Balancing Blood Sugars
Reader request: I've been told by my doctor that I need to keep my blood sugars balanced or will end up with Diabetes? Can you expand on this and give me some ideas on how to do that?
Blood sugar levels is the measurement of the amount of sugar in your blood. It is a balancing act as you need the right balance to fuel your brain and muscles.
The thing is, it can fluctuate! A LOT!!!
The fluctuation is the balance between triggers that increase it; and triggers that decrease it. Eating foods with sugars or starches (“carbs”), that are broken down to glucose, means your digestive system absorbs the sugar into your blood. When carbs are ingested and broken down into simple sugars, your body keeps blood sugar levels balanced by secreting insulin.
Insulin is the gatekeeper, so to speak and allows sugar to get it out of your bloodstream and into your muscle cells and other tissues so they can use it for energy.
Why its important to eat to keep blood sugar levels stable?
Your body needs your blood sugar to be at an optimal level. High enough, so you’re not light-headed, fatigued, and irritable but should also be low enough that your body isn’t working overtime to remove the excess from the blood.
“Hypoglycemia” is when blood sugar is too low and "Hyperglycemia" is when blood sugar is too high. Prolonged phases of elevated blood sugar levels (chronic hyperglycemia) can lead to “insulin resistance.”
Insulin resistance is when your cells become so use to the excess insulin that they start ignoring (resisting) it, which mean the sugar stays in the bloodstream causing all kinds of oxidative damage.
Insulin resistance and chronic hyperglycemia will eventually lead to diabetes.
So here's how you can optimize your diet and lifestyle to keep your blood sugar stable....
Eating for stable blood sugar
The easiest thing to balance your blood sugar is to reduce the amount of refined sugars, starches, and processed foods you consume. Avoid sweet drinks (pure water and herbal teas are ideal!).
For sweet cravings reach for a couple of pieces of quality dark chocolate, a piece of fruit or even a smoothie or nice cream that includes healthy fats like avocado, chia seeds and coconut milk will hit the spot without putting blood sugar levels into a tail spin.
Increase your Fiber content
Fiber helps slow down the amount and rate which sugar is absorbed from a meal; it reduces the “spike” in your blood sugar level. Fiber is found in plant-based foods (which are eaten in their natural state, processing foods removes fiber). Eating nuts, seeds, and whole fruits (not juiced) and veggies is a easy way to increase your fiber intake.
Eat a quality source of protein and healthy fats with each meal
Having a source of healthy protein (Wild caught Fish, organic/free range meat, eggs, or 3/4 cup of soaked legumes) and 1-2 servings of healthy fats (like avocado, olive oil, fatty fish) also helps to slow down the absorption of sugars as well as increasing satiety levels.
Add some Spice
Cinnamon is shown to help cells increase insulin sensitivity and aid blood sugar balance. Not to mention it’s a delicious spice that can be used as a sweetener. Cinnamon tea is a warming sweet drink that satisfies and doesn't affect blood sugar levels negatively. Add a tsp of cinnamon to hot water and enjoy.
Take a break from Stimulants
If you are relying on coffee to kick you into gear every morning and help you bet the 3pm slump, its time to take a break and here's the science as to Why...
Caffeine stimulates the release of Adrenalin and Adrenaline has many widespread metabolic actions in the human body. For the purpose of this blog I want to focus on the fact that Adrenaline is a key hormone in the ‘fight or flight’ response, it stimulates the liver to release glucose into the blood stream in the case that we need quick energy to run away from a predator.
It does this via two physiological processes; glycogenolysis and gluconeogenesis. This basically means that the liver breaks down stored glucose in the form of glycogen, and it also breaks down non-glucose sources of energy such as fat sources.
Many people have argued that its the tsp of sugar that is added to the coffee or the milk that's added, but we know through a number of clinical studies now that its the actual caffeine that causes the blood glucose spike and then the drop which will trigger sweet cravings - that's the blood sugar roller coaster right there.
Find an alternative for a while and get yourself back to baseline, the first few days are the hardest but in my experience after a week I had more stable energy and better sleeps. My favourite coffee alternative is Jing
Lifestyle for stable blood sugar
Move your body
When you exercise, your muscles are use up the sugar they absorbed from your blood. Exercise also helps to improve your insulin sensitivity; meaning your cells don’t ignore insulin’s help to get the excess sugar out of the blood.
Get quality sleep
Quality sleep goes hand-in-hand with lowered stress levels. When you don’t get enough sleep, you release stress hormones, have a larger appetite, and are prone to sugar cravings.
Sleep is a vital, but often overlooked factor when it comes to managing your blood sugar levels.
Mange your stress levels
Stress affects your blood sugar levels? Stress hormones increase your blood sugar levels through activating the “fight or flight” stress response. And what fuel do your brain and muscles need to “fight” or “flee”? Sugar! When you are stressed signals release stored forms of sugar back into the bloodstream, elevating blood sugar levels.
So, reduce the stress you’re under or learn to manage it more effectively. Simple techniques include deep breathing, meditation, gentle relaxing movement like yin yoga or tai chi, diffusing calming essential oils and time in nature everyday.
Your body is on a constant 24-hour mission, everyday of your life to keep your blood sugar stable. The body is designed for this and has mechanisms to do this, unfortunately those mechanisms can get tired (resistant) if we move away from what we are designed to eat, reduce our sleep quality and increase the stress we are under. Chronic blood sugar issues result in low energy and disease.
Real food nutrition and holistic lifestyle approaches help hugely in keeping blood sugars stable and improve your overall health and energy.