Can’t seem to shift your symptoms, no matter what you do? One of the top factors behind the stubborn symptoms of perimenopause is insulin resistance.
Let’s take a dive into what insulin resistance involves and how you can get it under control.
What is insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance (or IR for short) is when you have chronically elevated levels of insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for stimulating your cells to take up glucose (energy).
IR is a precursor to type 2 diabetes – you may hear it referred to as ‘pre-diabetes’. It also puts you into fat storage mode (exactly what you don’t want!)
Now it’s important to note that the problem isn’t insulin itself. Insulin is a useful hormone that turns food into energy, promotes muscle growth and helps to maintain a healthy menstrual cycle. In fact, low insulin is one of the reasons that you lose your period when you under-eat.
The real issue is metabolic dysfunction. Your cells don’t listen to the insulin – kind of like when you politely ask your teens to clean up your room, they don’t respond until you shout! This causes more insulin to be needed just for the message to get through. As a result, there’s way too much in your bloodstream and your resistance increases.
What are the symptoms of insulin resistance?
Because IR influences the energy of your body’s cells, there are a lot of ways it can show up symptom-wise. High insulin drives inflammation, leading to reduced metabolic flexibility. Put simply, you have a significantly reduced ability to burn fat as fuel, leading to weight gain.
Other symptoms include:
- Fat gain around the belly area
- Fatty liver (NAFLD)
- Elevated cholesterol and/or triglycerides
- Sugar and carb cravings
- Memory issues, poor concentration and brain fog
- Increased facial hair and hair loss (hello, excess androgens!)
- Hot flushes
- Heavy bleeding, fibroids and adenomyosis
- Discolouration around the armpits, groin or folds of neck
- A waist to height ratio of >0.5 (to calculate, divide waist measurement in cms by height in cms)
Noticed that a lot of these overlap with the symptoms of perimenopause? There’s a reason for that – let’s look at why.
The perfect storm of perimenopause
The issue here is that we have a two-way street that becomes a vicious cycle if you’re not careful. Lower levels of oestrogen contribute to insulin resistance as you need oestrogen for insulin sensitivity. So when your oestrogen levels plummet, your insulin levels skyrocket to get that glucose in.
There’s also the stress picture – your stress tolerance is lower during perimenopause, and high stress equals more insulin resistance.
But then IR also worsens perimenopausal symptoms. This is why we are plagued with perimenopause compared to women in more traditional cultures. They’re less likely to have issues with insulin because they eat low-sugar diets and don’t snack, so their peri symptoms are minimal.
How to rebalance IR
So what can you do about this insulin picture? The ultimate goal is to cultivate metabolic flexibility – aka supporting your brain to shift between glucose and ketones for energy.
But before you think that I’m going to tell you to cut all carbs, hold your horses! Here are some simple ways to encourage insulin sensitivity (and an overall hormone balance) naturally.
Balance your meals
You need to make sure that you balance each meal to have sufficient protein, fat & fibre to keep your blood glucose + insulin levels in a narrower, healthy range. Just like Goldilocks, we don’t want you spiking too high or crashing low – we want a nice balance in the middle.
Need some help to create more balanced meals? Download my FREE Balanced Meal Formula here.
Skip the snacks
Snacking all the time means more insulin is produced in response. And let’s not forget that most of the snacks that we enjoy throughout the day are probably going to be sugary, refined carby calorie-packed treats – not ideal for insulin resistance!
Stick to 3 filling meals per day to give your body a chance to bring insulin back into a healthy range.
Ditch the added sugars and refined carbs
This one is pretty self-explanatory. When you do have carbs (wholefood and fibre-rich ideally!), don’t eat them alone. When you snack on carbs with nothing else, it’s the worst thing you can do for your blood sugar as you put it straight back onto that rollercoaster.
The same goes for your liquid carbs like wine, juicy, sweet alcoholic drinks and soft drinks. If you are going to have them, serve them with a protein-rich snack or meal to balance it out.
By the way, fruit is absolutely fine to eat – but have it with your meals or as part of a snack that also packs protein and fat.
Move your body
Exercise is amazing for insulin sensitivity and overall wellbeing. But don’t go too intense please – we don’t want to add more stress that contributes to the insulin resistance and hormone imbalance picture!
Go the heck to bed!
Sleep is another must for blood sugar regulation. Even one night of partial sleep deprivation can induce insulin resistance – and I bet it’s not just one night for most of us! Put down the phone, switch off the Netflix binge of choice, and get some good zzzs.
Nurture that gut
No surprise here, but your microbiome also plays a big role in insulin. Make sure you give it some TLC by eating plenty of colourful plants and fibre-rich foods.
Check your thyroid
Thyroid dysfunction is a common underlying cause of both insulin resistance and perimenopause symptoms. Reminder – TSH is not enough to say your thyroid is healthy and happy!
Tired of nagging perimenopause symptoms?
They don’t have to be inevitable or overwhelming – you can get them back under control with a few tweaks. If you are ready to feel calm, less stressed and able to put yourself first, book in for a free discovery call today. Together, we can explore how I can help you to support and nourish yourself – mind, body and spirit.