Sugar is getting a lot of attention lately, and rightfully so, It is creating a health catastrophe. Diabetes rates are skyrocketing and proper advice is still not reaching the general public. Diabetes Type 2 is a massive problem, and many times is completely reversible. Proper advice, if followed correctly, can turn this devastating disease around and completely restore health to an individual.
However, even for those who don’t have diabetes, proper sugar control in the body can be key to restoring optimal health. I have had numerous clients whose lab tests show normal sugar levels and who are not diabetic, yet still have problems with blood sugar control. This often times confuses them. I implement better sugar control strategies in their program and questions always come: “Why do you think I have a sugar problem when my blood sugar levels are normal in my labs?” Great question!
It is not always about how your fasting blood sugar levels look. Remember that this is just a snap-shot in time and how your body looked at the exact moment that blood was drawn. For better indications of how your body is controlling sugar interiorly we look more to symptoms expressed by the patient. This can be a huge indicator of a problem yet to come. It is also important to understand that dysglycemia, or poor blood sugar control, is one of the primary dysfunctions that needs to be addressed in order to normalize the body as a whole. Excessive fluctuations in blood sugar can negatively affect almost every other system in your body!
Some of the symptoms that I look for to indicate poor blood sugar control are:
Irritation or anger when hungry
Increased or decreased energy after eating
Cravings for carbs
Shakiness relieved by eating
Fatigue relieved with food
Waking at 2-3am
Poor brain function
These symptoms can mean that someone is constantly riding the blood sugar roller coaster. These fluctuations cause intermittent spikes in insulin levels, which is the true problem with dysglycemia. However, this doesn’t always mean that someone is eating high sugar snacks and foods all the time. In fact, I have had many clients who eat ‘really clean’ and yet still display many of these symptoms. There are many reasons why this can occur, but let’s just cover a few of them.
The adrenal system is crucial to overall health. It is responsible for the production of many hormones, but most notably cortisol. Cortisol is your stress hormone and is released anytime your body experiences any type of stress (physical, chemical, and/or emotional). The main job or cortisol is to release sugar from cells into the bloodstream so that your body has access to quick energy. A very useful technique when you need to run from an approaching tiger! However, in today’s society this response tends to stay on all the time. So, if this is the case, then no matter how ‘clean’ you are eating, your hormones are telling your body to release more sugar into the bloodstream. This is why this system becomes critical to address if you want to truly control blood sugar.
Timing of Foods
Sometimes people eat ‘healthy’ foods, but just don’t understand how to pair them. Fruits are not all bad. While limiting total fruit intake is probably a good idea you can also use another strategy to slow the release of fruit sugar into your bloodstream. One strategy I always give my clients is to eat fruits with either a healthy fat or protein. This is not only good to get more good macronutrients on board, but it also significantly slows the sugar absorption into the blood. This reflexively dampens the insulin response and does not allow for major spikes in insulin release, which can be the sole factor causing dysglycemia. And once you get on the blood sugar roller coaster it can make it tough to get off for the rest of the day! This is why a big bowl of fruit in the morning might not be the best strategy.
Many people have a goal of weight loss and the first thing that they think to do is restrict calories. This is an ancient way of thinking and can many times backfire. Especially if your are trying to maintain a high level of exercise. Skipping meals, while it can be a healthy strategy for some, can cause harmful effects in others. Skipping meals causes your body to rely on cortisol to obtain blood sugar. And if you are someone who has poor adrenal health to begin with, you may be making your health worse! These periods of not eating can cause fluctuations in blood sugar to increase in severity, which puts you back on this blood sugar roller coaster. The longer you can stabilized blood sugar, the more your hormone response will normalize. This is why many times the goal is to eat frequently and get to a point where you have none of the symptoms listed above.
Protein shakes have become popular both for their convenience and for their ease in getting many nutrients into the body quickly. However, a major pitfall often occurs when people add things to these shakes. You must remember that blending foods and drinking them as liquids speeds there absorption into the body. This can be a good and a bad thing. People who add mainly fruits into their shakes in the morning are actually just having a sugar shake. It would be the same as having a big glass of fruit juice. It is not only high levels of sugar, but it also hits the system quickly. And while you are getting protein and other nutrients you cannot take the liberty to also add immense amounts of sugar! Fruit in shakes should be minimal and only used to add some flavor and sweetness. Just understand that anytime you drink a food it hits your bloodstream faster, so just be aware of what you are putting in your shakes.
While these are just a handful of reasons, you can see why blood sugar regulation is not as simple as just avoiding sweets. Unfortunately, many of the strategies that people think may be helping their situation may in fact be hurting. You can also see how people can develop poor blood sugar control even if their diet is void of candy, sweets, and soda. Overall health can be a bit trickier sometimes. It is important to begin to learn what strategies may help you for your particular situation. Once you start to learn the reasons why certain strategies are implemented, then you will know when you can use them and when you should avoid them! It is not always the best idea to just follow the latest trend or do something just because it worked like magic for friend of yours. Sometimes this pays off, but other times it makes our conditions worse even though we think we are doing something ‘healthy’.
The absolute best way to figure out what health strategies will work best for you is to do some comprehensive lab testing and work with someone who can understand how your symptoms intertwine with the lab data. As you can see, sometimes certain lab markers make you think everything is fine, when in reality there is a storm brewing that will eventually cause damage.
For more information on how we can help feel free to call our office. We would be happy to help get your health back on track!