Lowering your Insulin Levels
If you are a person with diabetes who must inject insulin, you may be wondering if there are ways that you can lower your insulin levels. The answer is “maybe.”
As a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES), I would be remiss if I told you that there is a way to reduce your insulin levels. The fact of the matter is that if you have type 1 diabetes, your body will require insulin for survival as your body no longer produces it.
If you have type 2 diabetes and you require insulin, there is a better likelihood of reducing or even removing insulin from your medication plan. However, this is not a guarantee as everyone’s body is different.
What I am about to share with you are a few ideas that will improve your overall health, which in turn, may reduce your insulin levels. Please discuss starting an exercise plan or making major dietary changes with your healthcare provider.
3 Ways to Reduce Insulin
It is common knowledge that exercise is good for our bodies, and can help lower insulin. We know that exercise can improve strength and balance, improve cardiac status, and reduce stress levels.
In terms of diabetes — especially type 2 diabetes — we know that insulin resistance is extremely common. Insulin resistance occurs when the pancreas continually makes insulin, but the body is unable to use it properly, causing higher and higher blood sugar levels. This ultimately causes insulin resistance.
When coupled with a person who requires insulin to control blood sugar levels, the effect of exercise cannot be overstated — exercise can reduce insulin resistance, causing the body to become more sensitive to the effect of insulin, thereby reducing blood sugar levels.
When is the best time to exercise? According to Harvard Health, “The best time to exercise is one to three hours after eating, when your blood sugar level is likely to be higher.”
My answer? Any time that you can. We know that life does not follow a typical pattern and it can be hard to sneak in exercise when it may be “best” — exercise done at any time is better than no exercise at all.
2. Reduced Carbohydrate Intake
We know that many people who require insulin use it when eating carbohydrates. Why? Because the body breaks down carbohydrates into a usable energy source — glucose. However, the body cannot use glucose without insulin.
Keeping this in mind, reducing carbohydrate intake would thereby reduce the amount of insulin administered. While this is partially true, it doesn’t take into consideration the entire picture. All our bodies are different — we are all different sizes, shapes, have different comorbid conditions and our bodies operate differently from each other. As such, the way my body responds to carbohydrates and fats is different from how your body will respond to carbohydrates and fats.
Dr. Christopher Gardner from the Stanford School of Medicine performed the DIETFITS study, which evaluated weight loss in participants who consumed a low carbohydrate diet versus a high carbohydrate diet. There was no measurable difference in the number of pounds lost.
However, David Ludwig, MD, PhD, professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, performed the Framingham State Food Study. This study found that “More fats and less carbohydrates could help people with insulin-insensitivity and type 2 diabetes maintain successful weight loss better.”
The best answer? Consume a moderate amount of carbohydrates that are rich in grains and fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
3. Cinnamon: Fact or Fiction?
I have come across many medication lists that indicate my patient is taking cinnamon. Yes, cinnamon, as in the spice that you put on your French toast and oatmeal. However, when taken as a supplement, there may be a reduction in blood sugar — and subsequently, insulin needs.
Cinnamon is a spice that is made from tree bark. Historically, it has been used to reduce inflammation, fight infection and reduce cholesterol levels. There is also some evidence that cinnamon may reduce blood sugar levels.
A variety of research studies, as far back as 2003, indicate that cinnamon may have a profound effect on blood sugar levels. However, it’s also important to note that these studies evaluated a small number of people.
Currently, experts do not recommend the use of cinnamon because evidence is conflicting. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements. As such, we do not know if the supplements are pure or only contain the amount of cinnamon indicated on the label.
The Bottom Line
If you’re searching for a way to reduce your insulin needs, your best bet is to steer clear of fad diets and supplements. By adopting healthy habits, such as regular exercise and eating plenty of produce and whole grains you may lower your insulin needs.