The implications of blood sugar dis-regulation tend to be viewed as something that only diabetics have to worry about. I myself have joked about my tendency to become ‘hangry’ in between meals or have an intense (yet entertaining) ‘sugar high’ after a sweet treat. The intention of this post is to explain the effects that frequently high or fluctuating blood sugar can have on the body and the various health concerns that result. If you aren't interested in the explanation of why this happens in the body, feel free to skip down to the bottom where I offer some suggestions about tips to implement starting today!
I have always been somewhat aware of the detrimental effects of blood sugar dis-regulation. In other words, I knew that waiting too long between meals would cause lethargy, lightheadedness, lack of focus as well as leave me extremely hangry (hunger + angry). I also knew that a quick hit of sugar/ simple carbs would give about an hour’s worth of rocket fuel energy if I wanted to work out, train a client, or have a laughing fit (my sister can attest to this frequent childhood occurrence).
Unfortunately, a majority of people in today’s society live on this same “blood sugar rollercoaster” that I have just described. Maybe you haven’t experienced quite the same extremes as I just mentioned, but if you often rely on sugar, caffeine, or certain foods just to feel “normal”, blood sugar fluctuations are most likely effecting your well-being more than you realize.
Riding the "blood sugar rollercoaster" on a frequent basis (which even I am still working on myself!) causes the organs that control your blood sugar regulation (liver, pancreas, and adrenal glands) to be unnecessarily taxed.
Your body is smart! It wants to keep the amount of glucose (blood sugar) in the bloodstream “normal” at all times. For example, when your glucose level is too low or too high, your body responds by triggering the release of certain hormones to bring it back to homeostasis. These hormones include:
Insulin: hormone released by the pancreas to bring blood sugar down. Promotes the storage of glucose which is why this is often thought of in relation to weight gain.
Glucagon: released by the pancreas to maintain blood glucose levels between meals.
Cortisol: released by the adrenals when blood sugar is too low. Converts protein from tissues into glucose as a way to bring blood sugar back up.
These are normal processes that your body is fully equipped to handle. The problem occurs when when we rely heavily on high sugar, processed meals, snacks and beverages throughout the day. Take a look at this example of a 'standard american diet':
Standard American Diet example :
8:00am Breakfast : cereal and a blended coffee drink : Glucose (blood sugar) levels rise and insulin is released.
12:00PM (pre- lunch): Blood sugar reaches very low level. Pancreas dispenses glucagon to keep blood glucose from getting too low; eventually adrenals help by releasing cortisol
1 PM (lunch): Peanut butter and Jelly Sandwich on white bread with a banana: again blood sugar soars, pancreas releases insulin.
Imagine this cycle repeating every time we eat a meal, snack or beverage that does not support blood sugar. Over the course of time, this leads to:
- The wearing out of the pancreas, liver and adrenals from constantly outputting hormones
- The adrenals go into state of exhaustion
- The pancreas begins to produce inadequate amounts of insulin (leading to insulin resistance)
- The liver struggles to make glucose
Now you may be asking yourself,
Why should you care about this??
Continuous blood sugar fluctuations disrupt some of the basic aspects of human physiology including:
- energy output/ fatigue
- hormonal balance
- mental health
- 'slow' metabolism
- premature aging
- memory loss
and many others. If these symptoms sound familiar, there are tons of ways to improve your blood sugar balance through food choices, lifestyle changes, and the help of certain supplements.
Here are some of my top tips for maintaining balanced blood sugar levels:
- Eat a nutrient dense diet full of foods in their whole, unrefined form
- Make sure your digestion is working properly!
- Include protein-rich foods at every meal
- Eat every 3-4 hours to avoid letting blood glucose levels dropping too low
- Read labels: avoid added sugar (natural or artificial!) wherever possible
- Increase intake of non-starchy veggies at every meal
- Incorporate essential fatty acids at every meal for satiety
Supplements are very individualized based on every client I see. However, the 2 supplements I find to be most helpful with people trying to keep sugar cravings and blood sugar under control are:
Make sure to consult a functional practitioner before beginning any supplemental protocol.
*Finally, although this article may seem very “anti-sugar”, I truly believe in the idea of bio-individuality; we must all discover what works for us individually. Having a sweet treat once in a while is not a bad thing - as a matter of fact it can be very helpful in not feeling deprived. However if constant sugar cravings are something you experience, your body is waving a red flag!