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Preventing & Reversing Insulin Resistance Using Functional Medicine

In contrast to conventional medicine, Functional Medicine emphasizes prevention and treatment through diet and lifestyle changes. In part 1 of this blog post, we discussed the pathophysiology of blood sugar imbalance and insulin resistance. In part 2, we will focus on small changes you can make to prevent or reverse insulin resistance. 

Healthy lifestyle habits to prevent or reverse insulin resistance

  1. Aim for a diet high in whole, fresh foods like colorful vegetables
  2. Avoid eating high glycemic, processed foods (soda, baked goods, chips, cookies, etc)1
  3. Don’t be scared of fats. High-quality fats include extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, avocados, salmon, nuts/seeds, grass fed butter, pasture raised eggs, flaxseed, etc.
  4. Stay hydrated. Drink half your body weight in ounces a day
  5. Increase fiber. Taking in foods high in dietary fiber has shown beneficial improvements in insulin sensitivity by slowing the rise of blood sugar after a meal1
  6. Move your body. Exercise helps insulin move sugar out of the bloodstream and into muscle cells
  7. Get enough sleep. Even just a few nights of impaired sleep can contribute to insulin resistance. Make getting enough restful sleep a top priority. Go to bed and wake up at consistent times2
  8. Work on stress levels. Find what works for you whether it be meditation, yoga, breathing exercises or walks outdoors

Personalized Nutrition

One way to find out how you respond to different foods is to ask your doctor about a Continuous Glucose Monitor or CGM. This is a small device applied to upper arm or abdomen that continuously measures blood sugar throughout the day without you having to prick your finger. You can check your blood glucose by scanning the CGM with your smartphone which sends the value to an app. This is a great way to personalize nutrition and tailor your regimen around how your body responds to certain foods. 

There is no one-size-fits-all diet. You are unique and have your own “fingerprint” of metabolism.

Nutrients and Nutraceuticals

In addition to dietary and other lifestyle interventions, there are certain nutraceuticals and nutrients that can improve insulin sensitivity and help prevent and/or manage type 2 diabetes progression.  

  • Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that mimics insulin and increases glucose uptake in the cell. Doses used in research range between 600 to 1,800 mg/day.3      
  • Berberine is a well known herbal supplement that has been shown to help with glucose metabolism and improve insulin sensitivity through changes in gene expression. In studies, it has shown to be just as effective as oral diabetic pharmaceuticals, including metformin. A typical berberine dose is 500 mg taken three times a day. 3
  • Chromium is an essential mineral that works at the receptor level to regulate insulin activity.3 Chromium levels have been found to be lower in diabetic patients and supplementation with it has shown to reduce insulin resistance and help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.4 Doses of 200 to 1,000 mcg/day in single or divided doses has been used.3
  • Vanadium is a trace elemental found in foods such as black pepper, dill seed, mushroom, and shellfish. Vanadium, taken as vanadyl sulfate, has been shown to improve fasting blood glucose and HbA1c. Doses of 50 mg twice daily of vanadyl sulfate have been used in trials.3 
  • Cinnamon is a well known spice used for centuries for its cardiovascular and metabolic effects. Studies have shown that cinnamon lowers blood glucose as well as other makers of cardiovascular disease including triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.5  Adding cinnamon to your diet could be an easy, cost-effective, and tasty way to lower your risk for developing diabetes.  
  • Vitamin D, even though it’s called a vitamin, physiologically, acts more like a hormone. While it may not have direct effects on lowering blood glucose, low Vitamin D status is associated with an increased risk of diabetes and obesity. Supplementing with vitamin D has shown improvements in both insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.3 

If you have questions…

Diabetes can be overwhelming, especially if you are taking multiple medications. At PharmToTable, we are a team of Pharmacists who can help with your medication regimen along with helping you make changes to your diet, which is often a missed opportunity at the doctor’s office.

Working with a trained professional who can help implement diet changes can be your first step to a healthier version of yourself. If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes and are on medications, we do caution making any drastic changes in diet, as these can affect how your medications work and may cause low blood sugar. Our Pharmacists at PharmToTable specialize in functional medicine using a lifestyle-based approach to help you manage your blood sugar. We also have health coaches on our team who can help you start to make changes towards improving your health.  

 Book an appointment or schedule a free 15 minute discovery call today!

Written by Dr. Katie Johnstone, PharmD, CHC


  1. Bessesen, DH. The Role of Carbohydrates in Insulin Resistance. The Journal of Nutrition. 2001 Oct; 131(10): 2782S-2786S
  2. Rao MN, Neylan TC, et al. Subchronic sleep restriction causes tissue-specific insulin resistance. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Apr; 100(4):1664- 71.
  3. Guilliams, T. Preventing and Treating T2DM Natural Approaches for Reversing Insulin Resistance. The Standard: A review of natural and nutraceutical therapies for clinical practice. 2018; 14(1)
  4. Hummel, M et al. Chromium in metabolic and cardiovascular disease. Horm Metab Res. 2007 Oct; 39(10): 743-751
  5. Khan, A et al. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2003 Dec;26(12):3215-8
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