by Dr. Anna Garrett
03 Dec 2015
Why Blood Sugar Balance Matters if Weight Loss is Your Goal
Many midlife weight problems can be tied directly to insulin resistance. This imbalance is underappreciated as a player in midlife weight gain, but understanding it is critical for weight management and preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes.
Insulin is a hormone that’s produced by your pancreas when you eat. It helps break down carbohydrates into glucose. Glucose is used by your cells for energy. When all is going well, your body produces an amount of insulin that matches the amount of glucose present in your body…..the more glucose…. the more insulin. This keeps your blood sugar in the sweet spot…not too high and not too low.
When you eat a large amount of carbohydrates, the body has to release lots of insulin to make sure your blood sugar doesn’t get out of control. Eventually, the receptors in your cells become less sensitive to having insulin around and they stop responding. That’s called insulin resistance.
Here’s how this process contributes to weight gain. When your cells can’t absorb all the glucose, your liver converts it to fat. All those extra fat cells crank out estrogen. Weight gain contributes to the estrogen dominance that causes so many of the symptoms of perimenopause. In addition, fluctuations in adrenal and thyroid hormones contribute to insulin resistance.
How do I Know if I’m Insulin Resistant?
You are at highest risk for developing insulin resistance if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes or if you’ve had gestational diabetes, high blood pressure or are overweight.
Apple-shaped women who carry their fat round their middle of their bodies are more prone to insulin resistance as are women with abnormal cholesterol readings. And they’re at higher risk of heart disease, which is the number one killer of menopausal women.
If you have a skin change called acanthosis nigricans (darkened patches of skin on the neck or armpits), chances are you have insulin resistance. Ninety percent of women who have this also have insulin resistance.
If you believe you are at risk, talk with your health care provider. Your blood sugar and insulin levels can be tested to give you more info.
How to Eat and Move to Control Blood Sugar Swings
Eating and exercise habits play a major role in preventing insulin resistance (or improving it if you’ve got it). Tweet: Eating habits consist of not only what you eat, but how you eat and when you eat. These practices can help keep blood sugar on an even keel:
- Eat regular meals. Have healthy snacks that contain protein and fiber in between meals.
- Avoid large quantities of food at meal times. Learn to pay attention to your body’s signals and put your fork down when you’re 80% full.
- Avoid “white” foods like bread, sugar and pasta.
- Make lean meats, veggies and high-fiber grains the mainstay of your diet. If you’re already insulin resistant, eat no more than 15 grams of carbohydrates (from veggies and fruit) per meal. My personal bias is toward a Paleo approach to eating although this may not be right for everyone.
- Do at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise or aerobic physical activity every day. Do weight training at least twice a week.
- Increase the general level of physical activity in your life.
The Bottom Line
Insulin doesn’t get as much attention as the other hormones in menopause, but it’s key to maintaining metabolism. If your metabolism goes off the rails, everything else goes with it. The good news is that with careful attention to lifestyle, insulin resistance can be reversed… allowing all of your hormones to do their jobs so you can maintain a healthy weight and decrease your risk of heart disease.
About Dr. Anna
Dr. Anna Garrett is a pharmacist and menopause expert who helps women who are struggling with symptoms of perimenopause and menopause find natural hormone balancing solutions so they can rock their mojo through midlife and beyond. But her clients would tell you that her real gift is helping them reclaim pieces of themselves they thought were gone forever.
Dr. Anna offers a complimentary 30-minute Get Acquainted Call to anyone who’d like to learn more about working 1-1 with her. You can schedule that at your convenience by clicking here.
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