Insulin is the only hormone produced in our bodies that can reduce blood sugar levels. It is produced in the beta cells of the pancreas. Diabetes mellitus is said to occur when these cells fail to produce sufficient amounts of insulin in the body or our bodies become resistant to insulin.
Resistance to insulin develops if one has pre-diabetes, has a family history of diabetes, or suffers from obesity. Over time, insulin resistance can affect the function of the pancreas leading to depletion in the crucial beta cells of the pancreas. This can in turn worsen the blood sugar control in our bodies.
Insulin sensitivity refers to the measure of the response of the cells to the effects of insulin. There are some natural ways to increase the sensitivity of the cells to insulin.
Ensure adequate rest for your body
You should ensure at least eight hours of sound sleep in order to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Lack of sleep can not only increase the chances of infections but can also increase the chances of heart diseases and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
In a study conducted to assess the effect of sleep on insulin sensitivity, it was concluded that amongst nine healthy volunteers, the ones who slept for less than four hours daily, developed insulin resistance. However, catching up on lost hours of sleep can effectively reverse the effects of poor sleep on our health.
Exercise helps to move glucose into the muscles to be stored as glycogen and helps to mitigate insulin resistance. A study which was conducted amongst men who were overweight but not diabetic has concluded that performing resistance training increases insulin density irrespective of weight loss. In fact, cycling for even an hour has a positive impact on our health.
Furthermore, combining aerobic and resistance training is the most effective method to reduce insulin resistance.
Stress stimulates the secretion of hormones like glucagon and steroids which in turn encourages the body to go into a ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ mode. These stress hormones break down glycogen to release glucose in the blood. An ongoing stressful event can cause the breakdown of nutrients and make the cells resistant to insulin. Exercise and meditation can help in coping with stress.
It has been priced that excess fat in the abdomen can increase the chances of developing insulin resistance as well as increase the risk of developing diabetes.
In a study conducted by John Hopkins University, it has been concluded that people who were pre-diabetic and lost 5-7% of total body weight, reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 54%.
Modifications to diet
- Include more fibre rich food items in your diet- Most of the benefits of fibres are derived from soluble fibres. Rich sources of soluble fibres are legumes, oats, flaxseeds, vegetables, and fruits. They not only reduce the cholesterol levels in the body but also increase insulin sensitivity.
- Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet- Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants cancel out the effects of free radicals produced in our body. Free radicals can also cause inflammation in our body .
- Reduce intake of carbohydrates- Food items rich in carbohydrates can cause spikes in blood sugar levels in blood. In order to bring the sugar levels to the normal range, pancreas releases more insulin in the body. However, food items containing low glycemic index like sweet potatoes, brown rice, and quinoa can be used to reduce the release of sugar into the blood.
- Avoid food items containing trans fats- Trans fats do not offer any health benefits rather increase the risk of developing heart disease. Fortunately, FDA has declared trans fat as unsafe to eat. As a result, all the food manufacturing units have reduced or eliminated the use of trans fats in their food products.
- Add herbs and spices to your diet- Herbs and spices not only enhance the taste of the food items but are also known for their medicinal properties. Fenugreek seeds contain a significant amount of soluble fibres. Turmeric is known for its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It reduces the release of fatty acids into the bloodstream. Garlic has anti-oxidant properties that can increase insulin sensitivity.
Add supplements to your diet
Chromium, magnesium, and resveratrol can increase insulin sensitivity.
If the above-mentioned methods are followed, insulin sensitivity can be increased multifold. However, it is advisable to consult a doctor before adding supplements to your diet as some of the supplements can interfere with the action of other medicines.