How Blood Sugar Imbalances Create Havoc in Your Health
Are you noticing more stubborn belly fat? Experiencing wild sugar cravings? Constant fatigue and sudden crashes in energy? Are you noticing more stubborn belly fat? Experiencing wild sugar cravings? Constant fatigue and sudden crashes in energy?
Our dietary choices and lifestyle practices play a huge role in either maintaining balance or spiking blood sugar levels. The number of people with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes is also rising rapidly in North America and it’s something we see in our practice more often than we’d like! Blood sugar imbalances can create havoc in our health.
How Does Blood Sugar Fluctuate?
Carbohydrates we eat are broken down by the body into sugar, or glucose. This sugar is then absorbed into the bloodstream (blood sugar) to be used for energy. This process is regulated by the hormone insulin, which is released by the pancreas. Any excess blood sugar unused by the body for energy gets converted to glycogen, or insulin can convert to fat that is then stored in your liver and deep abdominal areas and can also be stored outside of these areas.
It’s all smoothly orchestrated so that you have energy when you need it – as long as your insulin levels are properly balanced! But what if they’re not? That’s when we encounter blood sugar dysregulation and diabetes.
Signs Your Body is Crying for Help
Blood sugar imbalance can result in a list of symptoms that are often easy to blame on stress or aging. In fact, it can cause premature aging! These include:
Excess belly fat: When your body senses high glucose levels, it secretes more insulin in an attempt to trigger your cells to absorb the excess glucose. Insulin also encourages fat storage, especially around the belly. Unfortunately, this can create a vicious cycle, since belly fat increases insulin resistance, so your pancreas then responds by releasing even more insulin.
Mood changes: Do you regularly “crash” after a carb-heavy meal? Or do you feel shaky, irritable or “hangry” when you haven’t eaten in a while? Mood swings, including bursts of manic energy followed by rapidly depleted energy, are often in response to fluctuations in blood sugar and a diet that is rapidly spiking blood sugar.
Cravings: Another frustrating irony is that excess blood sugar leads to cravings for more carb-heavy and sugary foods, further adding to the cycle of insulin production. This tells us that not only are blood sugar levels imbalanced but there may be an underlying gut issue as well.
Difficulty concentrating: Without the energy supplied by glucose, your brain cells don’t function optimally if your body isn’t used to being able to breakdown and burn fat in the form of ketones. As a result, concentration and focus suffer – but eating something that causes glucose levels to spike isn’t the solution, since you’ll be headed for a crash. Then the crash will push up cortisol, which will push your blood sugar up again – and the vicious circle continues.
Thyroid trouble: The link between insulin and thyroid health is complex. Excess insulin can harm the thyroid. At the same time, a healthy thyroid helps control insulin.
Female hormone imbalance: Healthy female hormones depend upon balanced blood sugar. In short, excess insulin produces increased amounts of testosterone and belly fat tissue converts excess testosterone into estrogen. This produces increased estrogen in the body which results in too little progesterone. Since progesterone is a calming hormone, too little of it means women often experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, insomnia, fertility issues, and more.
Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
People with diabetes experience problems with the production of insulin and the subsequent rise in their blood sugar.
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition which prevents the pancreas from producing adequate amounts of insulin, resulting in low blood sugar levels which need to be monitored closely.
Type 2 diabetes is considered to be a “lifestyle disease”. After several years of imbalanced blood sugar and insulin levels, the body develops insulin resistance where cells don’t respond well to the insulin being released.
How to Manage Your Blood Sugar Levels for Optimal Health
As mentioned, blood sugar dysregulation and type 2 diabetes are very much a lifestyle disease and certain lifestyle factors can greatly impact how well your body manages blood sugar levels. Here are some tips for managing blood sugar for optimal health.
Avoid Spiking Blood Sugar with a Balanced Diet
The most important step for stabilizing blood sugar is to avoid processed and sugary food and eating patterns that can lead to a sudden spike in blood sugar. Different types of carbohydrates are digested and absorbed at different rates, based on a number of factors, including fat and fiber content, and the type of sugar the food contains.
Fiber slows the absorption of glucose, so including foods with high fiber content with meals helps stabilize blood sugar. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in fiber and can feed certain ‘good’ gut bacteria (may need to improve your gut health to digest it without bloating) and helps to avoid constipation. It is found in foods like cauliflower, spinach, prunes, green peas, sprouted beans, almonds, and blackberries. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the colon and includes foods like, lentils, chickpeas, chia seeds, flax seeds, broccoli, and avocado. Similarly, including protein with each meal helps slow down blood sugar spikes.
What is the Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index (GI) was developed to measure food’s impact on blood sugar. The higher the food is found on the index the faster it spikes blood sugar, while the foods found on the lower end of the glycemic index are more slowly digested and absorbed. Note that the glycemic index only applies to foods that contain carbohydrates.
A number of studies have found that following a low glycemic diet can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Following a low glycemic diet doesn’t have to be difficult. Along with including fiber and protein in each meal, it’s simply a matter of swapping a high glycemic food for a lower glycemic choice. Keep in mind that too much fructose, even if it is organic, can contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), so be mindful when it comes to eating high fructose fruits like mangos, bananas, and pineapples.
Be Mindful of Your Beverages
The drinks we consume have a big impact on blood sugar. That’s because drinks are easily digested, resulting in a quick shot of glucose. One study found that people who drink at least one sweet drink a day have a 26 percent higher chance of developing diabetes!
Choosing an alternative isn’t always straightforward, however. Be careful with artificially sweetened drinks, as studies have linked some artificial sweeteners with an increased risk of diabetes.
Fruit juices should also be limited because of its high natural fructose sugar content — the glycemic index for fruit juice is very high, because it lacks the fiber found in fruit.
Instead, blend up whole fruit so that you get the fiber content, and be sure to add a source of protein and fat like nut butter or avocado. The VitaMix blender is fantastic for this purpose.
Water is always a good beverage choice for managing blood sugar, since it’s important to stay hydrated so you can eliminate excess glucose through urination. When your body is aware of extra glucose, it pulls water from the rest of your body, increasing your risk of dehydration. Just make sure that you are drinking clean, filtrated water. Much of our water systems currently are contaminated with heavy metals and a variety of chemical toxins.
A Variety of Exercise and Good Sleep
Exercise helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity and making your muscles more efficient in their absorption of that glucose it needs for energy. Studies suggest high-intensity interval training is the most effective, but many people find it difficult to keep up that level of intensity on a regular basis. A combination of a form of cardio that you can maintain over the long haul, plus resistance training, is an excellent and sustainable approach.
Getting enough sleep is important to stabilize blood sugar, since regular sleep helps maintain hormonal balance and a healthy weight. It also reduces inflammation. Frustratingly, high blood sugar can interfere with getting restful sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene, including sleeping in a cool, dark room and limiting drinks of any kind two hours before bedtime. Also, late night snacking is a sure way to help destabilize your blood sugar level and disrupt your sleep – as well as increasing your likelihood of gaining excess weight.
Herbal supplements can also complement other treatments for blood sugar management. Cinnamon is particularly promising – plus, it has the added benefit of adding a bit of sweetness without sugar. Ginger is another supplement that is easy to incorporate into your diet, is anti-inflammatory and supports digestion.There are several other natural supplements and herbs that are fabulous at supporting your cardiovascular and blood sugar regulation systems.
Always work with a functional medicine healthcare practitioner, since many factors must be considered to determine the best form of supplementation.
Prevention is the Best Practice!
The complications of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes are serious, and can include heart and nerve damage, kidney disease, and eye damage. Take steps now to understand and control your blood sugar levels – your body will thank you! If you are already having symptoms, we can help you to get to the root cause so that you can stop progression in its tracks, and even oftentimes reverse the process. Your body has amazing capacity to heal itself when given the right support. Contact us here to learn more. Our team, including health coaches, can help you to reset your metabolism to become more fat-burning, stop addiction to sugar, and balance your blood sugar so that you can have greater energy and vitality.
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