It is alarming to note that 1 in 3 people in North America are either living with pre-diabetes or diabetes. Many of us are experiencing signs of insulin resistance or hypoglycemia, and we don’t even know!!!! This was really a shocking statistic that I came across the other day! I have been thinking about it and thought it would to be really useful to share this information with you all and throw some light on how important it is to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Lack or excess of blood glucose is detrimental to our health. Therefore, the body strives to maintain blood glucose within a normal range. In fact, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is not just important but CRUCIAL for your health, since chronic blood sugar issues, prediabetes, and diabetes may increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, liver problems, eye problems, vision loss, nerve damage and much more.
The good news is that through a healthy diet and lifestyle and the use of some powerful herbs, you can support your blood sugar levels and improve your health and well-being.
Do you know how our body regulates blood sugar?
First, the food we eat is digested and broken down to glucose (blood sugar). This glucose is absorbed into our blood stream. As the levels of glucose in our blood rise, Pancreas secretes a hormone called Insulin. That is why within 1 hour after meals you will see that the blood sugar rise and the insulin levels also rise. Now glucose and insulin in blood are carried to each and every cell in our body. Insulin acts like a key to open the doors on the cells and allow glucose to enter the cells. This glucose will then be used for making energy primarily. This is how cells absorb glucose from the blood with the help of insulin.
Hyperglycemia: When your body doesn’t have enough insulin to deal with all the blood sugar or somehow develops insulin resistance, it leads to a condition known as Hyperglycemia, which is characterized by consistently high blood sugar levels.
Classic symptoms of hyperglycemia are frequent urination, excessive thirst and insatiable hunger! Now because these three classic symptoms are not too terribly serious, people usually do not co-relate them with Diabetes and do not bother to seek medical care. But uncontrolled hyperglycemia could develop into a full-blown diabetes and could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disease and loss of nerve function.
Hypoglycemia: On the other hand, if your blood sugar levels drop below the normal range, it means that you have Hypoglycemia. This may develop when you are eating too many fast-digesting simple carbs that lead to a large insulin spike followed by a quick blood sugar drop. This can become a chronic problem if you are relying on sugary or carb-heavy foods. It is also common in diabetic individuals when their condition is poorly managed or untreated or they administer too much insulin after a meal. Short-term hypoglycemia may develop when your body burns up all the stored sugar but is not yet adapted to use fats as an alternative energy source. When you are experiencing low blood sugar/ hypoglycemia, you may see these early warning sign & symptoms such as headaches, extreme fatigue, irritability, moodiness, intense hunger, muscle weakness, racing heart & trembling/ shakiness of your hands. People commonly experience hypoglycemic episodes in the mid-afternoon. If this goes on for too long, and your body cannot bring back your blood glucose levels naturally, you may have very low blood sugar in which case there might be mental confusion, brain fog, blurred vision or you may feel dizzy!
It is important that you pay attention to hypoglycemic episodes and signs of blood sugar imbalances, as they may be a sign or precursor of prediabetes, insulin resistance, or diabetes. Hypoglycemia and blood sugar imbalances are also warning signs that you may need a diet and lifestyle change to create healthy balanced blood sugar levels and lower the risk of disease in the long term.
If you consistently allow yourself to have high blood sugar levels over long periods of time then unknowing you might be creating Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in your blood. These AGEs are harmful compounds created in your body when fat or protein combine with sugar in your bloodstream through the process of “glycation”. AGEs can also form in foods through frying, roasting, barbecuing, toasting to the extent that food gets burnt or other methods when they are exposed to high temperatures. In fact, diet is usually the main source of AGEs and can cause many problems. Fried foods and heavily processed foods are especially high in AGEs. When we consume high carbohydrate foods, they turn into sugar or glucose in our blood stream. If we are unable to clear the sugar out of the blood soon, the sugar molecules combine to proteins and create AGEs.
The good news is that your body can fight AGEs through antioxidant and enzymatic activities. The problem is that when you are eating too many foods that create AGEs, your body won’t be able to keep up with it and AGEs end up accumulating in your body. AGEs lead to inflammation in the body and could damage the endothelial lining of the blood vessels, nerves, joints and organs making us prone to various health problems.
Insulin Resistance: If you have insulin resistance, it means that your body is unable to use the insulin produced by your pancreas. Signs of insulin resistance may include having a large appetite, intense sugar cravings, being overweight, trouble losing weight, fatigue after meals, frequent thirst or urination, high blood pressure and triglycerides, hormonal imbalances. Sometimes, insulin resistance can go without symptoms and without being noticed for years, which makes it even more important to pay attention to your diet and your lifestyle to support healthy blood sugar levels.
Here are a few of my suggestions: –
- Avoid Simple sugars at all cost!
- Avoid stimulants such a tea, coffee and cigarettes as they lead to a sharp rise in blood sugars.
- Avoid alcohol as it is a straight source of sugars.
- Increase Fiber Intake. Most of us do not get enough fiber every day. Our total fiber intake should be 25-50 grams per day. There is soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Best sources of soluble fiber are oats, legumes (dried beans, peas, and lentils), brown rice, barley, and pectin rich fruits such as apples, pear, citrus fruits and strawberries. Insoluble fiber, also known as roughage, is found in green leafy vegetables and some fruits eaten with skin such as apples.
- Low fat diet is recommended to prevent cardiovascular complications. The key issue with fat is to strike a balance with healthy fats. Some of the best quality fats include fish and fish oils (rich source of omega 3 fatty acids). Omega 3 fats are also present in flaxseeds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Omega 3 fats help in keeping inflammation in check!
- Include mono-unsaturated fats in your diet such as olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocado.
- Do not use juicing, as the glucose molecules will be absorbed very fast from the juice, since all the fiber has been removed.
- Always combine carbohydrate with some protein, as this delays the digestion and absorption of carbs and allows steadier blood sugar levels.
- Use onion and garlic liberally in your cooking. They regulate blood sugar and also have a protective effect on the cardiovascular system.
- Ground Cinnamon greatly increases insulin sensitivity.
- Bitter melon & Jerusalem artichoke are helpful in lowering blood sugars.
- Fenugreek leaves and seeds are great for blood sugar control.
- Eating small regular meals is of great importance.
- Overall – Eat a healthy, well balanced, nutrient-dense diet which is low in simple carbs, saturated fats and trans fats and low in AGEs- which means no deep-fried foods or processed/ packaged foods! Include foods that are rich in fiber, proteins, complex carbs and good quality fats.
- Look for foods with Glycemic Index GI ≤ 55 or Glycemic Load ≤ 10
- Develop a proper Exercise program. It helps improve insulin receptor sensitivity, regulates blood glucose levels and reduces stress. Deep breathing, yoga and meditation are great ways of reducing stress.
- Maintain Ideal body weight (Obesity is a major contributing factor towards the development of insulin resistance/blood sugar imbalances)
- Manage stress: Stress has the same effect on blood sugar as eating simple sugars. It spikes the blood sugar and starts the whole cycle of hyperinsulinemia and hypoglycemia.
- Proper Sleep is equally important!
- Never skip meals if you’re experiencing signs of blood sugar imbalance. This will wreak havoc in your blood glucose levels and can lead to potentially dangerous complications.
To learn more or to book your very own private one-on-one holistic nutrition consultation, CONNECT with me.
The content provided in my blogs are for knowledge sharing purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.