose a person uses and makes their insulin work more efficiently.
4. Taking steps to reduce stress
Stress can lead to excess insulin production because the body is attempting to release more insulin to use with carbohydrates for energy. Measures to reduce stress include:
- getting enough sleep at night
- taking 15 to 30 minutes each day to do something enjoyable
Some studies have supported the use of supplements in reducing insulin levels.
One study, published in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, found that overweight women taking a dietary supplement that consisted of 125 milligrams (mg) of green tea, 25 mg of capsaicin, and 50 mg of ginger extract twice daily resulted in a greater decrease in body weight and insulin levels than those who took a placebo.
Another supplement that has been widely studied for its insulin-lowering benefits is chromium, which is a trace mineral found in the human body. Supplements of chromium may help enhance insulin's effectiveness, which ideally, would help with lowering insulin levels overall. Chromium supplements are available to buy online.
Studies have not definitively proven chromium's benefits in lowering insulin, yet. However, one study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that taking chromium supplements lowered the risk of having type 2 diabetes by helping reduce blood glucose and insulin levels.
Sometimes, doctors will prescribe a medication known as Metformin. This medicine makes the body more sensitive to insulin, which can help to lower insulin levels because the body uses it more.
According to the Center for Young Women's Health, women with PCOS who were overweight, practiced a healthful lifestyle, and took metformin were more likely to lose weight than those women who adopted a healthful lifestyle alone.
However, side effects of taking metformin exist, so it is not always the best solution for women with PCOS or those with similar medical conditions.
Excess insulin in the body is known to affect how the body works.
For example, excess insulin triggers the body to store extra fat, which can be broken down and used for energy at a later date. Insulin promotes hunger and weight gain.
A healthful diet, physical exercise, and stress moderation can all help a person struggling with excess insulin to lower their levels.
A person should always talk to their doctor before beginning a new diet or any new supplements to ensure they will not interfere with their medication plan or overall health.