By Mark Hyman, M.D.
Are your hormones out of balance? Does your life feel like a song played badly out of tune? If so, the problem may have to do with imbalances in your hormones, which are wreaking havoc on your body and mind.
Today I want to focus on the most common — and therefore the most problematic — of hormonal problems in Americans today: too much insulin.
When you eat too much sugar, flour and white rice, your insulin levels spike. When this happens, your cells become resistant to its effects. So you pump out more and more insulin, become even more resistant to its effects, and end up in the vicious cycle of insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance can cause energy and mood swings — and it can take you down the slippery road toward high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, cancer, brain aging, dementia, and more.
Between 80 and 100 million Americans suffer from insulin resistance. It is not exactly the same in everyone, but the ultimate consequences can be similar.
How do you know if you suffer from insulin resistance?
Most people with insulin resistance have extra fat around the middle. (Quick Tip: Check your waist-to-hip ratio — the measurement around your belly button divided by the measurement around your hips. If it is greater than 0.8, you likely have insulin resistance.)
You may be tall, thin, short, fat, or any combination of these and still have insulin resistance. The only way to know for sure is to take an insulin response test, which measures blood sugar and insulin while you are fasting and one and two hours after you consume a 75-gram sugar drink. Just measuring blood sugar alone isn’t enough. You have to measure insulin — this is something that many doctors miss.
Fortunately, balancing blood sugar and correcting insulin resistance are well within our reach. Scientific advances of the last few decades show us how. While some medications can help with insulin resistance, such as Glucophage, Avandia and Actos, they have side effects and are only a Band-aid unless they are used along with a comprehensive nutrition, exercise and stress management plan like the one described below.
12 ways to reset your metabolism for optimal blood sugar
My goal is to make your metabolism more efficient, to make your cells more intelligent and cooperative, not resistant. In other words, you will need much less insulin to accomplish the task of balancing your blood sugar.
You can achieve this by resetting your metabolism of sugar and insulin. To do this, you have to eliminate the things that are knocking you out of balance and provide your body the things it needs to reestablish optimal balance and thrive.
Here’s what to do:
- Stop eating flour and sugar products, especially high-fructose corn syrup.
- Don’t drink liquid calories in juice and soda. Your body doesn’t feel full from them, so you eat more all day.
- Stop consuming all processed, junk, or packaged foods. If it doesn’t look like the food your great grandmother ate, stay away.
- Stop eating trans or hydrogenated fats.
- Slow the rate of sugar uptake from the gut by balancing your meals with healthy protein (nuts, seeds, beans, small wild fish, organic chicken), healthy carbs (vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains), and healthy fats (olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocados, fish oil).
- Eat plenty of soluble fiber (30 to 50 grams a day).
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
- Make your cells smarter by giving them an oil change with omega-3 fats, which help fix cell membranes so that they can more readily receive the messages from insulin.
- Move your body: Exercise improves your cells’ ability to work better, respond to insulin better, and burn sugar faster.
- Relax! Stress reduction also helps improve blood sugar control.
- Make your cells more efficient by increasing specific nutrients, such as chromium, vanadium, magnesium, vitamin E, biotin, the B vitamins, zinc, bioflavonoids, and some newer compounds including alpha lipoic acid, arginine and carnitine.
- Herbs may also be of benefit. These include Panax ginseng, ginkgo biloba, green tea, fenugreek, gymnema sylvestre, bitter melon and garlic.
Just balancing this one hormone — insulin — can have wide-ranging effects on all your other hormones and brain chemicals and is a great place to start on your path to vibrant health.
Just try these suggestions for one week and see how you feel — you may be shocked at how quickly your body can recover.
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, M.D.