Controlling your blood glucose (sugar) level may be something your doctor has asked you or someone you love to work on. A request like this is made with good reason and intention. Unfortunately if we are not aware of how to control our blood sugar levels dis-ease in the body can ensue. Every year in America 1.5 million people are diagnosed with diabetes. With numbers like these learning to control your blood sugar early can hopefully prevent disease development.
Regulation of Blood Sugar
When the body is functioning, using its preferred biochemistry, there is a stepwise process for the regulation of glucose from the diet. Normally when we eat our food the body will digest the carbs, fats, and proteins. These macros are then digested into their simplest forms. Carbs are broken down into glucose, our body’s favorite energy source. It’s a favorite because it can be directly entered into the energy producing cycles that happen inside each of our cells. These cycles are glycolysis, the Citric acid cycle (CAC), and the electron transport chain (ETC).
In order for our cells to get the glucose, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin’s action is to open the gates of the cells and allow the glucose to enter. From here the glucose is broken to form ATP, or our body’s energy currency, needed for all body processes to be accomplished. While this is happening, insulin is also stimulating the formation of the storage form of sugar in the liver, glycogen. It also stimulates the formation of fat. So whenever we eat a high carb meal/snack we get quick energy, sugar storage in the liver, and fat formation.
At first glance quick energy sounds great. But as quickly as we get this energy from glucose we also lose it. That is the 1-2 hour post eating energy slump we can sometimes feel. Sugar is great for quick energy but is needed in multiple doses to sustain energy levels over an extended period of time. Foods high in healthy fats, fiber, and protein will give the body energy as well but help to sustain those levels over time. (see diagram below). When we overeat simple sugars like cakes, white bread, pasta, and other packaged foods our pancreas must pump out omre insulin overtime as the cells become resistant. Due to the resistance, more and more insulin is needed for the cells to respond and uptake the glucose for energy production. This causes the pancreas to be overworked eventually leading to cell death and the need for insulin injections.
Symptoms and Associated Complications
When the cells of the body become resistant to insulin, glucose levels rise in the bloodstream. This is cause for concern as it leads to diabetes. Type 1 develops in those who pancreas no longer produces insulin and type 2 in those whose cells are resistant to insulin. Either way when glucose regulation is altered the following are signs and symptoms:
- Stomach pain
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Sugar cravings
- Fruity odor of breath or urine
In prolonged blood glucose elevation, sugar flows throughout the entire body via the blood. It then attaches itself to various organs, blood vessels, and nerves. This sugar attachment is called glycation. The sugar attachment to red blood cells is tested by the hemoglobin A1c (HA1c) and this blood test is used to diagnose diabetes. The glycation that occurs in the body can lead to the following: blindness, nerve pain in fingers and toes, loss of blood flow, limb amputation, kidney failure, hypertension, heart disease, muscle pain, wasting or loss of muscle mass. This is why learning to control your blood sugar is important to your long term health.
Eliminate refined carbs and increase complex carbs in limited amounts
Combine protein with carbs at meals and snacks
Replace refined carbs with non starchy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage, squash, zucchini, etc
Replace sugary beverages with water and herbal tea
Add beans and fiber rich foods to your diet (allows for longer sustained blood sugar)
Avoid artificial sweeteners or replacing with plant based sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit
Low carb meals and/or intermittent fasting→ low sugar diets helps cells to become sensitive to insulin again
Herbs and Supplements for Blood Sugar Control
Herbs: Cinnamon, Berberine, Momordica, Gymnema
- These herbs work by either reducing your urge to eat sugary foods or actively reduce resistance to insulin aiding the cells in the uptake and breakdown of glucose
Minerals: Chromium and Vanadium
- These mineral are required for insulin production and activity
Other Supplements: CoQ10, omega 3 fatty acids, alpha lipoic acid, apple cider vinegar
- These are antioxidants and antiinflammatory to help heal and reduce the risk of injury from elevated glucose in the blood. They also are required for our cells to make ATP from our food
Weight loss of 10% reduces risk for diabetes by increasing hormones that regulate blood sugar
Resistance training→ to gain muscle which requires more energy than fat, decreasing blood sugar in the blood and helping you to begin to burn fat for energy and subsequently lose weight.
Cardio exercises→ increase demand of glucose for sustain energy decreasing amount of glucose in the bloodstream
Our body’s are beautiful intelligent vessels. They work well to keep our bodies functioning properly. Aiding the body in doing biochemical processes allows us to live healthy lives. Starting now, regulating blood sugar levels can prevent us and our families from developing blood sugar dysregulation. Get in control of your blood sugar. #naturopathicmedicine #eatwellbehealthy