Dr Julie Durnan

Insulin Resistance: It’s Not So Sweet

Vintage CupcakesWhen most people think of the type of foods that can cause high cholesterol, heart disease, and obesity, they often think of one word:  fat.

But current research shows the type of food most likely to contribute to the epidemic of obesity and its related conditions, is actually the sweet stuff.

That’s right – sugar and refined carbohydrates are to blame. 

What Is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin helps transfer glucose into our cells for energy production.  Insulin resistance (also called Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X) is when the body’s cells no longer respond to insulin as they should. The late stage of this disease is Type 2 Diabetes, but damage to our cells starts long before Diabetes shows up.

The good news is that with some help, you can reverse this condition.

Watch for Signs

Hypoglycemia (drops in blood sugar, dizziness, shakiness, hunger), high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, and abdominal weight gain are all signs that you might be insulin resistant. If you have one or more of these signs and symptoms, please do get checked out.

For some it will only take a few small adjustments. For others, a greater effort may be required.

But it’s important to remember that this isn’t a life sentence and this state of health is reversible.

Signs that you might have insulin resistance:

  • Obesity – especially around the midsection
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated insulin, high triglycerides, low HDL (on blood test)
  • Increased inflammation, excess blood clotting
  • Susceptibility to heart disease and stroke
  • History of gestational diabetes

Symptoms that you might experience if you have insulin resistance:

  • Inability to lose weight
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood sugar before meals – mood swings, shakiness, nervousness, dizziness, irritability, or confusion

What to Eat?

Depending on your level of health and the quality of your current diet, often a diet low in refined carbohydrates is the first line of therapy.  Some doctors will even recommend a complete avoidance of grains for some individuals.  In addition, a good source of omega 3 (ground flax seeds and hemp hearts are best if you are avoiding fish) and GLA (gamma linolenic acid, such as borage oil or black currant seed oil) containing foods are recommended.   And finally-thirty minutes of a cardiovascular workout, five times per week is a minimum requirement. Yes, you read that right. And trust me, it works!

What to Do?

While a change in diet is most important, many people will also need a higher dose of a few herbs and nutrients to jumpstart their metabolism and to reverse insulin resistance.  Many herbal treatments options exist that have plenty of excellent research to support their use. Ask your primary health care provider if the any of the following botanical medicines may be right for you:

  • Gymnema sylvestre (gymnema) – Reduces the body’s insulin requirements and fasting blood glucose.  May also help to regenerate the beta cells of the pancreas (cells that secrete insulin).
  • Coleus forskohlii (coleus) –Reduces body fat, lowers blood pressure, increases thyroid function, relaxes blood vessels.
  • Trigonella Foenum-graecum (fenugreek) – Reduces fasting blood sugar and improves sensitivity to insulin, reduces cholesterol and triglycerides.

Keeping your insulin levels in check will help to prevent many chronic illnesses and may actually increase your lifespan.  Talk to your Naturopathic Physician about whether sugar may be causing your symptoms.

Getting on a preventive program now can help you to enjoy optimal wellness and an active lifestyle for years to come.

In the comments section below, please let me know what you think about sugar and its effects on health!





  1. Tara says:

    Thank you, thank you!!! Loved this article!

  2. Dr Julie says:

    Thank you for letting me know, Tara! I’m thrilled you found it helpful.

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