Wendy Handy

Wendy Handy

Understanding Insulin Resistance: Its Connection to IBD and How to Manage It


I hope this post finds you well. This week, we’re diving into an important health topic: insulin resistance and its connection to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Understanding this condition, its causes, and remedies can significantly improve your health.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and insulin resistance may seem unrelated, but they share several overlapping mechanisms. Chronic inflammation, a hallmark of IBD, can interfere with insulin signaling, leading to insulin resistance. Additionally, IBD can alter the gut microbiota, affecting metabolism and contributing to insulin resistance. Here’s a breakdown of the connection:

  • Chronic Inflammation: Inflammation from IBD can impair insulin signaling pathways, contributing to insulin resistance.
  • Gut Microbiota: IBD alters the gut microbiota, impacting metabolism and promoting insulin resistance.
  • Cytokines and Adipokines: Inflammatory cytokines (e.g., TNF-α, IL-6) produced in IBD can disrupt insulin signaling.
  • Medication Side Effects: Some IBD treatments, such as corticosteroids, can increase the risk of insulin resistance.
  • Metabolic Syndrome: People with IBD are at increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which includes insulin resistance.
  • Nutritional Status: Malnutrition and altered nutrient absorption in IBD can affect metabolism and insulin sensitivity.

What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels. Insulin is crucial for regulating blood sugar, as it allows glucose (sugar) to enter cells for energy. When cells resist insulin’s effects, glucose builds up in the blood, leading to prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and other serious health issues.

Causes of Insulin Resistance

Several factors contribute to the development of insulin resistance:

  • Genetics: A family history of diabetes can increase the risk.
  • Obesity: Excess fat, especially around the abdomen, can cause inflammation and hormonal changes that promote insulin resistance.
  • Physical Inactivity: Lack of regular exercise reduces the body’s ability to use insulin efficiently.
  • Poor Diet: Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugars, and unhealthy fats can lead to insulin resistance.
  • Hormonal Changes: Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and certain medications can affect insulin sensitivity.
  • Chronic Stress: Prolonged stress leads to the release of cortisol, a hormone that can increase blood sugar levels and insulin resistance.
  • Sleep Disorders: Poor sleep quality and sleep apnea are linked to insulin resistance.

Remedies for Insulin Resistance

The good news is that insulin resistance can often be managed and even reversed with lifestyle changes. Here are some effective strategies:

  • Healthy Diet: Focus on whole, unprocessed foods. Include plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit refined sugars and carbohydrates.
  • Regular Exercise: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Include resistance training to build muscle, which can improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Weight Management: Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce insulin resistance. Even a modest weight loss of 5-10% of body weight can make a significant difference.
  • Adequate Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. Address any sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, with the help of a healthcare provider.
  • Stress Reduction: Practice stress management techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.
  • Medication: In some cases, doctors may prescribe medications to improve insulin sensitivity. Always follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations.

Diet Tips for Managing Insulin Resistance

Choosing whole, unprocessed foods is key to a healthy diet. Here are some specific tips:

  • Vegetables: Low in calories and high in fiber, vegetables are great for managing blood sugar. Best options include fresh, low-sodium canned, and frozen varieties like tomatoes, asparagus, green beans, carrots, colorful peppers, spinach, collards, cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Fruits: Rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, fresh or frozen fruits are best. Higher fiber fruits include apples, berries, green bananas, grapes, plums, and peaches. Avoid fruit juices as they can raise blood sugar levels quickly.
  • Dairy: Choose lower-fat, unsweetened milk and yogurt. If lactose intolerant, opt for unsweetened soy milk or lactose-free cow’s milk.
  • Whole Grains: Whole grains like whole-wheat, oats, brown rice, barley, rye, wild rice, farro, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat are rich in vitamins, fiber, and minerals. Aim for whole-grain ingredients first on labels.
  • Beans and Legumes: Beans such as pinto, lima, red, and black beans are high in fiber and raise blood sugar slowly. Canned beans are a convenient alternative, but drain and rinse them to reduce sodium.
  • Fish: Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna, and rainbow trout reduce heart disease risk. Shellfish like lobster, scallops, shrimp, oysters, clams, and crabs are also good.
  • Poultry: Opt for skinless chicken breasts, Cornish hen, and turkey to reduce fat intake.
  • Other Lean Proteins: Lean options include pork tenderloin, veal loin chops, lamb chops, and lean beef. Ground turkey and vegetarian proteins like soy, tempeh, beans, tofu, and legumes are great choices.
  • Healthy Fats: Unsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives are beneficial. Use olive oil instead of solid fats for cooking. Be mindful of added sodium and sugar in nut and seed products.

Insulin resistance is a manageable condition with the right approach. By understanding its causes and implementing healthy lifestyle changes, you can significantly improve your insulin sensitivity and overall health. If you suspect you have insulin resistance or have any concerns, please reach out and remember, “test don’t guess” ALWAYS!

Stay happy, stay healthy!

Wendy 💖



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