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Healthy Strategies to Avoid Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome

Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / Tuomas Lehtinen
Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / Tuomas Lehtinen

Healthy Strategies to Avoid Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome

As a follow up to my article Sugar, Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes and Breast Cancer Risk, today I am providing you with some healthy strategies to avoid these conditions.  Be prepared, this is going to be one long post but full of great information on how to avoid insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, both of which are risk factors for breast cancer.

If you have read my article (link above) you will know that having diabetes gives you an increased risk of breast cancer. Conversely, having breast cancer puts you at a higher risk for diabetes.  It is clear that blood sugar problems are creating many other health problems for us. By incorporating positive lifestyle changes, however, you can dramatically reduce your risk of getting the diseases associated with metabolic syndrome, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer.

Most of the strategies in this list revolve around attaining and keeping a healthy weight. If you will recall from last week’s article, one of the tell-tale risk factors for metabolic syndrome is having a waist circumference of over 35 inches (88.9 cm).  An overabundance of belly fat (having an “apple” shape) is not something you should be accepting and living with and I apologize if that sounds harsh, but it really is THAT important. So without further ado, here are the things you can do to help yourself.

Get Your Insulin Levels Tested

Go to your doctor and get your insulin levels tested.  I recommend doing this at the very outset of your “get healthy” program, because then you will know exactly what you are dealing with.  Get your doctor to do a fasting glucose test where you fast for 10-12 hours prior to having a small amount of blood drawn. This is a very effective way to see what is happening in your body with regard to insulin.

Eat A Healthy Diet

Simply by reducing your calorie/kilojoule intake is a good start toward your weight loss goals.  More specifically I recommend:

Detox Your Body From Sugar.  The first thing necessary for you to lose the belly fat will be that you will need to educate yourself on exactly how many foods contain added sugars.  Things which at first glance look like they should be good for you, such as boxed cereals, fruit juices, crackers, yogurt, canned soups, sliced bread, even energy bars.  The average diet in England, America and Australia contains about 22 teaspoons of sugar per day and it can be higher than that in less developed countries where American food has been introduced.  Our consumption of sugar has risen 28 percent since 1983!  No wonder we are in trouble.  So how much sugar is it safe to consume? About 4-7 tsp per day, max.  The first three days will be the worst for sugar cravings but once you get past that, it becomes easier and easier to avoid sugar.

Become A Label Reader. Pay attention to words in the ingredients list like sugar – well that one is obvious but the rest may not be – glucose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, galactose, lactose, malt syrup, cane juice, dehydrated cane juice, cane juice solids, cane juice crystals, dextrin, maltodextrin, barley malt, beet sugar, caramel, buttered syrup, carob syrup, date sugar, diatase, diatastic malt, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, dehydrated fruit juice, fruit juice crystals, golden syrup, turbinado, sorghum syrup, refiner’s syrup and ethyl maltol.  If the product has any of these in it, avoid those products like the plague, they are all sugar in disguise.  We need to stop eating these things and the only way we stop it is with our pocketbooks.  It’s simple – we quit buying these products for any reason and they stop producing them due to lack of interest.

Foods To Exclude.  Reducing your consumption of sugar and other carbohydrates is the absolute best way to lose belly fat, reduce weight and decrease insulin resistance problems, even better than cutting fat from your diet.  Carbs come from many different places, some of which are rather surprising. This is by no means an exhaustive list:

All of the forms of sugar listed above
Alcohol
Breads, tortillas, baked goods, pasta, pizza, rice
Crackers, chips, pretzels
Cereals
Fried Foods
Fruit – Yes, fruit – although in one respect fruit is healthy for you due to the phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber, if you are trying to lose weight, you must reduce your consumption of fruit because it is high in fructose. If you are struggling with insulin resistance, keep your daily fructose intake to less than 15 grams or less.  A small amount of fruit is okay – for instance 10 sweet cherries is about 4 grams of fructose.  An apple is 9.5 grams, 1 cup of blueberries is 7.4. Get yourself a handy chart (Dr Mercola has one, see reference below) and keep an eye on it for fructose content.

Foods To Include. These are the foods that will help you stay healthy. Make sure to include plenty of these:
All vegetables except corn or potatoes (sweet potatoes are better)
Fresh juices made from mostly vegetables
Fish, especially deep sea fish
Grass Fed Organic Meat
Organic Poultry
Eggs
Nuts, Seeds
Healthy Fats & Oils (like olive, coconut, butter)
Organic Cheese
Small amount of Legumes (yes they are carbs but read below)

It may sound as though that does not leave you with much but that is just not true. Is it going to be easy?  No.  But you will have a wide variety of food still to enjoy and you can eat plenty of them, as many as you like.  Along with decreasing inflammation in the body, eating this way provides you with energy, ample vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and dietary fiber. It may take more forethought and food preparation but it is well worth the effort and your life may depend upon it.

Loads of Healthy Eating Tips

Eat small, frequent meals to keep blood sugar in a more healthy range. Eating large meals can flood the bloodstream with glucose and insulin. Experiment with this until you find what helps you you feel your best, but generally eating six small meals is much better for your metabolism than three large meals.

Beans/Legumes are carbohydrates but they are one of the better choices because of their fiber content and because the carbs in legumes are more slowly digested and will not spike your blood sugars quite so high.

Foods high in magnesium help to decrease the incidence of metabolic syndrome, so be sure to include lots of leafy green vegetables like lettuce, kale and spinach as well as almonds, cashews and other nuts, avocados, beans, soybeans, and halibut.

Instead of a sandwich, roll up your meat and cheese in a big lettuce leaf.

Instead of pasta, learn to use a spiralizer and create pasta-like strands from your veggies – the raw food websites will show you how it’s done (see below for some good raw food website recommendations).  You can create some really delicious meals with raw food and they are full of plenty of natural vitamins and living enzymes.  Try a new raw food recipe or two every week.

Drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day. It helps to increase your metabolism, it helps you flush out toxins and keeps you feeling a little more full for a longer period of time.  Sugar cravings often occur when a person is dehydrated, so drinking plenty of filtered water just makes sense.

Specific Foods That Make A Difference

Carrots And Other Orange, Yellow & Red Veggies – A Japanese study done with over 1,000 people who were followed over a ten year period indicated that for those whose diet included plenty of carotenoids (naturally occurring pigments in brightly colored vegetables like carrots and other yellow, orange and red veggies) eating this way was associated with a much decreased risk of developing metabolic syndrome 1.

Cinnamon – Research shows that cinnamon helps to transport glucose into the cells, thus reducing blood sugar levels.  One study in particular indicated that simply drinking cinnamon tea after a meal helped to lower blood glucose levels. 2   Ordinary cinnamon, exactly like the one you can get at your local supermarket, is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to help control blood sugar levels.  You can add it to green juices, take it in a tea, sprinkle it on foods or take it in capsules.

Cayenne pepper – Contains capsaicin, a phytochemical known to have anti-inflammatory and insulin lowering properties.  A study on women with gestational diabetes mellitus revealed that ingestion of capsaicin improved hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia 3.  Capsaicin is also known to help boost metabolism, improve blood circulation, and is even associated with decreasing blood pressure.  One 2015 study indicated that eating African bird’s eye chili (peri peri) also resulted in decreased insulin concentrations on overweight individuals. 4  Cayenne pepper is available either fresh or dried (ground spice), and in capsule form.  You can make cayenne pepper tea by mixing about one quarter to one half teaspoon of cayenne pepper steeped in a cup of hot water. You can add it to your food, stir it into fresh juices or tea.  Just be careful – use too much and it can give you a stomach ache so you may need to play around with the quantity you use. Also if you are on blood thinning medications, do not use cayenne pepper.

Green tea – Did you know that green tea can helps you lose belly fat?  It contains a phytochemical known as catechin which boosts metabolism. One study demonstrated that people drinking green tea and doing strength training had significant increases in resting metabolic rate, lean body mass and muscle strength, and significant decreases in body fat, triglycerides, and waist circumference as compared to those who did not drink the green tea but partook in the same exercise. 5 Green tea is also full of antioxidants which have been proven to be beneficial for metabolic syndrome.

Increase Physical Activity

If you tend to be sedentary please know that you are putting yourself at a much higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome.  By increasing your level of exercise, you are not only boosting your metabolism, you are also increasing your immune system and decreasing stress levels.  Try to aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on at least five days of the week. Try to avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time – standing up or engaging in a little vigorous activity (running in place or going for a 1-2 minute walk) has more benefits than you can imagine.

Find something you like to do that keeps you moving.  Get some exercise DVDs that are geared toward gentle movement such as yoga. Try Pilates.  Get out and walk every day for 30 minutes. Ride a bicycle.  Go hiking with a friend.  If you don’t have a dog, borrow your neighbor’s dog (with their permission of course) and take it for a walk.  Try a rebounder (mini trampoline – great for the lymphatic system). Take a dance class.  But find something you like to do and become more active.  It will be one of the best things you ever do for yourself, I promise.

Stop Smoking

Smoking cigarettes actually increases insulin resistance and worsens the health consequences of metabolic syndrome. Please do find a way to stop and if you need help, get help. See a therapist who does hypnosis, see your doctor for a nicotine patch, but please stop smoking.

Supplements That Make A Difference

Chromium – a mineral required by the body to metabolize sugars and fats. In its absence, cells can become insensitive to insulin but with it, insulin becomes much more efficient at converting glucose to energy for the cells.  It most likely will not help you if your pancreas has ceased to manufacture insulin and it doesn’t appear to improve the efficiency of injected insulin but one study done with patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus demonstrated that the patients who took chromium enjoyed significantly reduced fasting glucose concentrations 6. The recommended dosage is 200 mcg of chromium per day.

Coenzyme Q10 – In addition to being protective for the heart and blood vessels, a brand new study indicates that 100 mg of CoQ10 supplementation for people with metabolic syndrome resulted in a significant reduction in serum insulin levels7.  CoQ10 also slows degeneration of brain and nerve cells and is associated with anti-aging.  Recommended dosage: 100 mg per day

Alpha Lipoic Acid – One Italian study examined postmenopausal women at high risk of developing breast cancer due to family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or personal history of ductal hyperplasia.  The women were asked to follow a low calorie diet and were given alpha lipoic acid combined with inositol (part of the B complex group of vitamins) and followed for 6 months.  It was discovered that compared to the placebo group, those taking the combination of alpha lipoic acid and inositol had lower triglycerides, increased insulin sensitivity, reduced blood insulin levels, increased HDL (the good) cholesterol, and less belly fat 8.  Recommended dosage: 500 mg alpha lipoic acid, 300 mg to 2000 mg inositol per day.

Pycnogenol (maritime pine bark extract) – A study reported in 2013 involving 64 people aged 45-55 years, all of whom had the five risk factors for metabolic syndrome, were given 150 mg daily of pycnogenol while another group of 66 people with the same risk profiles were used as controls.  Compared to the control group, those taking pycnogenol showed decreased waist circumference, lower triglycerides, lower blood pressure, decreased fasting glucose and plasma free radicals, and increased HDL cholesterol levels 9. Recommended Dosage: 150 mg daily

Vitamin D3 – We have long been told that people who are obese have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.  But a 2015 Spanish study found that people with low levels of vitamin D may have a  higher risk for type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, or metabolic syndrome, regardless of whether they were obese or thin 10.  Find out what your vitamin D levels are and if you are found to be low, supplementing with 5,000 iu of vitamin D3 daily just makes good sense.

Mind/Body Strategies

It is really important to take care of your stress levels in positive ways because when you are stressed, your body releases cortisol.  Some health gurus refer to cortisol as the “death” hormone because of its bad influence on the systems of the body.  Cortisol also encourages your body to store excess fat in the lower abdomen!

To handle stress more effectively than resorting to sugar, alcohol, tobacco, or television, try calming breathing exercises and meditation.  Meditation is easy to do, completely free and comes without side effects other than feelings of calm, peace, and serenity.  If you have tried meditation in the past and found it too difficult, or found your mind straying, you might like to try my how-to-meditate course.

Research shows that when you are stressed you are more likely to eat or drink or smoke something that is harmful to your health.  Meditation helps to calm your nervous system and helps you to get to sleep and to also get a deeper quality of REM sleep.  Did you know that missing just one night of sleep can induce insulin resistance?  11

Meditation does take a bit of practice but so does anything worth learning.  It only takes about three weeks to change a bad habit (like resorting to alcohol to manage stress) into a good one (like meditation).

Essential Oils That May Make A Difference

Essential oils may also be of assistance with easing the problems associated with metabolic syndrome.  At the very least, essential oils help relieve the stress that may raise blood glucose levels.  But recent research – so far done only on animals – shows that certain plant compounds in essential oils may also have an effect on lowering blood sugar.

Fennel essential oil – contains a compound known as trans-anethole and animal studies indicate trans anethole was found to be beneficial in cases of hyperglycemia by regulating key enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism. 12

Cinnamon bark essential oil – research done on mice with type II diabetes indicated cinnamon oil significantly decreased fasting blood glucose concentration. Also serum triglycerides were reduced, while HDL cholesterol levels were significantly increased and glucose tolerance was improved. 13

I would not recommend using essential oils on their own to combat metabolic syndrome but in combination with all of the strategies listed above, the research indicates essential oils could be beneficial.  I would only use them externally on the soles of the feet, as the feet have large pores and the oils can be easily absorbed there.

I suspect there are a good many more essential oils than what I have listed here, and as I locate them and find the research, I will add to this section.

References:

1. High serum carotenoids associated with lower risk for the metabolic syndrome and its components among Japanese subjects: Mikkabi cohort study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26365147

2.  Effect of Cinnamon Tea on Postprandial Glucose Concentration – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4516848/

3.  Capsaicin-containing chili improved postprandial hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, and fasting lipid disorders in women with gestational diabetes mellitus and lowered the incidence of large-for-gestational-age newborns – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25771490

4.  The metabolic effects of a commercially available chicken peri-peri (African bird’s eye chilli) meal in overweight individuals – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26360825

5.  The Effects of Green Tea Consumption and Resistance Training on Body Composition and Resting Metabolic Rate in Overweight or Obese Women – http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2012.0062

6.  Beneficial effects of oral chromium picolinate supplementation on glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomized clinical study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26302914

7.  The effects of coenzyme Q10 administration on glucose homeostasis parameters, lipid profiles, biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in patients with metabolic syndrome – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26385228

8.  Combination of inositol and alpha lipoic acid in metabolic syndrome-affected women: a randomized placebo-controlled trial – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3765513/

9.  Pycnogenol® supplementation improves health risk factors in subjects with metabolic syndrome – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23359520

10. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and adipose tissue vitamin D receptor gene expression: relationship with obesity and type 2 diabetes – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25706239

11. One sleepless night can induce insulin resistance in healthy people –
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100505091632.htm

12. Trans-anethole, a terpenoid ameliorates hyperglycemia by regulating key enzymes of carbohydrate metabolism in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25708856

13. Antidiabetic effects of cinnamon oil in diabetic KK-Ay mice – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20561948

Cut Down On Carbs to Reduce Body Fat – http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/07/08/cut-down-on-carbs-to-reduce-body-fat.aspx

Low Carbohydrate Recipes:
http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/collections/low+carb
http://www.atkins.com/recipes
http://authoritynutrition.com/101-healthy-low-carb-recipes/

Raw Food Recipes:
http://ohsheglows.com/categories/recipes-2/
http://rawfoodrecipes.com/
https://therawfoodkitchen.com.au/raw-food-recipes/
http://www.rawguru.com/raw-food-recipes/

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