Importance of Blood Sugar Regulation
Updated: Jan 22, 2019
When we think blood sugar regulation we often think diabetes! Yes blood sugar regulation is important for diabetics but it is actually important for everybody! And we know a diet full of sugar isn't good for us, but why?! It plays a major role in our overall health. Let's dive in to exactly what that piece of cake is doing for your health.
How does our diet cause blood sugar changes?
When you eat sugar or carbohydrates, your blood sugar (blood glucose) levels begin to increase. As blood glucose increases, the pancreas will release insulin to stabilize the rising blood sugar. Insulin attaches to the glucose and allows cells to uptake glucose for energy. If your cells do not need the energy, the insulin brings the glucose to your liver to be stored for later. The liver's store of glucose will be used during times of low blood sugar such as during exercise or in between meals.
Eating foods high in sugar or carbohydrates causes a drastic increase in blood glucose. This causes a spike in your blood glucose and you experience a sugar rush. The pancreas is frantically releasing insulin to get the problem back under control. Your blood sugar then drastically decreases and you experience the sugar crash. You feel drained and tired. Until you eat the second piece of cake. And the cycle goes on and on.
Over time, these drastic blood sugar changes can lead to Type 2 Diabetes. The pancreas begins slowing down on insulin production or the cells become resistant to sugar uptake which causes Type 2 Diabetes.
Now not everyone is experiencing blood glucose spikes often enough or drastic enough to lead to Type 2 Diabetes but moderate fluctuations still have an effect on our overall health.
Blood Sugar Spikes Affect our Health
Blood sugar spikes cause an increase in insulin production from the pancreas which can lead to feelings of sluggishness. The tired and low energy feeling can also be partially due to the fact that you are lacking protein and fiber in a sugary meal. You will initially feel full but that feeling does not last very long because sugar is quickly digested. Fructose, often in sugary foods, actually does not suppress the hunger hormone so you don’t have feelings of being full! So you can’t tell when you have eaten enough and often eat more than you should.
Your brain begins to crave the feelings associated with eating sugar. Sugar causes the release of dopamine and serotonin which are our “feel good” hormones. The brain reacts to sugar and cocaine in a similar way! We become addicted to the feeling associated with eating sugar and that is why we crave it. This makes it hard to break the sugar cycle and takes some willpower to quit. Even if you eat small amounts of sugar daily, the cycle is still hard to break but you can do it!
Your skin is affected too! Acne and wrinkles are both results of a sugary diet. Sugar can reduce the effects of collagen. Collagen is the protein that gives our skin the smooth look. So wrinkles and reduced elasticity are a results of a diet leading to spiking blood sugar.
When the liver is overloaded with glucose, it stores some for later and has to get rid of the rest. The way it clears out the excess glucose is by converting it to fat to be stored in the body. This leads to increase weight gain. So sure one piece of cake won’t cause a noticeable increase in body weight but a piece of cake every day will start to add up over time!
Ok but how do I maintain a stable blood sugar?!
Our diet and reducing sugar intake is of course the first step to create a stable blood sugar. This includes reducing our favourite sugary treats and refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates are the processed carbs like white bread, breakfast cereal, fruit juices and pastries. By adding healthy fats and protein to our diet we not only create a stable blood sugar but we prolong the time we feel full. Feeling full longer means less cravings for the sugary snacks! Fiber is another crucial part to our diet. Not only does it help us feel full and improve our digestion but it slows the absorption of carbohydrates! A slower absorption means no spike in blood sugar! Focus on healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, coconut oil), protein and fiber to feel full longer and cause minimal fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
Blood sugar can be too high but it can also be too low! Eating meals that keep us full lower not only limit the high blood sugar levels but it reduces the risk of low blood sugar levels as well. Eating proper meals throughout the day is the main way to prevent low blood sugar!
We often think of food when discussing diet but what we drink is important too! Juice and pop are full of sugar and cause the spike in blood sugar. Try reducing or removing juice and pop from your diet to help stabilize blood sugar. Be wary of the alcohol you are drinking too. Alcohol often contains a lot of sugar that we don't think about.
Exercise is also important for blood sugar stabilization! Exercise helps increase insulin sensitivity to rising blood sugar and it encourages the cells to use glucose for energy. This combination results in greater uptake of blood sugar into cells to reduce circulating blood sugar.
Take away message!
It is extremely tough to create a stable blood pressure! Exercising, drinking water and eating a diet full of healthy fats, protein and fiber will reduce blood sugar fluctuations and help improve overall health.
If you have any questions about your blood sugar, consult with your Naturopathic Doctor.
You can find me at Helix Integrative Health in Kelowna (778-484-4359) and at Paradigm Naturopathic Medicine (778-475-3822) in Vernon.
As always, this post is not designed to diagnose or treat you, but instead to give you something to think about. Please book a consult with a naturopathic physician prior to changing, starting, or stopping medications or protocols.
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