Menopause brings big changes in women’s lives – hormonal, physical, emotional and mental fitness – none of it easy!.
But a real problem is insulin resistance.
The Hormonal Players
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and is key in glucose management.
When blood sugar rises after a meal, the pancreas releases insulin to support the absorption of glucose into the cells. The liver then converts it into glycogen and stores it for future needs.
The level of insulin circulating in the body is usually low. When levels rise, the result is increased blood sugar. High levels of insulin in your blood cause bloating, fatigue and sugar cravings and make the task of losing weight nearly impossible.
What Causes Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance occurs when insulin can’t effectively do its job. When blood sugar levels are high, the signal goes out to the pancreas to start releasing insulin, but the insulin cannot be used properly by the body.
There are some risk factors for insulin resistance:
- Excess refined carbohydrate in your diet
- Family history of diabetes as well as gestational diabetes
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High BMI (higher than 29)
- Medications (antidepressants and steroids)
- Apple shaped body (around your middle)
How to determine if you have insulin resistance:
Take a fasting insulin test.
Your fasting insulin test reflects how healthy your blood glucose levels are over time.
Fast for 12 hours for the test. After a blood draw, you will eat a meal and get your blood tested again after two hours.
Fasting levels of blood glucose should be under 100mg/dL. If your levels are slightly elevated (between 100 – 125mg/d), you are considered pre -diabetic and are insulin resistant.
Check your cholesterol levels.
Elevated fasting insulin levels coupled with abnormal blood cholesterol, may be a sign that you have insulin resistance.
Calculate your waist to hip ratio.
Measure your waist and the widest part of your hip. Divide the hip measurement by the waist measurement.
The ratio for a healthy woman should not be higher than 0.8. Values above this number indicate a risk for insulin resistance.
Check your skin.
Some people with insulin resistance may develop a skin condition known as acanthosis nigricans. This condition creates dark patches on the neck, knees, elbows and armpits and is an indicator of an accumulation of insulin within skin cells.
Check your triglycerides levels.
If you have a low HDL paired with high triglycerides, as well as high blood pressure, chances are insulin resistance is present.
The Good News – Insulin resistance can be reversed
The imbalance in insulin and glucose levels can be controlled and even reversed by changing diet and lifestyle habits.
Tips for controlling imbalances to restore health:
1. Eat a low carb, low to moderate protein and high fat diet.
Reduce carbohydrates to reduce insulin output.
Eliminate all refined carbs like white bread and pasta, as well as alcohol and sugary foods and beverages.
2. Start an exercise routine
A sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for many health issues. Start by building up a daily walking routine with the goal of increasing higher intensity.
Resistance (weight) training should be incorporated to help increase muscle mass – this helps with fat burning. Exercise 3-5 times weekly for 30 minutes to assist with metabolic regulation.
3. Stop smoking
Studies implicate smoking in the development of insulin resistance.
4. Make sure you get enough rest – regulate your sleep.
Did you know that there are studies showing that only one night of sleep deprivation can cause as much as a 33% increase in insulin resistance?
Levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, increase with sleep reduction. A good night’s rest is critical during peri menopause and over well-being for everyone.
5. Reduce stress
Increased levels of stress produce an increase in cortisol, the “flight or fight” hormone.
Elevated levels of cortisol can lead to blood sugar imbalances and are implicated in diabetes and weight gain.
Find ways to reduce stress in your life by going for walks in nature, reading, spending time with good friends or family, meditating or starting a mindfulness practice, practicing yoga, painting or even coloring in mandala books.
6. Practice mindfulness when eating
Be aware of what you are eating, chew food more, and take the time to enjoy your meal. If you can, eat with family and friends. The social aspect of food and meals is very important. And if you ditch the TV while eating, you’ll be less likely to over eat.
7. Try intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a popular and effective way to reduce insulin resistance and lose weight.
It involves cycles of fasting and eating.
Stop eating at 7pm and don’t eat anything until 7am.
This 12-hour period of fasting helps your body to lower insulin levels.
Ideally, one should fast a few days every week as part of a healthy lifestyle.