What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone created by the pancreas that controls our blood sugar levels.

Blood sugar levels are the amount of glucose in our blood. We obtain glucose from the foods we eat, and is our main source of energy.

Our blood transports the glucose (energy) to all the cells in our body and then enters our cells with the help of insulin.  When insulin gets out of whack (higher than normal glucose and insulin in our blood), it’s called Insulin Resistance which is a precursor to Type 2 Diabetes.

Insulin Resistance can occur in as many as 1 in 2 people.

Why Does Insulin Resistance Affect Women in Perimenopause?

Insulin is a hormone and affects many other hormone interactions as our hormone system and the interactions are very complex; including oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

So when we enter perimenopause where our hormone levels are changing, other hormones are affected too and cause major symptoms which mean we don't function as well as we would like.

**Insulin resistance can worsen all perimenopausal symptoms**

Okay, so what exactly is insulin resistance?

Insulin Resistance is the body's resistance to the hormone insulin. Insulin allows the cells in our muscles, fat and liver to absorb glucose from the blood. When our cells aren’t absorbing glucose as it should it results in increased blood sugars (excess glucose in our blood). As a result, your pancreas makes more insulin to help glucose enter into our cells. 

Insulin resistance causes metabolic dysfunction and in turn reduces the cells ability to respond to insulin and so won't take up the glucose waiting for them.

When the cells don’t pick up the glucose it triggers your body to release more insulin.

So high insulin is a marker that you have metabolic dysfunction which means you will have a reduced ability to switch from glucose for energy to using ketones which are needed to metabolise fat.

It is also a driver for a special type of inflammation called metabolic inflammation. Untreated insulin resistance, metabolic inflexibility and metabolic inflammation can progress into many negative long-term health conditions such as:

You are likely to develop insulin resistance if you are over 45 years of age and overweight, especially if that excess weight is around your middle (also known as 'visceral fat').

Perimenopausal women are also at risk due to the godforsaken hormonal changes we must endure.

Other risk factors include a family history of diabetes, gestational diabetes or PCOS. 

(Keen to learn more about why you might develop insulin resistance?  Read this article here from the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease.)

Righty-o!  So how do know if I have insulin resistance

The main sign of insulin resistance is abdominal weight gain (that's weight gain around your middle).

Other signs might be:

  • Fatigue
  • Sugar cravings
  • High cholesterol and triglycerides (fat cells in your blood)
  • Fatty liver
  • Skin tags: (you might notice thicker and darker patches, usually in skin creases and folds like the sides and back of the neck, armpits, elbow pits, and groin.

You can get tested by your GP for your insulin usually with ‘fasting insulin’ and ‘oral glucose tolerance test with insulin’.

Okay, so can I fix my insulin??

The good news? Absolutely!

Here are some diet and lifestyle recommendations to reverse insulin resistance:

Weight loss - losing weight is the standard treatment for insulin resistance. As increased weight around your middle is a precursor to insulin resistance but can also be an actual symptom of existing insulin resistance.

Movement is your first line of defence in combating insulin resistance - the weight loss will come.

Read how to combat weight gain in perimenopause here.

Move your body to build muscle - increased muscle helps with insulin sensitivity and exercise helps with the uptake of glucose.

Read here why movement daily is so important in perimenopause. 

Eat adequate Protein - the two main reasons to eat protein daily is it helps increase muscle mass which in turn helps with insulin sensitivity, keeps us fuller for longer and balances our blood sugar levels.

Read more about the Power of Protein in Peri here.

Need to incorporate more protein into your diet?  Try SheBANG!'s Peri Protein KaPOWDer with KSM-66 Ashwagandha here.

Gentle Intermittent fasting - fasting is such a hot topic at the moment and worthy of its own blog post (coming next week). Intermittent fasting is having eating windows not starving yourself. So you might fast between 6pm at night until 10/11am the next day. This helps improve insulin sensitivity and improve metabolic flexibility which improves weight loss.

TIP - don’t force yourself to have breakfast! Have your breakfast when you FEEL hungry. Make sure you break your fast with a rich protein meal. 

Ketogenic or low carb diet - can also be helpful in reversing insulin resistance and reduce perimenopausal brain symptoms such as migraines and memory loss.

To stay in ketosis you have to reduce your carbohydrates to 50 grams a day. I have found that it can be hard for women over 40 to get into ketosis. But something to explore if you think this style of diet/eating would suit you. 

Reduce sugar - No more soft drinks, fruit juices, dried fruit, breakfast cereals and sweetened yogurts. Check labels for sugar content per serve.

Remember 4g of sugar is 1 teaspoon of sugar. 

Overcome sugar cravings - Read here how we recommend beating sugar cravings here 

Support your gut health - a healthy gut can improve insulin sensitivity.

Learn here how to get great peri gut health

Take Magnesium daily - magnesium is a super star nutrient in helping reversing insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance can be caused by a diet deficient in magnesium and a diet high in magnesium is associated with a lower risk of insulin resistance. Some studies suggest that magnesium deficiency is one of the main causes of insulin resistance.

It's also why our Peri Chai Latte has 47% of your magnesium RDI per serve.


January 20, 2022 — Angela Greely

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