by T'Keyah Royal
Women’s Health Expert
Maintaining good health and managing weight can sometimes feel like an uphill battle, especially for those diagnosed with insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and those experiencing perimenopause, menopause, and difficulty conceiving. In this blog post, we will delve into the world of insulin resistance, explore its impact on weight gain, and provide effective strategies to improve insulin sensitivity and promote healthy weight loss.
Understanding Insulin Resistance
Insulin is the hormone that regulates our blood sugar and helps the body utilise sugar for energy. Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells become less responsive to the hormone insulin, leading to elevated levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Insulin plays a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels by facilitating the transport of glucose into cells for energy production. When cells develop resistance to insulin, glucose remains in the bloodstream, resulting in higher insulin production and potential long-term health complications. 
The Link between Insulin Resistance and Weight Gain
Insulin resistance and weight gain often go hand in hand, forming a vicious cycle that can be challenging to break. When insulin levels remain elevated, the body stores excess glucose as fat instead of utilising it for energy. This leads to weight gain, especially around the belly, which further contributes to insulin resistance. Additionally, elevated insulin levels hinder the breakdown of stored fat, making weight loss more difficult. I repeat: it’s a vicious cycle. 
Unravelling the Causes of Insulin Resistance
Various factors contribute to the development of insulin resistance, including genetics, sedentary lifestyle, poor dietary choices, lack of good quality sleep, chronic stress, and hormonal imbalances. Understanding these factors can lead to more informed choices and the ability to adopt a comprehensive approach to address insulin resistance and its associated conditions.
The goal is to improve insulin sensitivity to allow your cells to efficiently respond to insulin signals. Dietary and lifestyle changes can be an effective method for improving insulin sensitivity. So too can specific nutritional and herbal medicines which have been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity and promote healthy weight.
The main driver of insulin resistance is sugar. One of the best things you can do to support insulin sensitivity is to avoid all processed sugars. These are found in processed foods, take-away and deep-fried foods, biscuits, cakes, lollies, the like. The other thing to know is that carbohydrates break down into sugar.
Do not misinterpret this though–we do not want to avoid all carbohydrates; it’s one of the worst things you can do for your hormones. What we do want to do is slow down the release of carbohydrates and sugar after consuming a meal. This helps your insulin keep up with the demand of the sugar that enters your bloodstream while also re-sensitising the cells to insulin. So how do we do this? By adding a serve of protein and healthy fats with each meal. Think: nuts, seeds, meat, chicken, seafood, eggs, chia seeds, flaxseeds, avocados. For example, if you have oats for breakfast, top it with 1-2 tbsp nut butter as a source of protein and healthy fat. This will help stabilise your blood sugar levels to support insulin sensitivity. [2-3]
Aside from minimising processed sugar and adding in protein and healthy fat into your meals, another tip is to enjoy fibre–found in fruits and vegetables. Fibre is a macronutrient that comes from indigestible plant foods and plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal digestive health by promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. Did you know that consuming adequate daily fibre (25-30g daily) is linked to better overall health and reduced risk of more than 70 chronic diseases such as diabetes and bowel disease. Fun fact: fibre intake can also help to improve premenstrual and perimenopause symptoms by inhibiting reabsorption of oestrogen in the digestive tract.
Regular exercise is crucial in improving insulin sensitivity. But moving our bodies, our muscles can increase the use of glucose thereby lowering levels in the blood. A combination of cardiovascular workouts (running, walking, cycling, rowing, swimming, hiking), strength training (using weights, resistance bands, body weight activities), and activities like yoga or Pilates can help regulate blood sugar levels, improve metabolic health, and promote healthy weight loss. When determining the right type of exercise for you–do what you actually enjoy and what feels good afterwards. For some that might be a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout; for others it may be a fast-paced walk on the beach with a friend.
It’s important to enjoy exercise as it needs to be a part of your weekly, if not daily, routine. Consistency is key, particularly when it comes to insulin resistance and weight loss. 
It is well known that chronic, unmanaged stress can disrupt hormonal balance and contribute to insulin resistance. The first step when trying to manage stress is to find out exactly where it is coming from–are you stressed because you’re not enjoying work? Or are unhappy in your relationship? Or feel unsupported as a parent? Or perhaps experiencing financial hardship? Get clear on where the stress is coming from and make a decision where you can to relieve stress. This step may be hard: you may need to quit your job. Or end a relationship. But doing so is crucial in supporting your own health and wellbeing.
The second step in managing stress is to incorporate stress-reducing practices into your weekly routine. I’m talking–meditation, deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, adequate sleep, taking a lot hot bath, or sauna, or getting a massage, or spending time with loved ones, starting a hobby like gardening, exercising regularly, taking appropriate supplements and herbal medicines to support your stress response, the list goes on. By supporting the body’s ability to regulate glucose and energy expenditure, we can improve insulin sensitivity. [3, 5]
Herbal and Nutritional Medicine
Certain herbs and supplements have been shown to support insulin sensitivity. A great sudy from found that berberine-containing herbs can be more effective than the commonly-prescribed drug Metformin in managing insulin resistance. The use of other complementary medicines such as magnesium and myo-inositol, in the correct form and dose, can further support insulin sensitivity and support healthy weight loss. Please ensure you seek specialised guidance from one of our Naturopaths before starting any supplements–to ensure you are taking appropriate medicines for your unique situation and that which will be therapeutic. [6-11]
Special Considerations for PCOS, Menopause, and Type 2 Diabetes
Insulin resistance often accompanies conditions such as PCOS, menopause, and type 2 diabetes. These conditions can pose additional challenges for weight management, but with tailored strategies, significant improvements can be achieved:
Insulin resistance PCOS
Women with insulin resistant PCOS often struggle with weight, hormonal imbalances, and insulin resistance. The problem is that too much insulin can disrupt ovulation and cause the ovaries to make testosterone instead of oestrogen which further drives insulin resistance. The good news is that with the aforementioned strategies and a comprehensive approach to your individual needs, we can help manage PCOS symptoms, improve insulin sensitivity, support healthy weight loss, and optimise ovulation and fertility. [12-13]
As we know, perimenopause and menopause cause changes in hormonal production, function, and can result in metabolic changes such as insulin resistance and weight gain. As oestrogen levels fluctuate and ultimately reduce, this can lead to poor insulin sensitivity and more fat storage. Menopausal weight gain can be attributed to hormonal changes, decreased muscle mass, and lifestyle factors. Adopting strategies such as strength training, maintaining a balanced diet, managing stress, and incorporating specific herbal and nutritional supplementation can not only support healthy weight management but also improve other symptoms such as hot flushes, insomnia, anxiety, and mood problems. 
Type 2 Diabetes
If left unmanaged, insulin resistance can lead to prediabetes and then the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. This increases the risk of other chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. Managing blood sugar levels through a combination of dietary changes, regular exercise, stress reduction, and appropriate supplementation can improve insulin sensitivity, support weight loss, and minimise long term complications associated with diabetes. 
results lay in the small steps. Working with our team towards enhancing your nutrition and lifestyle and yield significant results. All you have to do is make a commitment to your health.
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by T'keyah Royal
Women’s Health Expert