Blood Sugar problems can cause a lot of health concerns that have grave complications. Here are some ways to balance blood sugar levels for better health.
Does Blood Sugar Problems Just "Happen"?
'Blood sugar dysregulation does not suddenly emerge.
You cannot wake up one day with a blood sugar issue and not have a clue that something is going wrong.
Type II diabetes follows an insidious pattern of development and involves, to some extent, dysregulation in the three organs of sugar regulation: the endocrine pancreas, the liver, and the adrenal glands. These three organs work in harmony to regulate and normalize blood glucose levels across the day and night.’ (1)
‘Hypoglycemia and insulin resistance are not mutually exclusive.
If you have one you most likely have some degree of the other. Either way, both are a sign your blood sugar is unstable and either dropping too low, spiking too high, or both.
Both cause the insulin surges that skew so many other systems in the body.’ (2)
Why You Need to Balance Your Blood Sugar
As a nutritional therapist, stabilizing blood sugar is the number one issue I deal with and usually the first thing I work on with all of my clients.
Balanced blood sugar will help to manage one’s overall mood. When balanced you can expect to reduce stress, confusion, brain fog, irritability and more. You will find you sleep well, lose weight and have more energy.
Having balanced blood sugar is the KEY to good health.
Moving From Blood Sugar Problems to Type 2 Diabetes
How your body progresses from Hypoglycemia to Diabetes
Step 1. Reactive Hypoglycemia is when you have low blood glucose levels due to an over-reactive attempt of the body to control increasing blood sugar levels. This is due to a diet high in refined carbohydrates or a high glycemic diet. If this is not remedied through dietary changes it can lead to;
Step 2. Insulin Resistance or Pre-diabetes (Syndrome X) -A condition where insulin becomes less effective at lowering blood sugar. Chronically high insulin levels lead to insulin resistance as the cell receptor sites for insulin become blocked. If this is not remedied by dietary changes it can lead to;
Step 3. Hyperglycemia is when consistently elevated blood glucose levels circulate in the blood plasma, due to the inability of cells to properly utilize insulin. Someone with a consistent BGL range between 100-126 mg/dL (according to the American Diabetes Guidelines) is considered hyperglycemic. If this is not remedied through dietary changes it can lead to;
Step 4. Type II Diabetes – this is due to continued insulin resistance that causes the beta cells of the pancreas to continue pumping out insulin, and eventually they become completely exhausted to the point where they no longer can produce insulin. Chronic hyperglycemia is the medical marker for Type 2 diabetes.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin Resistance is important to talk about when discussing blood sugar levels. Any time a cell is exposed to excess insulin, it becomes more insulin resistant. It’s that simple.
When the excess glucose won’t be taken by the cells, the liver or the muscles or fats cells because they are already full, that means it has nowhere to go.
So, the insulin is left to circulate in the bloodstream.
This means that the pancreas will now trigger even more insulin to get the circulating insulin to go somewhere, as this is its job. Eventually, the glucose will have to get out of the bloodstream and get stored. This helps you to begin to see the endless spiral towards insulin resistance.
Eating more sugar or starch causes one to crave more sugar, but then becomes a very nasty vicious debilitating cycle.
How Insulin Resistance Happens and What it Causes
Imagine insulin as a truck carrying sugars into our cells. The truck enters the cells using a special garage-door opener. If the opener stops working, the truck is stuck in the driveway. Soon after, another truck will pull up behind the first one and they’ll both become trapped.
Eventually a whole fleet of trucks will be backed up, causing a major traffic jam throughout the body – or chronically high insulin. All of this happens because the garage door opener (aka the insulin receptor) is no longer responding to the presence of the truck (aka insulin).
Once our cells become resistant to insulin, losing weight becomes harder than ever. Moreover, physiological changes start to occur in the body, signaling a condition called 'metabolic syndrome', which is the clinical manifestation of insulin resistance. This means the blood sugar is chronically too high and as a result causes inflammation, imbalanced hormones and neurotransmitters, all of which lead to rapid degeneration of the brain.
None of us can afford to have our brains under attack, as this speeds up the aging of our brains also increasing the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Did you know that scientists are now dubbing Alzheimer's disease 'Type 3 diabetes." If you have diabetes you are much more likely to end up with Alzheimer's. (3)
Clearly, having imbalanced blood sugar is no minor issue we face as humans in this modern day of excess sugar consumption.
If you have grown up on a typical standard American diet, you probably have insulin resistance.
The longer you remain insulin resistant, the more likely you are heading towards type 2 diabetes. And, you don't necessarily have to be overweight to have diabetes, though that is a key marker.
Anyone with a waist girth that is greater than their hips has cause for concern.
The good news is, you CAN do a lot to improve your health and lead a normal life. However, it will take hard work and sticking to a diet that keeps your blood sugar balanced, moderate regular exercise and avoiding food allergens.
Let's take a quick look at some dietary principles to start getting your body's blood sugar balance back on track.
Some Helpful Dietary Guidelines for Balancing Blood Sugar
Consume 3-5 ounces of protein at every meal, 1-2 ounces with every snack. Optimally, the best sources of protein are grass-fed meats, pastured poultry, wild seafood and pastured eggs.
Legumes are not a complete or optimal source of protein, plus they are rather high in carbohydrates which will likely spike your blood sugar.
There are lots of reasons why you might want to eat fat. Check with your doctor and if recommended, eat good healthy fats with every meal and snack.
Fats are very satiating and the optimal source of fuel for your body--do not skip or skimp on the fats.
Organic, in season, low glycemic veggies are unlimited. Eat as much as you want. Limit carrots, beets, and root vegetables – using in smaller portions and make sure to balance well with other lower glycemic veggies.
Avoid white potatoes – they are very high in starch (small amounts of fermented potatoes may be okay once your blood sugar is more balanced. The fermentation process actually helps to reduce the starch content). Properly fermented vegetables (like this homemade sauerkraut) are allowed and highly recommended.
Soaked nuts or raw nuts are acceptable in small portions, a handful is adequate. Don’t overdo it on the nuts. Peanuts are not recommended, they are actually legumes.
*Note* – Nuts can be problematic for some people, causing digestive issues/complaints or even allergies/sensitivities. If this is the case for you, leave them out of your diet for at least 2 weeks to a month then try again one at a time. Some people will need to keep nuts out for much longer.
Limit fruits to 1-2 servings of low glycemic fruits. Avoid fruit at breakfast for the most part. Once your blood sugar is under control you may be able to tolerate fruit in the mornings here and there.
Avoid the sweeter fruits such as; bananas, mangoes, papayas, grapes and dried fruits. No fruit or vegetable juices at this time, even fresh pressed at home.
Most people will need to avoid dairy – it can have an insulin effect. Ghee is acceptable to use. This is different for everyone - you will have to find out what works for you as an individual.
If you do choose dairy, make sure it is not pasteurized and comes from grass fed cows. Choose only full fat dairy products, never low fat or skim as this will actually spike your blood sugar and cause weight gain.
However, if you have gone through an elimination diet or gone through GAPS intro and you know you are not sensitive to dairy – you can have some dairy, such as butter, small portions of GAPS approved cheeses, a small amount of sour cream with meals or as a dip for veggies.
Avoid entire meals of dairy, such as large glasses of kefir or yogurt as your meal.
For some people, in order to balance blood sugars, you will want to truly eat no sweeteners of any kind.
Zip. Zilch. Zero.
Stevia is okay in green leaf form on occasion if need be, but not for those with severe sugar imbalances.
AVOID – Grains, Legumes and Most Starches. Even properly prepared grains and legumes can cause a blood sugar spike. Once you get your blood sugar under control and more balanced you can add back small amounts of properly prepared starches, keeping in mind to avoid the problematic ones that you may be sensitive to.
Never assume you can go back to carbohydrate-laden meals like most Americans do today.
Water is best – try to drink half your weight in ounces of water per day. It is VERY important to make sure you get enough electrolytes as well.
Adding a pinch of good quality sea salt to your drinking water is ideal, especially the water you drink during and after your workouts. Water makes up 70% of our bodies – it is the most important and critical nutrient we need. Adding a slice of lemon to your water is also a good option. Make sure, however, that you know how to make choosing a good water filter.
Avoid, alcohol, fruit juice, milk.
This is a biggie – caffeine actually disrupts your blood sugar. If you are a coffee drinker, take the first two weeks to wean off of coffee – decaf is better but still has caffeine. 1 cup of decaf can be okay. Dandy Blend is a popular coffee substitute that can be used. As well as organic herbal teas with no additives of any kind. This Rich and Nutritious Coffee Substitute is a great option as well.
That is a basic clean diet to balance blood sugar. Most people need to shift more slowly into a diet like this. Some people can jump right into it without much trouble at all and end up feeling amazing rather quickly. Everyone will be different, but the common denominator is to watch your overall carbohydrate intake.
More Blood Sugar Helps
Have you heard about Intermittent Fasting?
There is growing evidence that intermittent fasting contributes to better control of blood sugar.
It's really incredible information. The above post has some information on how fasting can help with blood sugar issues.
Blood Sugar Management Course
If you really want to step up your game to manage your blood sugar so you can have better health, this course is something to really look into!
Jennifer of Purposeful Nutrition runs a fantastic course on How to Balance Blood Sugar. The information in this course has helped Jennifer and others to stop the progression towards problematic issues that can lead to diabetes.
In short--it works.
You can find out more and sign up here. And good news -- you can use code wholenewmom to get 10% off!
Is there Diabetes in Your Family?
Have you done anything to manage your blood sugar?
(1) Signs and Symptoms Analysis from a Functional Perspective. A Question by Question Guide. Dicken Weatherby, N.D., pg. 23
(2) ‘Why Isn’t My Brain Working? Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MS, pg. 68
Lydia Joy Shatney is a certified Nutritional Therapist Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association. Additionally, she is the chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation in Delaware County, Pa. Lydia founded Divine Health From The Inside Out in March of 2010.