Insulin is an essential hormone that controls your blood sugar levels.
It’s made in your pancreas and helps move sugar from your blood into your cells for storage. When cells are insulin resistant, they can’t use insulin effectively, leaving your blood sugar high.
When your pancreas senses high blood sugar, it makes more insulin to overcome the resistance and reduce your blood sugar.
Over time, this can deplete the pancreas of insulin-producing cells, which is common in type 2 diabetes. Also, prolonged high blood sugar can damage nerves and organs.
You’re most at risk of insulin resistance if you have prediabetes or a family history of type 2 diabetes, as well as if you are overweight or obese.
Insulin sensitivity refers to how responsive your cells are to insulin. Improving it can help you reduce insulin resistance and the risk of many diseases, including diabetes.
Here are 12 natural, science-backed ways to boost your insulin sensitivity.
1. Get More Sleep.
A good night’s sleep is important for your health.
In contrast, a lack of sleep can be harmful and increase your risk of infections, heart disease and type 2 diabetes .Several studies have also linked poor sleep to reduced insulin sensitivity.
For example, one study in nine healthy volunteers found that getting just four hours of sleep in one night reduced insulin sensitivity and the ability to regulate blood sugar, compared to getting eight and a half hours of sleep .
Fortunately, catching up on lost sleep can reverse the effects of poor sleep on insulin resistance.
2. Exercise More.
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to increase insulin sensitivity.
It helps move sugar into the muscles for storage and promotes an immediate increase in insulin sensitivity, which lasts 2–48 hours, depending on the exercise .
For example, one study found that 60 minutes of cycling on a machine at a moderate pace increased insulin sensitivity for 48 hours among healthy volunteers .
Resistance training also helps increase insulin sensitivity.Many studies have found it increased insulin sensitivity among men and women with or without diabetes .
For example, a study of overweight men with and without diabetes found that when participants performed resistance training over a three-month period, their insulin sensitivity increased, independent of other factors like weight loss .
While both aerobic and resistance training increase insulin sensitivity, combining both in your routine appears to be most effective.
3. Reduce Stress.
Stress affects your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.It encourages the body to go into “fight-or-flight” mode, which stimulates the production of stress hormones like cortisol and glucagon.
These hormones break down glycogen, a form of stored sugar, into glucose, which enters your bloodstream for your body to use as a quick source of energy.
Unfortunately, ongoing stress keeps your stress hormone levels high, stimulating nutrient breakdown and increasing blood sugar .
Stress hormones also make the body more insulin resistant. This prevents nutrients from being stored and makes them more available in the bloodstream to be used for energy .
In fact, many studies have found that high levels of stress hormones reduce insulin sensitivity .This process may have been useful for our ancestors, who needed extra energy to perform life-sustaining activities. However, for people today who are under chronic stress, reduced insulin sensitivity can be harmful.
Activities like meditation, exercise and sleep are great ways to help increase insulin sensitivity by reducing stress.
4. Lose a Few Pounds.
Excess weight, especially in the belly area, reduces insulin sensitivity and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Belly fat can do this in many ways, such as making hormones that promote insulin resistance in the muscles and liver.
Many studies support the link between higher amounts of belly fat and lower insulin sensitivity .
Fortunately, losing weight is an effective way to lose belly fat and increase insulin sensitivity. It may also reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes if you have prediabetes.
For example, a study at Johns Hopkins University found that people with prediabetes who lost 5–7% of their total weight over six months reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by 54% for the next three years .
Luckily, there are many ways to lose weight through diet, exercise and lifestyle changes.
5. Eat More Soluble Fiber.
Fiber can be divided into two broad categories — soluble and insoluble.
Insoluble fiber mostly acts as a bulking agent to help stool move through the bowels.
Meanwhile, soluble fiber is responsible for many of fiber’s associated benefits, like lowering cholesterol and reducing appetite .Several studies have found a link between high soluble fiber intake and increased insulin sensitivity .
For example, a study in 264 women found that those who ate more soluble fiber had significantly lower levels of insulin resistance .Soluble fiber also helps feed the friendly bacteria in your gut, which have been linked to increased insulin sensitivity .
Foods that are rich in soluble fiber include legumes, oatmeal, flaxseeds, vegetables like Brussels sprouts and fruits like oranges.
6. Add More Colorful Fruit and Vegetables to Your Diet.
Not only are fruits and vegetables nutritious, they also provide powerful health-boosting effects.
In particular, colorful fruits and vegetables are rich in plant compounds that have antioxidant properties .
Antioxidants bind to and neutralize molecules called free radicals, which can cause harmful inflammation throughout the body .
Many studies have found that eating a diet rich in plant compounds is linked to higher insulin sensitivity .
When you’re including fruit in your diet, stick to normal portion sizes and limit your intake to two pieces or less per sitting and 2–5 servings per day.
7. Add Herbs and Spices to Your Cooking.
Herbs and spices were used for their medicinal properties long before they were introduced into cooking.
However, it wasn’t until the past few decades that scientists began examining their health-promoting properties.
Herbs and spices including fenugreek, turmeric, ginger and garlic have shown promising results for increasing insulin sensitivity.
8. Add a Pinch of Cinnamon.
Cinnamon is a tasty spice that’s packed with plant compounds.
It’s also known for its ability to reduce blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity .
Studies suggest that cinnamon increases insulin sensitivity by helping receptors for glucose on muscle cells become more available and efficient at transporting sugar into the cells .Interestingly, some studies have found that cinnamon contains compounds that can mimic insulin and act directly on cells.
9. Drink More Green Tea.
Green tea is an excellent beverage for your health.
It’s also a great choice for people with type 2 diabetes or those who are at risk of it. Several studies have found that drinking green tea can increase insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar .
For example, an analysis of 17 studies investigated the effects of green tea on blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.
It found that drinking green tea significantly reduced fasting blood sugar and increased insulin sensitivity .
10. Try Apple Cider Vinegar.
Vinegar is a versatile liquid. You can clean with it or use it as an ingredient in foods, in addition to many other uses.
It’s also a key ingredient in apple cider vinegar, an extremely popular beverage in the natural health community.
Vinegar could help increase insulin sensitivity by reducing blood sugar and improving the effectiveness of insulin .
It also appears to delay the stomach from releasing food into the intestines, giving the body more time to absorb sugar into the bloodstream .
One study found that consuming apple cider vinegar increased insulin sensitivity by 34% during a high-carb meal in people who were insulin resistant and by 19% in people with type 2 diabetes.
11. Cut Down on Carbs.
Carbs are the main stimulus that causes insulin blood levels to rise.
When the body digests carbs into sugar and releases it into the blood, the pancreas releases insulin to transport the sugar from the blood into the cells.
Reducing your carb intake could help increase insulin sensitivity. That’s because high-carb diets tend to lead to spikes in blood sugar, which put more pressure on the pancreas to remove sugar from the blood .
Spreading your carb intake evenly throughout the day is another way to increase insulin sensitivity.
Eating smaller portions of carbs regularly throughout the day provides the body with less sugar at each meal, making insulin’s job easier. This is also supported with research showing that eating regularly benefits insulin sensitivity .The type of carbs you choose is also important.
Low-glycemic index (GI) carbs are best, since they slow the release of sugar into the blood, giving insulin more time to work efficiently (72).
Carb sources that are low-GI include sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa and some varieties of oatmeal.
12. Reduce Your Intake of Added Sugars.
There’s a big difference between added sugars and natural sugars.
Natural sugars are found in sources like plants and vegetables, both of which provide lots of other nutrients.
Conversely, added sugars are found in more highly processed foods. The two main types of sugar added during the production process are high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar, also known as sucrose.
Both contain approximately 50% fructose.Many studies have found that higher intakes of fructose can increase insulin resistance among people with diabetes. The effects of fructose on insulin resistance also appear to affect people who don’t have diabetes, as reported in an analysis of 29 studies including a total of 1,005 normal and overweight or obese participants.
The findings showed that consuming a lot of fructose over less than 60 days increased liver insulin resistance, independent of total calorie intake .
Foods that contain lots of added sugar are also high in fructose. This includes candy, sugar-sweetened beverages, cakes, cookies and pastries.
14 Natural Ways to Improve Your Insulin Sensitivity/https://www.healthline.com