The Benefits of Balancing your Blood Sugar:
Maureen McDonnell, RN
I’m sure by now you’ve heard the buzz regarding the importance of balancing your blood sugar level. Keeping it stable not only prevents excessive weight gain and obesity, but it’s also critical for preventing Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, Cancer and according to these popular health authors; David Perlmutter, MD and Mark Hyman MD: stabilizing blood sugar levels will also help prevent Dementia.
Without overwhelming you with statistics, let me just set the stage with a few of the more startling ones:
- 36% of adults and one in three children in the US are overweight or obese.
- Childhood obesity and Type 2 Diabetes have both tripled in the last 30 years.
- Type 2 Diabetes affects 28 million people in the US (including 12 million kids)
- 1/3 of Diabetics have heart disease.
If there is a silver lining in this depressing list of health statistics it has to do with the fact that these diseases are, more often than not, related to imbalanced blood sugar levels (which stem from diet and lifestyle). The good news: they are preventable and in some cases reversible. So, if you (or someone you care about) is affected by any of these ailments and you haven’t already taken a closer look at this blood sugar issue, it may be time to do so.
Basically, it comes down to the fact that whenever you raise your body’s blood sugar or glucose level by consuming quickly absorbed sugar-laden or processed foods such as juices, cookies, candy, cereals, soda, white flour products (pasta, bagels and bread), or even certain high glycemic fruits (including bananas or melons) or starchy vegetables, your body will respond by raising your insulin levels. When consuming these types of food is only a very occasional indulgence, the body will usually be able to handle the stress. However, when this “sugar-insulin roller coaster ride” becomes the norm, it leads to your cells becoming resistant to insulin. The syndrome that ensues has many names including: insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, syndrome X and pre-diabetes. As the problem worsens you gain fat (insulin tells the body to store fat, usually in the belly) inflammation develops, and the aging process accelerates. According to Mark Hyman, MD, author of The Blood Sugar Solution “insulin resistance is the single most important phenomenon that leads to rapid and premature aging and all its resultant diseases including heart disease, stroke, dementia and cancer.” It’s amazing to me how one physiological function, when gone awry, has so many negative repercussions?
An early sign that you may be moving in this direction (and so you’ll want to consider making some changes) includes periods of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. This early warning sign usually occurs after you eat too much sugar or refined carbs or skip a meal. In these cases, you many find you feel anxious, irritable, fatigued, depressed or even experience panic attacks. If the pattern of consuming empty calorie, sugar laden foods continue, your cells will become resistant to insulin and your blood sugar level will stay elevated because the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to deal with the consistently high blood sugar levels. When this happens insulin resistance or pre diabetes will turn into a full-fledged diagnosis of Diabetes.
So Take Action Now
Tips for Balancing Blood Sugar Levels and therefore minimizing the risks for developing Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, Inflammation, Premature Aging, Heart Disease, Cancer and Dementia are:
1. Avoid empty calorie, sugar-laden or HFCS containing foods, sweetened drinks, diet drinks, refined carbs (pasta, rice, potatoes etc.) ….basically all processed foods
2. Avoid artificial sweeteners which disrupt the normal hormonal and neurological signals that control hunger and create that feeling of fullness (satiety). Studies have shown artificial sweeteners also slow down metabolism and trigger the consumption of more calories.
3. Understand the “addictive” qualities of sugar and processed foods.
4. Identify and eliminate allergy causing foods. The main culprits are gluten, dairy, sugar, corn and soy.
5. In addition to filling your plate 3/4 full with organic vegetables, consume modest amounts (usually the amount that would fit inside your cupped hand) of high quality protein rich foods every 4 hours. These include: organic chicken, eggs, turkey, grass fed beef, organic nuts, seeds, soaked beans and vegan, non GMO protein powder (used to make green smoothies or “quick pick-me-up”protein balls.) There’s some controversy regarding grains. However many nutritional experts when making recommendations for balancing blood sugar levels suggest using only small amounts on occasion of organic quinoa and or brown rice.
6. Don’t be afraid of healthy fats including: organic olive oil, nuts, organic virgin coconut oil and avocados. Good fats are not what make us fat, sugar and processed foods are doing the damage!
7. Provide your body with appropriate nutrients supplementation. My favorite 4 are:
8. A good comprehensive multi-vitamin (with adequate levels of chromium, magnesium, zinc & B vitamins). In today’s world even with a perfect diet when you look at depleted soils, genetic alterations, increased stress, and extra nutrient demands caused by toxins in the environment, it’s almost impossible to get all we need solely from our diet.
9. A mercury-free source of Omega 3 fatty acids (controls inflammation, metabolism and help regulate blood sugar levels)
10. Vitamin D (80% of Americans are deficient in this important nutrient)
11. A high quality probiotic: it’s impossible to overemphasize the value of a healthy gut and it’s impact on every aspect of health
12. Exercise: helps to stabilize your blood sugar level and makes your cells more responsive to insulin.
13. Manage stress: chronic stress increases the production of the hormone cortisol which causes increased blood sugar levels, elevated cholesterol, and promotes the accumulation of belly fat.
14. Reduce inflammation: The causes of insulin resistance and the causes of inflammation are one and the same: sugar, refined flours, processed oils (corn & soy-sources of pro-inflammatory Omega 6s), food allergies or sensitivities (gluten, dairy etc), chronic low grade infections, imbalanced gut flora (yeast overgrowth), toxins (see July’s article explaining how toxins are stored in fat cells and how important it is to “flush out the toxins” when losing weight and or improving one’s health), stress and a sedentary lifestyle.
In attempting to prevent or reverse the relatively new, life-restricting diseases of our day, it turns out the food we put in our mouth is powerful medicine. Although the endless commercials sponsored by the drug companies would have us believe that the solution lies in innovative pharmaceuticals designed to control the spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, the truth is you can’t outsmart Mother Nature! The age-old adage “let food be thy medicine” is key and could not be more relevant a tool for reversing this trend. By focusing on the causes of illness, shifting our diets and implementing a few of the lifestyle suggestions listed above we can break the vicious cycle of unhealthy habits that have permeated our culture and enjoy life the way I believe it was meant to be- unencumbered by modern day ailments.
Bio: Maureen is the Health Editor of WNC Woman Magazine and has been a holistic, nutritionally oriented Registered Nurse for more than 30 years. She currently coaches individuals on methods to regain their health and vitality via the 30 days to Healthy Living Plan. This program focuses on balancing blood sugar levels, reducing inflammation, weight loss and flushing out toxins. Maureen is also the cofounder of Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet (sokhop.com) and an Executive Area Manager with Arbonne International. For additional information and or support, contact her at [email protected]