I have something for you to think about before you gorge on all that leftover Halloween candy.....or better yet....something to consider when choosing what to dole out on Halloween......
What do type 2 diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease have in common? Chronically high levels of glucose in the blood are contributing factors to all of them. What causes chronically high levels of glucose in the blood? Eating too many carbohydrates, especially the refined ones.
In 2010 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that “...as many as 1 in 3 U.S. adults could have diabetes by 2050 if the current trends continue.” They also stated that “1 in 10 adults has diabetes now.” This is scary!
When you eat a high carbohydrate meal or snack (cereal or granola with low fat milk, pancakes or waffles with syrup, toast, crackers, chips, pretzels, “energy” bars, granola bars, fruit snacks, candy bars, bagels, etc.) your body turns the carbohydrate component into glucose that enters your blood stream. Next, your pancreas secretes insulin to help glucose get into the cells where it is used for energy.
Problems begin when we eat way too many carbohydrates on a continual basis, which has become the norm in our culture. Our pancreas overcompensates with even bigger surges of insulin. This causes blood glucose levels to drop. When this happens, we can experience mid morning or late afternoon energy dips, or getting irritable when hungry.
To bring our blood sugar back up into the healthy range, our adrenal glands secrete cortisol. This is meant to be a once in a while response for an emergency, not the after every meal occurrence it has become. Over time our adrenal glands become fatigued. Chronically high levels of cortisol can lead to many problems, including hormonal imbalances and sleep disturbances. Constantly needing to make cortisol to manage blood glucose leads to a lack of components necessary to make other hormones.
Over time, your pancreas gets tired from making so much insulin all the time and can wear out. Your cells get tired of being bombarded with insulin and they say “no more”. The receptor sites become unresponsive to insulin and glucose can’t get into the cells efficiently.
When glucose is unable to get into the cells and is left in the blood stream it causes problems. It reacts with proteins and they are damaged and begin to harden. These are called Associated Glycation End Products (AGEs). The surfaces of arteries, organ’s tissue, joints, and cell membranes become hardened by glycation. Glycated proteins clog small arteries. They injure neuron’s cell membranes and cause neuro inflammation.
I’m not telling you all this to freak you out. I’m telling you this so you can be aware of what happens in your body so you can make better, educated choices. Looking on the bright side, the other thing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease have in common is that they are in most cases, completely preventable!
Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease are at the extreme end of the spectrum of blood sugar dysregulation consequences. They are progressive and don’t just happen overnight. If you address your blood sugar regulation now, you can prevent problems later. You will probably feel amazing too. I know I do.
When I decided to become an NTP, I thought I was really healthy. I rarely was sick, didn’t have any serious health conditions or take medications. I thought my energy levels were good, although I often was tired in the afternoon. Most people, myself included, would have said I was in near perfect health.
Well, during my training to become an NTP, I put everything I was learning to use on myself. Turns out I DID have blood sugar regulation issues. I just didn’t recognize that the things I experienced were signs that my blood sugar regulation was not in balance. I though they were a just a normal part of living and aging. By addressing my blood sugar regulation so many things have changed for the better!
Things that went away by balancing my blood sugar include: the need to pack snacks all the time to prevent the inability to think clearly, becoming irritable or irrational when hungry, being groggy when I woke up in the morning and needing a cup of coffee before anyone could ask me questions, the need to eat a mid morning snack (sometimes I don’t need an afternoon one either), getting a little jittery when hungry, and waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go right back to sleep. I also lost some weight, which was a pleasant side effect. Now, when I get hungry, I’m just hungry. If I don’t eat immediately nothing happens. It’s amazing.
Now I am much better at handling stress. Things just don’t stress me out as much. For example: we recently had a leak in our kitchen. It leaked underneath our whole kitchen floor and into our dining area. For 4 days, the restoration people had 2 giant heaters and 4 very noisy fans running to dry it out. The noise when you entered our house was like standing next to a jet plane as it gets ready for take off. We had to yell to hear each other. We could even hear it upstairs in our bedroom with our door closed.
Right now our flooring is all ripped up and we are waiting to put in new floors. This on top of my 2 jobs, a birthday party and sleep over for five 14 year old boys, and everything else my busy life requires. I think this would stress a lot of people out, but it really hasn't bothered me much. I'm pretty sure it would have previously stressed me out.
Here are some tips of what you can do to balance your own blood sugar:
1. Quit eating so much sugar (and quit buying and feeding your loved ones so much sugar too)
Sugar is in abundance most packaged foods. Read labels. The obvious names are brown sugar, powdered sugar, turbinado sugar, white sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, corn sugar, date sugar and maple sugar. The sneakier hidden names are high fructose corn syrup (one of the very worst and most abundant forms!!!!), corn syrup, disaccharides, molasses, succanat, polysaccharides, sucrose, fructose, invert sugar, dextrose, sucrose, glucose, lactose, sorbitol, mannitol, honey, malt, malt extract, maltose, rice extract, and golden syrup.
When reading a nutrition label, look at the number of grams of sugar. Divide this by 4 to give you the number of teaspoons in each serving. Now that you are aware of the effects in the body, ask yourself if you really want to consume this much sugar or feed it to your loved one.
2. Reduce insulin surges by eating a balance of healthy fat, protein and carbohydrates in each meal or snack. This can go a long way toward improving your health and preventing disease. Over time, it can help your body use fats and ketones for energy rather than just glucose. This gives us longer more sustained energy.
Being able to use fat for energy (being a fat burner) is the normal and preferred metabolic state of the human body! When we continually consume too many carbohydrates we loose our ability to burn fat and become sugar burners. Luckily this is reversible.
Healthy fats will be the subject of a near future blog post. Fats and protein slow down the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Healthy fats are found in nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, butter, coconut oil, etc. Good protein sources include grass fed beef, organic free-range poultry, low-toxicity seafood, whole dairy products and organic eggs.
At first it was hard for me to incorporate more fats and protein because I had been vegetarian off and on for most of my adult life and even vegan for 18 months. I believed the myth that fat made you fat and clogged your arteries. Once I started to feel the beneficial effects it became easy.
3. Avoid refined carbohydrates including: white sugar, fruit juice, corn syrup, white bread, white rice, pasta and chips.
Limit raw honey, raw maple syrup and freshly squeezed juices.
Eat unrefined carbohydrates, including lots of vegetables (ideally this is the main form of carbohydrate to eat), and smaller amounts of legumes, brown rice and whole grains.
Blood sugar regulation is one of the 6 foundations of optimal health that nutritional therapy is based on. Blood sugar dysregulation disrupts all aspects of human physiology. When you desire to work towards optimal health it is a key factor to address.