Improving Insulin Sensitivity

Type 2 diabetics suffer from reduced insulin sensitivity which prevents the glucose in the bloodstream from being absorbed by the cells and converted to glycogen (energy). Insulin is the ‘key’ to unlock the cells and let the glucose in but when that doesn’t happen the person’s blood sugar levels become dangerously high.

I’ve written about in the past how I’ve adopted a Paleo lifestyle/diet to control my blood sugar levels (without medicine or insulin injections) to the point where my daily blood sugar measurements are indistinguishable from someone without Type 2 Diabetes. But over the past couple of months I’ve noticed that something odd had happened and now my blood sugar levels are at the low end of the normal range.

That had me to wondering if my insulin resistance had somehow reversed so I decided to try an experiment where I’d eat foods that should cause my blood sugar levels to increase beyond a normal range and determine (through blood sugar measurements) if my body had magically reset itself.

As a point of reference – During Thanksgiving of 2013 I decided to ‘cheat’ so I ate dressing and sweet potato casserole for both lunch and dinner and when I took my blood sugar measurement before bed it read 207 mg/dL which was way above the normal upper limit for someone without Diabetes (around 140 mg/dL).

But that example was only a couple of months after I began this journey and as I stated above, I think my insulin resistance has improved so I felt it was time to perform this experiment again.

On 08-AUG-14 my wife fixed chili with turkey meat and beans. Beans are a legume and a no-no for the Paleo diet but this seemed like a good time to start this experiment so I gobbled it up. My blood sugar measurement was 137 mg/dL two hours after eating a nice large bowl of that wonderful chili. That measurement was below the 140 mg/dL ‘normal’ upper limit but much higher than I normally see after a typical Paleo meal.

On 15-AUG-14 my wife and I had a date night at Tupelo Honey (a most excellent restaurant chain) and I had a mint julep (lots of sugar), one fried green tomato, pulled pork, greens, brussels sprouts and about 2 cups of fried okra. And let me tell you about that fried okra – It was like a little taste of heaven and definitely the best fried okra I’ve ever put in my mouth (all apologies to my mom and grandmother) but it was breaded (Paleo no-no) and no doubt fried in some soybean oil that is also a Paleo no-no. Even with all that ‘bad’ food I ate, two hours after eating that meal my blood sugar measurement was 128 mg/dL. Not too bad!

So far, so good and I decided to increase the ante on this little experiment!

On 22-AUG-14 I decided to frequent one of my long time favorite Japanese food hole-in-the-walls that I haven’t been to since I started this healthy lifestyle change. For lunch that day I had hibachi scallops, onions, zucchini, mushrooms and carrots. That doesn’t sound bad but those carrots (about 2 cups worth!) were cooked in butter and sugar. And to ‘top’ it off, I drizzled (more like poured) this pink looking stuff they call shrimp sauce (which is probably a mix between thousand island dressing, sugar and mayonnaise) all over everything. I swear, you can put that shrimp sauce on a dirty sock and it’d taste divine! Anyway, two hours after devouring that meal my blood sugar measurement was 196 mg/dL.

Not so good but there was an interesting side note to this phase of the experiment. I took my blood sugar measurement 4 hours after that meal and it was 76 mg/dL. Before I went on the Paleo diet, I’d see elevated blood sugar levels for up to 24 hours after a high carb/sugar meal but now my blood sugar levels came down to the low end of the normal range in just 4 hours after the meal.

OK, just one more phase of this experiment to go.

On 23-AUG-14 we had sweet potato fries baked in the oven as a side dish. Although sweet potatoes are considered acceptable on the Paleo diet, they were a food that definitely took my blood sugar over the top in the past so this was another good test of my insulin sensitivity. For the record, in addition to the sweet potato fries, I had sea bass, green beans and caramelized onions. Two hours after that meal my blood sugar measurement was 116 mg/dL. It looks like sweet potatoes are back on my food rotation!

To provide a graphical representation of the dramatic improvement I’ve seen over the past few months, here is a graph of my evening blood sugar measurements that are taken 2 hours after dinner.

evening blood sugar measurements

So what does all this mean?

If it weren’t for the high measurement after the Japanese meal, I’d say my insulin sensitivity has been fully reversed but I can’t discount that high reading. There is no mistaking the fact that my body’s insulin sensitivity is much better than it was before I started the Paleo diet but based on that high reading after a sugar-heavy meal, I still consider myself a Type 2 Diabetic.

You might be wondering something – If my insulin sensitivity issue eventually totally reverses (and based on what I’ve seen over the past year, I expect this to happen), will I go back to eating bread, grains, biscuits, grits, legumes and rice?

Hell no! Eating those foods for 40+ years is what got me into this mess so even if my insulin sensitivity does miraculously reset, I’ll never go back to eating those foods on a regular basis. It’s nice to know that my body’s insulin sensitivity has improved enough to eat high glycemic foods on rare occasions and this will help when I’m at a party where they serve foods that are normally not on my list of things to eat. But this will be the exception, not the rule.

I embraced this Paleo diet to control my Type 2 Diabetes but after almost a year of gradually adopting the Paleo lifestyle, I now see the benefits outside of blood sugar levels. I have more energy, I’m back down to the lowest weight I’ve ever been as an adult, my performance in sports has improved and I no longer have blood pressure or cholesterol problems.

The Paleo diet doesn’t just help Type 2 Diabetics reverse their insulin sensitivity, it can benefit anyone. Try it for 30 days and prove me wrong.

ADDENDUM

There is scientific evidence that the Paleo diet improves insulin sensitivity and you can read about some of them here and here.

A quote from one journal paper:

“In conclusion, we found marked improvement of glucose tolerance in IHD (Ischaemic heart disease) patients with increased blood glucose or diabetes after advice to follow a Palaeolithic diet compared with a healthy Western diet. The larger improvement of glucose tolerance in the Palaeolithic group was independent of energy intake and macronutrient composition, which suggest that avoiding Western foods is more important than counting calories, fat, carbohydrate or protein.”

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3 Responses to Improving Insulin Sensitivity

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