What To Do For Insulin Resistance

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Wed Oct 25 2023.

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Insulin resistance is a common medical condition, affecting up to 40% of adults. It affects the way your body uses insulin –– a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar. If your body doesn’t use insulin as it should, your blood sugar levels can spike, increasing the risk of more serious health problems, like diabetes. Luckily, there’s plenty you can do to keep your blood sugar within the healthy range.

To learn more about what to do for insulin resistance, we reached out to Dr. Alex Foxman, MD, FACP, an internal medicine and family practice physician based in Beverly Hills, California. Below, Dr. Foxman explains how insulin resistance occurs and provides tips for preventing it from getting worse. 

What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It helps your body use glucose (blood sugar), which is the main source of fuel for your cells.

“Glucose comes from the food you eat, especially carbohydrates,” explains Dr. Foxman. “When you eat, your blood sugar rises and your pancreas releases insulin. Insulin acts like a key that unlocks the doors to your cells and allows glucose to enter. This lowers your blood sugar and provides energy for your cells.”

What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance is a condition that causes your cells to become less responsive to insulin. “This means that even though there is enough insulin in your blood, it can’t open the doors of your cells as easily,” says Dr. Foxman. “As a result, glucose builds up in your blood and your cells don’t get enough energy. This can lead to serious health problems, such as prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.”

What You’ll Need

Healthy lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of complications if you’ve been diagnosed with insulin resistance. Regularly visiting your healthcare provider, eating a nutritious diet, and exercising throughout the week can all make a difference. 

Consider buying a blood glucose monitor if you want to monitor your blood sugar levels at home. This portable device can help you track your progress and results. 

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What To Do For Insulin Resistance - A Step-By-Step Guide

Dr. Foxman says that there are several natural ways to increase your insulin sensitivity. Incorporating the following practices into your lifestyle can help your cells respond better to insulin and use glucose more efficiently. 

Step 1: Eat a Balanced Diet

Eating a nutritious diet is by far the easiest way to prevent insulin resistance. 

“Consume snacks and meals that are low in sugar, refined carbs, saturated fat, and salt,” Dr. Foxman says. “Instead, choose foods that are high in fiber, protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants.” 

Keep your pantry and refrigerator stocked with staples, including:

  • Fresh fruit

  • Fresh vegetables

  • Whole grains (e.g., quinoa, brown rice, and rolled oats)

  • Nuts

  • Seeds

  • Beans and lentils

  • Lean meats (e.g., chicken, fish, and turkey)

  • Eggs

  • Dairy

We sell quite a few of these items at Carewell. You can save time grocery shopping by adding prepackaged and canned items to your monthly autoship order. 

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Step 2: Make Exercise a Part of Your Routine

How often do you get up and move around? Routine physical activity is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. 

“Try and exercise for at least 30 minutes daily,” says Dr. Foxman. “This can help you with weight loss, lower your blood sugar, improve your blood flow, and reduce inflammation.” 

You don’t need to be an athlete or in the best shape of your life to benefit.

“You can do any physical activity that you enjoy,” explains Dr. Foxman. “That could be walking, jogging, biking, swimming, dancing, or playing sports.”

Visit your doctor first, if you have mobility issues or underlying health problems that make it difficult to stay active. They can refer you to a physical therapist or recommend easy exercises that align with your current fitness level.

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Step 3: Reduce Stress with Relaxation Techniques

“Stress can raise your blood sugar and make insulin resistance worse,” Dr. Foxman explains. “By calming your mind and body, you can lower your cortisol levels and improve your insulin sensitivity.”

Stress is a common side effect of many health problems, but there are things you can do to prevent it from getting worse. “Manage your stress levels by practicing relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, or massage,” says Dr. Foxman. 

Some of the things we’ve already mentioned can also help, like eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Both of these activities release endorphins, which are brain chemicals that provide energy and make you feel more alert. 

Step 4: Get Plenty of Sleep

Sleep deprivation makes you feel grouchy and forgetful. But it can also affect your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. 

“Try to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation disrupts your hormones and makes you crave more sugar and carbs,” Dr. Foxman says. “It can also impair your metabolism and immune system. By getting enough rest, you can regulate your blood sugar and prevent insulin resistance.”

Make your bedroom more conducive for sleep if you suffer from insomnia. Dr. Foxman recommends:

  • Turning off all electronics an hour or two before bed

  • Keeping your home at a comfortable temperature

  • Not drinking anything at least two hours before bed

  • Avoiding sugary snacks, like candy, that will keep you up at night

Step 5: Quit Using Tobacco

Tobacco products like cigarettes and cigars damage your lungs and heart. But they can also affect how your body uses insulin.

Nicotine, in particular, makes your cells less responsive to insulin, causing your blood sugar to spike. Certain chemicals in tobacco products can also damage your cells, keeping them from using insulin effectively. 

Step 6: Cut Back on Alcohol and Sugary Drinks

“Drinking too much alcohol or sugary drinks is one of the leading causes of insulin resistance,” explains Dr. Foxman. “These beverages spike your blood sugar and overload your liver with fructose. They can also cause dehydration and inflammation in your body and impair your judgment, making you eat more unhealthy foods.” 

Try replacing your favorite soda or alcoholic beverage with iced herbal tea or sparkling water. These drinks contain very few calories. They also provide a splash of flavor if you find tapwater boring or don’t like the taste.

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Step 7: Don’t Skip Meals; Stick to a Schedule

Do you eat on a schedule or only when hunger strikes? Fasting throughout the day might not seem like a big deal, but if you have high blood sugar, it can make insulin resistance worse. 

“Don’t skip meals or eat irregularly,” says Dr. Foxman. “This can cause your blood sugar to fluctuate and make it harder for your body to balance glucose and insulin levels. It can also lead to overeating or binge eating later in the day.” 

Everyone has different needs, but as a general rule, it’s good to eat breakfast by 9 a.m., lunch by 12 p.m., and dinner at least four hours before going to bed. Your doctor or a registered dietitian can make personalized recommendations. 

Step 8: Understand How Certain Medications Affect Blood Sugar

Some prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications increase the risk of insulin sensitivity.

“These include steroids, birth control pills, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and some diuretics,” explains Dr. Foxman. “If you are taking any of these drugs, talk to your doctor about how they may affect your insulin resistance and if there are any alternatives.” 

Attend each of your loved one’s checkups if you’re a family caregiver. That way, you can better understand their medications and how they affect your loved one’s health and well-being. 

What To Do For Insulin Resistance - Commonly Asked Questions

1) What are the symptoms of insulin resistance?

Dr. Foxman says that insulin resistance presents various symptoms, including:

  • Feeling tired or hungry all the time

  • Having trouble concentrating or remembering things

  • Having frequent infections or slow-healing wounds

  • Having dark patches of skin on your neck, armpits, or groin

  • Having high blood pressure or high cholesterol

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any of these issues. They can order several tests to confirm a diagnosis.

2) How is insulin resistance diagnosed?

There are several tests used to diagnose insulin resistance, including:

Fasting blood glucose test

“This test measures how much glucose is in your blood after fasting for at least eight hours,” explains Dr. Foxman. “A normal range is between 70 and 100 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter of blood). A higher level may indicate prediabetes or diabetes.”

Hemoblogin A1C test

“This test measures how much glucose is attached to your red blood cells over the past two to three months,” Dr. Foxman says. “A normal range is below 5.7%. A higher level may indicate prediabetes or diabetes.”

Oral glucose tolerance test

“This test measures how well your body handles a large amount of glucose after drinking a sugary solution. A normal range is below 140 mg/dL two hours after drinking the solution. A higher level may indicate prediabetes or diabetes,” says Dr. Foxman.

Insulin test

“This test measures how much insulin is in your blood after fasting for at least eight hours,” explains Dr. Foxman. “A normal range is between two and 20 mIU/L (milliunits per liter of blood). Higher levels may indicate insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.” 

3) Can insulin resistance be reversed?

Learning that you’re insulin resistant can be worrisome, but it doesn’t mean you’re destined to develop prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

By following the steps on this list, you can keep your blood sugar from spiking and reduce the risk of long-term complications. Visit your doctor regularly, monitor your blood sugar daily, and live a healthy, active lifestyle. 

Need Help Managing Your Blood Sugar? Get In Touch!

Preventing insulin resistance can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible. With the right foods in your pantry and a commitment to healthy living, you can make lasting progress. 

Whether you have high blood sugar yourself or care for a loved one who does, our Care Specialists can make your life easier. They’re available 24/7 and regularly assist customers by recommending products and answering questions. Get in touch today! Call (800) 696-CARE or send an email to support@carewell.com.

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.