Too Much Insulin? How to Reset Your Metabolism

Mark Hyman, M.D. by Mark Hyman, M.D. | August 25th, 2009 | 12 Comments
topic: Health & Wellness, Healthy Eating


Are your hormones out of balance? Does your life feel like a song played badly out of tune? If so, the problem may have to do with imbalances in your hormones, which are wreaking havoc on your body and mind.

Today I want to focus on the most common — and therefore the most problematic — of hormonal problems in Americans today: too much insulin.

When you eat too much sugar, flour and white rice, your insulin levels spike. When this happens, your cells become resistant to its effects. So you pump out more and more insulin, become even MORE resistant to its effects, and end up in the vicious cycle of insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance can cause energy and mood swings — AND it can take you down the slippery road toward high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, cancer, brain aging, dementia and more.

Between 80 and 100 million Americans suffer from insulin resistance. It is not exactly the same in everyone, but the ultimate consequences can be similar.

How do you know if you suffer from insulin resistance?

Most people with insulin resistance have extra fat around the middle. (Quick Tip: Check your waist-to-hip ratio — the measurement around your belly button divided by the measurement around your hips. If it is greater than 0.8, you likely have insulin resistance.)

You may be tall, thin, short, fat or any combination of these and still have insulin resistance. The only way to know for sure is to take an insulin response test, which measures blood sugar AND insulin while you are fasting and one and two hours after you consume a 75-gram sugar drink. Just measuring blood sugar alone isn’t enough. You HAVE to measure insulin — this is something that many doctors miss.

Fortunately, balancing blood sugar and correcting insulin resistance are well within our reach. Scientific advances of the last few decades show us how. While some medications can help with insulin resistance, such as Glucophage, Avandia and Actos, they have side effects and are only a Band-aid unless they are used along with a comprehensive nutrition, exercise and stress management plan like the one described below.

12 ways to reset your metabolism for optimal blood sugar

My goal is to make your metabolism more efficient, to make your cells more intelligent and cooperative, not resistant. In other words, you will need much less insulin to accomplish the task of balancing your blood sugar.

You can achieve this by resetting your metabolism of sugar and insulin. To do this, you have to eliminate the things that are knocking you out of balance and provide your body the things it needs to reestablish optimal balance and thrive.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Stop eating flour and sugar products, especially high-fructose corn syrup.
  2. Don’t drink liquid calories in juice and soda. Your body doesn’t feel full from them, so you eat more all day.
  3. Stop consuming all processed, junk or packaged foods. If it doesn’t look like the food your great grandmother ate, stay away.
  4. Stop eating trans or hydrogenated fats.
  5. Slow the rate of sugar uptake from the gut by balancing your meals with healthy protein (nuts, seeds, beans, small wild fish, organic chicken), healthy carbs (vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains), and healthy fats (olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocados, fish oil).
  6. Eat plenty of soluble fiber (30 to 50 grams a day).
  7. Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
  8. Make your cells smarter by giving them an oil change with omega-3 fats, which help fix cell membranes so that they can more readily receive the messages from insulin.
  9. Move your body: Exercise improves your cells’ ability to work better, respond to insulin better, and burn sugar faster.
  10. Relax! Stress reduction also helps improve blood sugar control.
  11. Make your cells more efficient by increasing specific nutrients, such as chromium, vanadium, magnesium, vitamin E, biotin, the B vitamins, zinc, bioflavonoids, and some newer compounds including alpha lipoic acid, arginine and carnitine.
  12. Herbs may also be of benefit. These include Panax ginseng, ginkgo biloba, green tea, fenugreek, gymnema sylvestre, bitter melon and garlic.

Just balancing this one hormone — insulin — can have wide-ranging effects on all your other hormones and brain chemicals and is a great place to start on your path to vibrant health.

Just try these suggestions for one week and see how you feel — you may be shocked at how quickly your body can recover.

Read more about how your hormones are making you miserable and the 7 keys to UltraWellness.

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, M.D.


  1. Thank you so very much. This is exactly what I needed to know.

    Nadira | February 13th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  2. Very good advice which I will follow strictly now!
    Thank you!

    virginia | June 15th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  3. I have a question. What if you have a Glucose level of 99 but an insulin level of 47? As I understand it Insulin resistance means high glucose and high insulin at the same time. I try not to eat anything with sugar. I only eat some fruit. I rarely eat bread and when I do I eat whole wheat. Buy crackers with no sugar. I have been following your recommendations for a while now. What am I doing wrong? Any suggestions? Thanks, Rose Wrider

    Rose Wrider | June 28th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  4. Im now on hormone replacement therapy. I can not lose weight at all,even though I’m doing everything right. My doctor is doing a glucose test,but then what? I’m at my wits end

    Christine bettinger | March 15th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  5. My insulin was 12. Is this dangerous?

    Juliet | August 7th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  6. Is this written with only women in mind or can men take heart in this too. I see the hormone info as well, but men have those too, I only see comments from women.

    Mo | October 3rd, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  7. Hi Mo,

    Nope, this information is geared toward both men and women. It seems our female readers are just a little more vocal :)

    Kind regards,

    Gaiam Content and Social Media Coordinator

    Valerie Gleaton | October 4th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  8. This is the information I have been seeking. Thank you.

    Beverly | March 14th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  9. Good article. I feel you left out one very important factor when using insulin for esp. T1 and that is to stay hydrated. Drinking water flushes out the body and will help carry away excess sugar; and if someone’s blood sugar is high, they can drink water, after taking some insulin until glucose is stabalized. This also helps when
    a T1 person has a cold and insulin resistance increases.

    RM | March 15th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  10. I have been researching this. Thank you for a great article. Someone else took it verbatim though:

    S Williams | January 4th, 2014 | Comment Permalink
  11. Thank you – and also Eating a section of grapefruit 3-6 times a day was needed for me to get my insulin back in control – no juice. Must be whole fruit or it won’t work. Perhaps the chemical is in the white part? I found I had to give up milk and cream, ESPECIALLY low fat milk- that was the worse. I would feel like I was comatose. Mint/spearmint not peppermint, garlic, and real lemon juice from lemon, including pulp. I can not emphasize enough how imp. it is to eat the whole fruit, or whole food whenever it is meant to be together. Sugar alcohol is a problem too, and alcohol in general. My mother suffers from type 2 diabetes because they didn’t know to test for insulin levels. I had to force my Dr. to treat me as my research indicated.

    kay | July 8th, 2014 | Comment Permalink
  12. I binged on jelly beans and tootie fruitie candies. Long story. I never do this as I know I am insulin resistant. I exercise regularly and I need to know what to eat to bring myself in balance right now. I feel terrible.

    Lynn Bosch | April 22nd, 2016 | Comment Permalink

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