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Belly Fat (and the hormone that’s responsible for it) By Dr. Jason Dave

Doctor’s Note
A new series featuring leading physicians who love plants as much as we do!

As we get older and look in the mirror, many of us notice how our waistline keeps expanding over the years. We then try many different popular fad diets and exercise routines in an effort to help trim that unsightly belly fat, which don’t seem to work in the long run. 


What we need to understand is that most of these methods won’t work well unless we tailor it to the underlying cause of why this is happening- which might be insulin resistance. 


You may have insulin resistance if you feel fatigued after eating meals, experience blood sugar swings, and have sugar cravings and a low sex drive. Your doctor may also have found out that your last blood test revealed high triglycerides and low HDL levels.


Insulin resistance is when cells in our liver, muscles and fat don’t respond well to insulin- a hormone produced by our pancreas that allows cells to absorb and use glucose (or sugar) in our blood. When these cells don’t absorb glucose well, levels of this sugar can build up in the blood- eventually leading up to diabetes and heart disease. 


Over time, higher than normal insulin levels are also produced, which increases inflammation and promotes the storage of those extra sugars as fat- right in the belly area.


Some risk factors that can lead to the development of insulin resistance include:

  • Obesity or higher than normal BMI (body mass index)
  • Diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar
  • Sedentary lifestyle, increased stress and lack of sleep
  • High blood pressure
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Smoking
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Age (more likely to occur after 45)
  • Certain health conditions (e.g., Cushing’s syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome and  non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) 
  • Medications such as corticosteroids and antipsychotics

Let’s take a closer look at some science-based ways to combat insulin resistance:

 

1. Increase fiber intake (and lower intake of foods high in sugar or refined carbohydrates) 

Eating unhealthy foods high in sugar or refined carbohydrates can make us feel more energetic right away by quickly increasing our blood sugar levels. These types of foods also make us feel less stressed by reducing our cortisol, or stress hormone, levels. Unfortunately, these effects are only short term. When we have higher than normal blood sugar levels, our body has to quickly make insulin in an attempt to lower the increased blood sugar and keep it consistent. This, in turn, causes hypoglycemia (or blood sugar level that drops below the normal range). This quick drop in blood sugar can give rise to a “sugar crash,” or a feeling of sudden irritability, fatigue, or headache within 3-4 hours after eating a meal high in sugar. This continuous spike in blood sugar and insulin levels from eating high sugar meals may eventually lead to insulin resistance, which can cause weight gain and increase belly fat.


When it comes to fighting sugar cravings, aim for whole foods which are high in fiber. Fiber helps slow digestion, making you feel full longer and also helps with slowing the rate at which sugar is released into your bloodstream. One large study found that increased fiber consumption led to a decreased risk of insulin resistance. 


If you’re finding it hard to incorporate more fiber into your diet, we’ve got you covered! Our delicious Pineapple Chia Cleanse is packed with all the fiber you need, which helps to keep your cravings and blood sugar under control.

 

2. Increase physical activity

A sedentary lifestyle is very prevalent in our society- most Americans spend more than 10 hours per day sitting down! Try and set a goal to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise each week. This can help increase your metabolism, avoid excess belly fat, and support healthy hormone levels. 

 

3. Get more sleep!

Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Lack of sleep can drive sugar and carbohydrate cravings by affecting the hormones that control your appetite. One study found that even getting a partial night’s poor sleep can contribute to insulin resistance.

 

4. Combat stress

Chronic high cortisol levels due to long-term high stress can cause increased blood sugar and promote the accumulation of belly fat. Increased levels of stress can also cause you to crave more unhealthy comfort foods that are high in sugar and unhealthy carbohydrates. Learning stress-reduction techniques can help normalize our stress hormone response. Activities such as breathing exercises, meditating, listening to nature sounds, trying Qigong or even going for an outdoor walk can all help with relaxation and reducing stress levels.


Stress can also decrease our magnesium levels, which can negatively affect our mood and cognition, eating behavior, sleep quality and stress response. Consuming superfoods like chia, flax and sacha inchi seeds can provide a rich source of magnesium which can combat these negative effects and provide continued benefits throughout the day. Our Vegan Vanilla Proteini contains these superfoods to provide you with plenty of magnesium, as well as ample protein to help balance out those blood sugar levels!


In addition to the diet and lifestyle suggestions listed above, it is a good idea to work with your doctor so he or she can provide you with regular routine preventative screenings and annual physical exams. Testing for insulin resistance (and diabetes) typically begins at about age 40. In addition to the usual tests for cholesterol and other markers of health, your doctor will include the following blood test markers to diagnose insulin resistance:


  • Fasting blood glucose
  • Hemoglobin A1c
  • Glucose tolerance testing

I hope you will incorporate the lifestyle solutions we suggested above. Not only does it affect literally every aspect of our health and well-being, the ultimate solution to lasting weight loss is to maintain normal insulin levels.


To your health,

Dr. Jason Dave

 

Doctor’s Note

A new series featuring leading physicians who love plants as much as we do!

For more SMART lifestyle tips like this, visit our other blogs at www.smartpressedjuice.com and follow us on Instagram or like us on Facebook. You can also visit our shop to stock up on our delicious juices.


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