Increasing Insulin Sensitivity

As a Type-2, I need to do all I can to help my body work as efficiently as possible with the limited insulin my pancreas makes. Through experience, trial and error and research these are the strategies I use.

Supplements

I have written about some of the following supplements. The others will get their own posts in due course:

  • Cinnamon
  • Turmeric
  • Bitter Melon
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid
  • Resveratrol
  • Evening Primrose
  • Gymnema Sylvestre
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Probiotics
  • Apple cider vinegar

Diet

Obviously, the keto diet minimises the need for insulin. However, there are some foods I eat that supposedly help with insulin resistance. One of the argument seems to be that these foods have anti-oxidant/anti-inflammatory properties that, in turn, promote insulin sensitivity. Still, I cannot eat these foods with reckless abandon or my blood sugar will go up:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Salmon
  • Walnuts

In contrast, there are many foods that I avoid beyond the obvious ones because they likely promote insulin resistance with me.

Carrying Fat

Being overweight increases insulin resistance. Fortunately, since adopting the paleo-lifestyle my weight has dropped massively. I’m guessing I’m somewhere around seven percent body fat today. My weight is just below 12 stone (168 lbs). I used to be over 15 stone (210 lbs).

Exercise

This is one of the most important “planks” in my lifestyle and key to reducing insulin resistance. My regimen is a mix of walking, jogging, sprinting and resistance training. When I first started paleo, I followed Mark Sisson’s programme of lifting heavy things once a week. I’ve upped that to three to five days per week now. Why? Because I have found that resistance training has a very powerful and positive effect on my blood glucose. The jury is in and resistance training is key to improving insulin sensitivity.

Fasting

I’ve written tons on fasting, and its benefits for me. There many advocates out there who argue fasting improves insulin sensitivity. This is a regular part of my lifestyle through meal skipping and multi-day fasts.

Sleep

I wrote about this one the other day. Suffice to say, getting a good night’s sleep every night improves insulin sensitivity.

Conclusion

You can see from the above that I have to juggle a lot of balls to maximise my insulin sensitivity and overall health. Is it hard? Not really. One minor difficulty is the fact that I’m taking so many supplements that occasionally one or two fall through the cracks. For instance, I haven’t been taking apple cider vinegar as much as I should lately. The reason? It’s in a different cupboard than the rest of my supplements, and I simply fell out of the habit of drinking it. Shame on me.

Zinc: Immunity Boost

Why Investors Should Be Thinking Zinc Stocks Right Now

Zinc popped up on the internet radar during the height of the Covid hysteria in March and April. It went viral when Dr Vladimir “Zev” Zelenko touted it as a highly effective treatment for Corona when used with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin.

Regardless of what anyone thinks of the above treatment, what is a fact is that zinc is essential to the body. It exists in almost all cells and is required for the activity of over 300 enzymes. Since its discovery in 1869, scientists have determined that zinc is essential to all life on the planet.

Zinc deficiency increases the chance of death. This study deals with children from poor countries, but it is obvious that anyone who is deficient in zinc is putting himself at risk for increased infection or disease. Of course, diabetics tend to be more at risk for infection and disease anyways, so being low in zinc is unacceptable for me.

What Does Zinc Do?

When someone has an infection, zinc produces proteins that help the body’s immune response. But zinc is also brought to the area of infection. Once the infection is fought off, zinc stops the protein production. It acts as a sort of on/off switch. The body’s immune response to infection is inflammation (this is good inflammation); however, if one has a zinc deficiency, the inflammation does not go away once the infection is beaten. The on/off switch doesn’t work. A lack of zinc makes the immune response break down. Don’t believe me? You can read more here and here and here.

Zinc Rich Foods

Our bodies cannot store zinc, so we must ingest it regularly. Here is a list of zinc rich foods that paleos can eat:

  • Red meat
  • Shellfish
  • Seeds (hemp, pumpkin, squash and sesame)
  • Nuts (pine, almonds, cashews)
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Eggs
  • Dark chocolate

Supplement

Given how important zinc is, I err on the side of caution and take 10 or 20mg a day as a supplement.

Bitter Melon (aka Karela): Blood Glucose Control

Look ugly, taste worse

I take a lot of supplements, some for general health and others to improve me blood glucose levels. One supplement I’ve had some success with is bitter melon which is also known as karela or bitter gourd.

There are a lot of lists out there touting all kinds of benefits that come with eating bitter melon. I’m going to stick with blood glucose management in this post.

Now I say this is a supplement because it is rather difficult to get the fruit here in the UK. I’ve had limited success getting it delivered online. Unless you live in a reasonably large city with a Chinese, Indian or Pakistani community, you’re going to have trouble finding this as a fresh fruit. I can’t speak for North America, but I’m guessing the same rule applies.

Bitter melon has been used in the Far East for ages to treat diabetes. Scientific research demonstrates that the fruit has some properties that help control blood glucose levels. In particular, polypeptide-p, charantin, and vicine all have positive effects on blood glucose levels.

Polypeptide-p seems to function as an insulin mimetic (mimic). Charantin and vicine also act as hypoglycaemic agents but it is not wholly clear how or why this occurs. One study argues that bitter melon is acting on several levels within the body to lower blood glucose:

Different mechanisms contribute to the antidiabetic activities of M. charantia [bitter melon], these include increasing pancreatic insulin secretion, decreasing insulin resistance and increasing peripheral and skeletal muscle cell glucose utilization, inhibition of intestinal glucose absorption and suppressing of key enzymes in the gluconeogenic pathways.

The studies linked above also suggest that bitter melon may repair beta-cells or help the pancreas create more. Now that’s exciting.

It’s near impossible to get bitter melon fresh where I live. This is a shame because when I have had it fresh, I’ve enjoyed a considerable drop in blood glucose levels. I tried taking it as a juice, but I did not experience the same hypoglycaemic effects, and I was not impressed with the quality of the long-last juices coming from India. They are also exorbitantly expensive. I’ve had to settle with tablets. There is still a slight hypoglycaemic effect.

Conclusion

Bitter melon does appear to have proven hypoglycaemic effects when eaten fresh or juiced. Long-last juice which has been pasteurised did not have a significant effect on my blood glucose. I have settled on supplements on tablet form which, when combined with my metformin and other supplements, has a marginal but not inconsequential effect on my blood glucose. Since I’m now growing more and more of my own vegetables, I’m going to buy some karela seeds and try growing them in my sun room. I hope to have something to report in the next couple of months on the effects of fresh bitter melon.

Cinnamon

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Cinnamon is a wonderful spice. When I make my homemade apple sauce for my better half, I put tons in. Not bad for tree bark. Those of a certain age will remember that Jerry Seinfeld is big on the cinnamon too:

Another Babka?

But it’s not just the taste that makes cinnamon so great in puddings (desserts) and stews, it also has many potential health benefits for diabetics and non-diabetics alike:

  • It’s full of antioxidants like polyphenols
  • Purported anti-inflammatory properties
  • Improves circulation
  • May improve insulin sensitivity
  • May lower blood glucose
  • May have anti-cancer properties
  • May help prevent cognitive degeneration
  • Cinnamon is an antifungal and antibacterial

Personal Experience

Of course, most of the above benefits can’t really be felt or observed on an individual level. Blood glucose is the only real exception here. My experience, and I’ve been taking cinnamon for years, is that it has a marginally positive effect on my blood glucose levels. In my case, we’re talking about a few decimal points being knocked off the mmol/L. I suspect it has a positive effect on my blood pressure too, but again, I can’t prove this. The last time I took my blood pressure it was 115/75 with 55 bpm. Not bad for a 45 year old diabetic. Of course, my healthy lifestyle is going to be the main cause of my solid blood pressure.

True Cinnamon v Cassia

There are two types of cinnamon commonly sold. Ceylon or true cinnamon and cassia cinnamon. The latter contains high amounts of coumarin which is believed to be harmful in high quantities. I stick with Ceylon cinnamon.

Conclusion

Like with a lot of spices, there has been limited research conducted with cinnamon. Of course, there are many scientists who will pooh pooh cinnamon and deride it as folk medicine or whatnot. For me, it is a no brainer. As long as it’s true cinnamon, I see no harm and only potential upsides here. If it has not effect, then I’m wasting about ten or fifteen pounds a year. Big deal.

Turmeric

I’ve been taking this supplement combined with black pepper for years due to its anti-inflammatory properties. The benefits of this spice, largely due to curcumin, has really gone mainstream.

If the Daily Mail is touting it, pretty much everybody is!

What are the potential benefits:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • antioxidant
  • anti-arthritis
  • improved brain function (maybe)
  • cancer fighter (maybe)
  • fight Alzheimer’s (maybe)
  • helps with depression (maybe)
  • helps prevent Type-2 diabetes (maybe)

Conclusion

The potential benefits of this spice are just too good to pass up for me. There are a lot of scientific studies out there that prove turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. That’s more than enough for me. Does it help with all the “maybes” listed above? Don’t know. Those will be unknown, possible bonuses as far as I’m concerned.

There is one caveat though. A lot of the clinic studies use very high doses of curcumin rather than turmeric. The amount of curcumin in turmeric is actually not that high. Once I’ve exhausted my supply of organic turmeric with organic black pepper, I may go over to curcumin… after some more research of course.

Collagen – Why I Take It

Collagen: ‘Fountain of Youth’ or Edible Hoax?

Some people are touting collagen as the fountain of youth. I don’t mean injections. I mean supplements. I don’t care about aging really when it comes to looks. We get old; c’est la vie. But I’m all about quality of life. Until I shuffle off this mortal coil, I want to be in optimal health for as long as possible. Which is why I’m back on the collagen supplements.

I had found a really good supplement a couple of years ago but it was pricey. When I was abroad last summer, I found a cheaper version in bulk, but I really didn’t like it. It didn’t mix well with my coffee, and I could taste it. It’s been collecting dust in my cupboard for six months; I finally binned it the other day. That was $50 down the drain.

So I bought some really good stuff from Amazon, and I’ve started taking it again on a daily basis. To hell with the somewhat high cost. I think it’s worth it. Why? Joints and cartilage. The older we get the less collagen we make. Our joints need collagen. Many argue that collagen supplements will maintain joint health and reduce pain. I don’t have joint pain, but I am in my forties. Anything that will help slow the process of aging is a bonus. Given that I’m running more because of the bloody lockdown means I need all the help I can get.

Another bonus is that collagen contains glycine. This is an amino acid that has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. I’m a big believer that inflammation is a killer and the root of many of mankind’s health problems. Anything that fights this is good for me too.

So most websites or product labels say you need to take this daily for two or three months to see feel any results. I’ll report back in October on this one.

Magnesium Follow Up

Magnesium - Wikipedia

A few weeks ago, I wrote about magnesium and the reasons I take it as a supplement. When I was writing about statins and cholesterol yesterday, I came across some more interesting information about this essential element.

As I explained yesterday, Bill Sardi is someone who argues against high cholesterol being the problem. Instead, and I didn’t mention this, he believes calcification clogs coronary arteries.

Magnesium along with vitamin K, IP6 rice bran extract and vitamin D are calcium blockers.

I decided to do a little more digging and came across this study. If you’re interested, you can read the whole thing yourself. I think it is worth posting the conclusion though:

In community-dwelling participants free of cardiovascular disease, self-reported magnesium intake was inversely associated with arterial calcification, which may play a contributing role in magnesium’s protective associations in stroke and fatal coronary heart disease.

So now I have another reason why I take magnesium.

Magnesium

Magnesium - Wikipedia

I’m a big believer in supplements. As I’ve written before, the worst case scenario is that they don’t have a positive health benefit. Result? I hurt my bank balance. The truth, of course, is that many studies have offered proof that many supplements are good for one’s health. Others argue they provide no tangible benefits. Ultimately, no two scientists agree on anything including the efficacy of supplements.

Why? A host of reasons:

  • Academics need to publish to get tenure, to try to get tenure, to get their names out there. So some scientists will publish almost anything to stay in the game.
  • Some scientists are beholden to special interests that see supplements as a threat to their profit margins. These scientists are specifically employed to debunk the efficacy of supplements or at least muddy the waters.
  • The methodologies are rarely the same for any two studies: sample sizes, amount ingested, type of supplement. These variables change from study to study.

You get my point.

I know for a fact that magnesium helps me with cramping in my legs. If I go carnivore, I get leg cramps. It’s inevitable for me. As long as I take my magnesium tablets the cramping doesn’t happen. If a cramp starts coming on, I take a tablet, the cramp quickly goes away. It’s that simple. I tend to take 440mg a day and double that when I’m eating mainly meat.

I’m not going to go into the science of magnesium, and its importance to the body.

I’ll let Mark Sisson do that.