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Using Food As Medicine To Reverse Insulin Resistance

As someone who’s poured through research and worked with hundreds of weight loss clients over the years, I can tell you insulin resistance and poor insulin sensitivity in general is at the root of weight problems. Far too often all the attention is placed on calories and not the hormonal balances within the body that regulate fat burning and fat storage.

Granted calories do play a role, but if losing weight was as simple as eating less and exercising more, weight problems could be solved with 1000 calorie diets of donuts and daily cardio sessions. I know this sounds ridiculous but a lot of people have this faulty belief that calories are the only thing that matters.

If you’ve read any of my writings you probably know I’m big on addressing weight loss from an “inside-out” approach. Heal the body with supportive nutrition and exercise as a way to put things back in balance.

I guess you could call it more of a holistic approach to weight loss. Obviously, this way isn’t sexy, hip, and won’t make many magazine covers. We love the quick-fixes even though time and time again they back-fire in the long run.

For those who are tired of going up and down like a yo-yo with their weight, a holistic approach with healing the body becomes much more appealing.

Make no mistake, insulin resistance and poor insulin sensitivity is at the core of hormonal imbalances which promote fat storage.

Here’s a quick refresher course.

Your body secretes the hormone insulin from your pancreas in response to elevated blood sugar levels. In short, when you consume more carbohydrate (from simple or complex carbs) than your body needs for energy production, the excess must be dealt with.

What’s the problem with having too much sugar floating around in your bloodstream? A lot of people don’t fully understand this but let me simplify it for you. Blood as you probably know is mostly made up of water. When sugar levels increase in the blood it thickens.

Think along the lines of maple syrup (which is mostly sugar and water). If your heart was forced to pump blood the constitution of maple syrup, it’s easy to see how the increased pressure could make it work overtime and cause problems.

Your body secretes insulin to do you a favor. It’s actually helping you by taking the excess blood sugar and transporting it to somewhere it can be stored. Insulin serves as sort of a transporter, think of it as being a truck and the blood sugar being the load.

It goes to your liver first and sees if it can dump the sugar there. If the liver is full, it goes to your muscle cells next. Once the liver and muscle cells have all the sugar they can handle, the excess comes back to the liver to be “dealt with.”

This is where we get into the production of triglycerides and the storage of body fat. It’s the last resort for dumping sugar. Unlike protein, the excess can’t be excreted, it has to converted and stored somewhere or used for energy.

Over time with a poor diet or a diet that is high in carbohydrates, the body finds itself regularly secreting insulin. What happens is the cells start to down-regulate and the receptors begin shutting down to insulin. Hence, the concept of poor insulin sensitivity and the later progressed state of insulin resistance.

With insulin resistance, the cell receptors have shut down to insulin and the body literally becomes flooded with excess blood sugar and insulin. With insulin not doing its job, the pancreas responds by sending out more insulin. It’s a vicious cycle and one that leads to several other imbalances in the endocrine system.

One imbalance that doesn’t nearly get discussed enough is with the adrenal glands.

Understand that when your body is regularly flooded with insulin and blood glucose, it senses this as physiological stress. The adrenal glands produce cortisol as a “stress response” to deal with the resulting inflammation and compromised immune system.

Once again, cortisol is just doing its job and trying to help. The problem is over time the adrenal glands will get weak and fatigued from having to work overtime themselves. Like a domino effect, this can trigger a series of hormonal imbalances with everything from sex hormones to thyroid hormone production.

The important thing to understand here is that everything is connected. Your body is an amazingly complex machine with all the systems working together synergistically. Nothing works as an “isolated” part or component without effecting something else.

So where does all this lead us on the subject of weight loss?

My position has long been one where the individual should look to regenerate and detoxify the organs, glands, and cells of the body as a way to let it heal itself.

The diet should be “supportive” in nature, which in essence means it supports the detoxification and regeneration of organs and glands. Obviously, processed and refined foods, sodas, and things with little to no nutritional value should be avoided.

But the process of true “healing” must extend beyond the scope of calories. In this arena, the quality of calories matters just as much, if not more, than the quantity of calories.

In essence, you need to look at everything you eat or drink as having a “drug like” impact on your body because that’s the truth. With the exception of water, just about everything you consume will have an impact on hormonal balances in some way.

When you begin looking at food as medicine it can change your whole perspective on weight loss. You’re fixing the problems at the root core and not just tricking your body into releasing fat. There are countless diets out there which will do that. But until you fix the internal imbalances you’ll be right back where you started from in a matter of time.

So what foods are the “best medicine” for reversing insulin resistance?

It will be foods that help to heal and regenerate the compromised and weak digestive tract, adrenals, pancreas, liver, and other organs and glands.

The optimal choices will be ones that contain the simplest and easiest to assimilate nutrients along with anti0xidants, phytonutrients, and intact digestive enzymes.

No surprises but this list will include fruits and vegetables at the top of the order. Why? Because they contain the simplest forms of energy for your body to use along with all the healing power of antioxidants, phytonutrients, and digestive enzymes.

You want to minimize foods that are harder to digest and sap energy from cellular function in the process. This includes heavy proteins like red meats, think eggs, poultry, fish, whey protein, etc, instead. Also included are excess complex carbohydrates in the form of starches. Remember, you’ve got to address the insulin sensitivity problem so the last thing you want is a bunch of sugar in your diet.

This is one of the reasons I’m so big on a Primal Blueprint type diet. By consuming lean proteins, greens, vegetables, nuts, seeds, moderate fruits, and healthy fats, you’ll be providing your body with all the nutrients and energy it needs for function and healing.

The concept of using fruits and vegetables as in essence medicine to heal weak and compromised adrenals is not new but it just doesn’t get enough discussion. Naturopathic doctors like Robert Morse, MD, and others have been using raw fruits and vegetables to heal patients suffering from everything from adrenal fatigue, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses for years.

I’ll say this…while I’m definitely more of a Primal Blueprint type diet follower from a lifestyle perspective (and yes I still eat occasional dairy products and starches), if I was suffering from a chronic illness or not well in general, I’d definitely go with more raw fruits and vegetables.

This is not a blanket endorsement of a raw vegan type diet. As I’ve just stated I’ve found animal proteins to definitely fill a niche in my diet and I think moderation is the key component anyways. But when we’re talking about what foods best help put the body in an alkaline state and promote regeneration and detoxification, fruits and vegetables top the list.

If you’re suffering from low insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance (like with being pre-diabetic or diabetic), you’ll do well by removing a lot of excess starches from your diet. Your body just doesn’t need the excess sugar from starches. I know this goes contrary to a lot of the mainstream medical community advice with “eating more whole grains and going low-fat” with your diet.

All I’ll say to that is how well does this advice seem to be working? Obesity and type II diabetes are at all time highs reaching epidemic levels in our society. I don’t believe in pharmaceutical medications and the standard USDA food pyramid as holding the answer to our health problems.

This isn’t to say medications don’t serve a purpose, but we’re getting too far away from the basics of what promotes human health. There’s a pill for this and a pill for that, and all we’re doing is patching holes instead instead of repaving the road.

As a Charleston personal trainer, I try and teach my clients that a diet of whole natural foods, regular exercise, management of stress, and adequate sleep are the cornerstones of health. We need not over-complicate matters with diet and nutrition.

As a general rule, if God made it, eat it, if He didn’t you’d be best served leaving it alone or consuming it in moderation. That’s about as simple as you can get. Give your body the energy and nutrients it needs for optimal function. When you start looking at food as fuel and not something to overcome boredom, deal with stress, etc, it can be a game changer.

I wish you nothing but the best with your health and a body that helps you live life to the fullest doing whatever it is you enjoy doing. If I can help you regain your health or simply get back on track with your exercise routines, I’m always at your service.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. If you’re looking for a Charleston fitness center sign up for a FREE no-obligations consultation and experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself today.

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Category: Hormones & Health.