The Best and Most Natural Ways to Increase Insulin Sensitivity – A Guide

Posted January 1, 2020 by Clint Kelly - See Editorial Guidelines
insulin sensitivity

When it comes to finding the best way to treat type 2 diabetes, our main topic of concern is figuring out how to increase insulin sensitivity. Improving insulin sensitivity can be done in a variety of ways that are natural and need no added medication.

Here is a quick answer to help get us started.

How to Increase Insulin Sensitivity: Increasing insulin sensitivity is crucial for those that are suffering from insulin resistance. Ways to increase your insulin sensitivity include incorporating a healthy diet, losing weight, exercising regularly, and reducing the amount of stress you are under. 

Before we dive into the specific ways to increase insulin sensitivity, we first have to cover what exactly insulin sensitivity is. This will set us up for understanding what we can do to improve our insulin sensitivity.

What Is Insulin Sensitivity?

increase insulin sensitivity

The very basic answer is that this describes how sensitive the body is to insulin. Based on studies there is a correlation between fatty tissue and insulin resistance.

An excess level of fatty acids in the bloodstream could limit the effectiveness of insulin. Thus, causing someone to have low insulin sensitivity. Other factors that could play a role in low insulin sensitivity are stress, inflammation, and high intake of added sugars.

The majority of people with diabetes struggle with low insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance, which is why this article will prove to be beneficial. This problem is more common among those with type 2 diabetes but can also affect those with type 1.

However, high insulin sensitivity is not always a positive thing. For example, a young child with type 1 diabetes that has high insulin sensitivity may prove to be problematic. This could end up causing consistent low blood sugars leading to possible seizures. The solution to this would be to consult your doctor and look into insulin pens that have half unit dosages.

This is, however, is less likely compared to an individual having low insulin sensitivity. So, the remainder of the article will stick to addressing the solutions for insulin resistance and ways we can increase insulin sensitivity.

How Can You Increase Insulin Sensitivity?

Based on the above information, in order for us to increase insulin sensitivity, we have to burn fat, de-stress, and take a look at our nutritional intake. Let’s dive into the details of this.

1. Exercise

increase insulin sensitivity

One great way to increase insulin sensitivity is to start performing anaerobic exercises. This is defined as high-rep strength training with lighter weights, running sprints, or any other high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

If you are performing aerobic exercises (typical cardiovascular exercises involving longer-distance running, swimming, etc.) and are still experiencing insulin resistance, then try anaerobic exercises. Your body will respond differently to the various types of movements and exertions of energy involved with exercise.

Anaerobic exercise tends to increase insulin sensitivity more than aerobic exercises, because of where your body is receiving the energy to perform and how much energy is being exerted. For example, if you were to compare the total calories and fat burned during a 30-minute session for each type of exercise, you would find that you are burning more during the anaerobic exercise.

Therefore, not only are you working towards losing weight, but your body is also utilizing glucose in the bloodstream as an energy source via absorption by skeletal muscle tissue.

This is not to say that you should disregard aerobic exercise completely. Performing exercises, whether they be jogging, walking, or swimming, are still extremely beneficial. These exercises could either be utilized as a starting point or an everyday habit, whereas the anaerobic exercises could be performed 3-4 days a week to allow for adequate rest.

2. Lower Your Carbohydrate Intake

Cutting back on the amount of carbs can be one adjustment to your diet to help improve insulin sensitivity. Foods that are high in carbohydrates will lead to higher spikes in blood sugar. Eating meals high in carbohydrates can also lead to increased fat gain which may lead to more complications.

It is important to note here that not all carbohydrates are the same. There are two main types which are complex carbs and simple carbs.

Simple carbohydrates are typically high in added sugars and will be more likely to spike your blood sugar dramatically. Foods that are considered simple carbs may include candy, syrups, and soft drinks.

The majority of your carbohydrate intake should come from complex carbs. Complex carbs are less likely to spike your blood sugar so dramatically. These types of carbs are essential for providing the body with the proper vitamins and fiber.

Talk to your doctor or nutritionist about the best way to cut back on your carbohydrate intake and improve insulin sensitivity.

3. Cut Out Trans Fatty Acid

Studies have shown that trans fatty acid and saturated fats can cause inflammation and insulin resistance. Trans fatty acid can also lead to cardiovascular problems, which those with diabetes are already at a greater risk of having heart-related problems.

Cutting back on the intake of trans fatty acid, as well as saturated fats, can significantly improve your health. It is important to note here that other fats, such as unsaturated fats, are essential for a healthy diet. So, when you take a look at a nutritional label note the amount of fats in the food, and be aware of which fats are beneficial for you.

4. Lose Weight

Carrying around excess weight can put you at a greater risk for type 2 diabetes and can decrease insulin sensitivity. There is a direct link to belly fat and insulin resistance.

Many studies have shown that losing weight can increase insulin sensitivity which can decrease your chances of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Losing weight can also help you live a healthier life that is more fulfilling.

5. Get Better Sleep

Now, if you do the above two things but are lacking in sleep or are having irregular sleep, then you will not reap the full benefits of the exercise and diet. Sleep plays a crucial part in our health and too few of us take it seriously.

If your sleep is irregular, then your diet will follow that pattern. Your eating patterns will be sporadic, and you will be less likely to stick to eating the right foods. You will be more likely to start doing what’s easy, which is running through a drive-through somewhere.

If you are sleep deprived, then you will feel tired often throughout the day. This affects your exercise because you will have less energy to get out the door to get moving. You will start skipping exercises and eventually start skipping the workout altogether. Sleep will also help your body recover and repair after a hard day working out, so get to bed on time.

On top of these practical reasons, lack of sleep causes cortisol levels to rise. The rise in cortisol levels will decrease your insulin sensitivity, because of how difficult it is for the body’s cells to absorb the glucose that’s in the bloodstream. Therefore, make sure that you are getting recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

6. Meditate

Stress can be a major factor in decreasing insulin sensitivity. Putting yourself in situations that will cause you to worry or not have time to rest will cause your stress levels to rise. This may include continually working late, loss of a job, relationship difficulties, financial obligations, and the list goes on. When your stress levels rise so do your cortisol levels along with other hormones that can cause blood sugar to increase.

One action step we can take to de-stress is to meditate. This may sound silly at first glance, but there is a reason that meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. When done correctly, meditating can produce a deep state of relaxation bringing you both physical and emotional relaxation.

The best part about this is that it is inexpensive and can be done just about anywhere. It can be as simple as taking 5-10 minutes at work to walk outside to take a few deep breaths.

According to the Mayo Clinic meditation can help manage symptoms of certain medical conditions, such as asthma, chronic pain, depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Managing these symptoms and lowering stress levels through meditation may improve insulin sensitivity.

There are a variety of forms of meditation. Some of these may include guided meditation, mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, and yoga.

7. Find a Creative Outlet/Hobby

Another way to decrease stress which can increase insulin sensitivity is to find a hobby or creative outlet. Having something that you can do on a regular basis that gets your mind off the stresses of life is always good. This may include working out, running, fishing, painting, or anything you have an interest in.

Having hobbies like this that excite you will actually increase your dopamine and serotonin levels, which help in regulating mood.

The reality is that stress can put your body in a flight-or-fight response which increases levels of cortisol and glucagon. This increase in stress hormones leads to high blood sugar levels making it difficult to bring glucose levels back into the normal range.

Ultimately, in order for you to not let stress have control over your health you have to be in control of the circumstances of your life. Some circumstances are out of our control, but that’s where we have to know how to take steps to relax our mind.

8. Consume More Fiber

Fiber is known to have many benefits for the human body, including helping increase insulin sensitivity. There are two main forms of fiber, which are insoluble and soluble.

Insoluble fiber is mostly helpful in digestion and bowel movements. Soluble fiber is known to play a part in providing other extraordinary benefits to the body.

Foods that are high in fiber are known to have a low glycemic index, meaning less insulin is needed to keep blood glucose levels in the normal range. Foods low in fiber and high in added sugars have a high glycemic index, meaning there will be a greater spike in blood glucose levels and more insulin is needed. These two types of carbs are known as simple vs complex carbs.

Having a diet that consists of foods with a low glycemic index (complex carbs) will not only help in keeping blood sugars level but also help in weight loss. Your body is able to digest and absorb these nutrients easier than that of foods consisting of a high glycemic index (simple carbs).

Therefore, start looking at the nutrition facts on the side of your food packaging to find the fiber content. However, it can often be difficult to find foods high in fiber that we enjoy or that are within our price range. So, sometimes in order for us to get the right amount of fiber to allow us to reap the benefits, we need to take a supplement. So, if you find yourself in this situation run over to your local vitamin store and ask them about fiber supplements.

9. Intermittent Fasting

Fasting can have tremendous health benefits based on recent research that has come out in the past few years. One of these health benefits includes improving insulin sensitivity.

Intermittent fasting has been a term that has been tossed around quite about and has many health claims about it. It is defined as eating within a certain time frame and restricting caloric intake during the rest of the time. Typically, a person will go somewhere between 12-20 hours without eating and eat within the other hours.

Besides improving insulin sensitivity, intermittent fasting can also help with weight loss, removing cellular waste, and helps with healthy aging.

Fasting of any kind should be done cautiously if you are a type 1 diabetic as it can lead to severe low blood sugar. Always consult your doctor when there are any changes to your diet or lifestyle.

10. Apple Cider Vinegar

Studies have been conducted to show that apple cider vinegar can improve insulin sensitivity in those with type 2 diabetes or those that have insulin resistance. Before insulin or other modern diabetes treatment options existed, vinegar was consumed during meals to aid in treating diabetes.

The exact way that apple cider vinegar improves insulin sensitivity is fairly unclear. However, it is believed that the acetic acid in vinegar delays the release of food from the stomach, giving insulin more time to do its job.

Research shows that consumption of vinegar before bed can decrease fasting blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes. Consuming this around meals may also prevent blood sugar levels from spike so dramatically.

11. Herbs and Spices

The use of herbs and spices for medicinal purposes has been around for ages. The earth provides us with many natural resources to be used for improving our health. Certain herbs and spices have been found to increase insulin sensitivity when added to an individuals diet.

Some herbs and spices to include may be:

  • Ginger – The results of studies have shown that ginger can decrease fasting blood sugar.
  • Olive Leaf Extract – Research suggests that olive leaf extract can boost the productivity of insulin-producing cells, as well as improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Turmeric – It has been shown that turmeric can increase glucose uptake. Turmeric also has other healing properties such as decreasing inflammation.
  • Cinnamon – Cinnamon has been proven to have insulin-like properties and helps the body respond better to insulin.

Herbs and spices are fairly easy to add to your diet by cooking with them. You can also add them to your routine easily by getting a supplement capsule.

12. Green Tea

Drinking green tea on a regular basis can have tremendous health benefits.  Research suggests that green tea can help lower fasting blood sugar in those with type 2 diabetes and improve insulin sensitivity.

Green tea may also help improve cholesterol levels and help with blood flow which can improve blood pressure as well. Consider adding this into your diet and daily routine to get the most out of it.

13. Fruits

Increase Insulin Sensitivity

Fruits have all kinds of health benefits, including improving insulin sensitivity. It is important to note here that some fruits have a high glycemic index and may cause a spike in blood sugar if too much is consumed. So, stick to the proper portion sizes to avoid an unhealthy spike in blood sugar.

Avoid consuming processed fruits such as dried fruits and canned or jarred fruits. The nutritional value of processed fruits is not as high and can lead to worsened blood sugar levels.

Fruits that may prove to be beneficial for your health and aid in managing blood sugar levels include:

  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Avocado
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberry
  • Cherries
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Grapefruit

14. Vegetables

Similar to fruits, vegetables have many health benefits but ones with a high glycemic index should be avoided. For example, potatoes have a high glycemic index and will cause a spike in blood sugar.

Vegetables can be high in fiber and can reduce blood pressure, all of which helps normalize blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity. Some vegetables you may want to consider adding into your diet include:

  • Asparagus
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Green Beans
  • Lettuce
  • Peppers
  • Spinach
  • Celery
  • Artichoke
  • Beets
  • Carrots

Conclusion

Whether you are a type 1 diabetic, type 2, or prediabetic it will be beneficial to keep these tips in mind. Incorporating these 5 tips into your everyday life could dramatically reduce the possibilities for health complications down the road. Talk to your doctor to learn more about how you can have control over your blood sugar.

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What is insulin sensitivity?

Insulin sensitivity refers to how sensitive one's cells are to insulin. High insulin sensitivity means that a person's cells can utilize glucose for energy efficiently, lowering blood glucose levels.

How to increase insulin sensitivity?

You can increase your insulin sensitivity naturally by exercising, changing your date, eating more fiber, getting enough sleep, reducing stress, and more.

insulin sensitivity


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