Does any of this sound familiar?
- You get sugar cravings throughout the day or after meals.
- You get extremely irritable, shaky and/or spacey if you haven't eaten recently.
- Your diet is full of processed foods and simple carbs.
- Your blood test from your doctor came back revealing above normal blood glucose and/or Hemoglobin A1C levels.
If you said yes to any of the above, you may have blood sugar dysregulation.
The bad news is that blood sugar dysregulation can lead to a whole host of issues such as weight gain, depression, hormonal imbalances and diabetes. It may even be a contributing factor to PCOS, infertility and breast cancer in women.
The good news is that blood sugar issues can absolutely be addressed by diet and lifestyle habits.
Blood sugar imbalance is one of the few areas where even conventional medicine looks to diet and lifestyle interventions first.
What are the 3 main steps to getting blood sugar under control?
Increase your intake of healthy fats, protein and fiber
Remove processed carbohydrates from your diet
Add regular exercise into your daily lifestyle (including strength training)
Those are the basic concepts. Now, let me expand on those ideas a bit and help you understand how to do those three things.
I tend to find that my clients have an easier time adjusting their current food intake by focusing on ADDING first, and REMOVING second. Usually, this approach is the most effective and successful. Therefore, in terms of blood sugar management, this means that you want to start my making sure that you are consuming enough healthy fats, protein and fiber. How to do this?
Avocado, Avocado Oil, Olive Oil, Coconut oil, Butter (grassfed), Ghee, Oily Fish, Fish Oil, Flax Oil, Nuts and Seeds.
Fat is key. Thanks to the 1980's people are fat-fearful, but that really needs to go away now. That was a fad that allowed companies to pump their foods full of salt and sugar, but market them as a health food because they were "low-fat." Terrible. Fat slows down the absorption of carbohydrates, limiting the glucose spike that causes blood sugar highs and lows, which can lead to diabetes. Not to mention all of the very important fat soluble vitamins that come with healthy fats.
BTW-Yes, butter is a healthy fat. The key is to make sure that you are getting a good quality butter- meaning grassfed. It really does change the nutrient profile. KerryGold is a widely available grassfed butter, or any smaller local companies that sell grassfed butter at your local healthfood store or farmer's market is great. Coconut oil (another saturated fat and therefore sometimes demonized) is awesome. It is a medium chain fatty acid, which means it is easily absorbed into the body. It is also a high heat oil so you can cook with it. Please only cook with fats that can take high heat. Low-heat oils will oxidize and become very inflammatory. Not good.
Cook with: Avocado Oil, Ghee, Butter, Coconut Oil. (Save the olive oil for low heat situations.)
ALSO, when it comes to fats, organic should be the priority. I realize that price can be an issue and therefore you will need to make the decision that is right for you and your family, but in terms of health and the chemistry of fats, organic is extremely important. Fats can store tons of fat-soluble toxins and fats are mostly absorbed directly into the lymph, which means that they enter our bodies before getting screened by the liver. The liver is our ultimate protector that tries its best to eliminate harmful substances before they enter our blood stream. Fats often skip this first step and therefore it stands to reason that fat-soluble toxins may be even more damaging than water-soluble toxins. (Not that those are good either, we don't want to overload our livers and cause liver disease.)
It does't have to be animal protein. While quality animal meats (humanely raised, not pumped full of chemicals) can be a healthy source of protein, try also looking toward plant sources such as beans and legumes. They also have the added benefit of being good sources of Fiber.
This is where the classic fruits, vegetables and whole grains enter the picture. (+Beans and legumes.) Not only do these foods contain fiber, but they also contain wonderful vitamins and minerals that help our bodies function. Think the color of the rainbow. While whole grains are good in moderation, try to focus on vegetables more than grains.
Remove the Junk
Once you've got a hold of including the goodies, you should feel more prepared to remove the troublemakers. Typically, the sheer act of including more of the good stuff will crowd out some of the bad stuff, but incase there is still a bunch of processed, refined carbohydrates on your plate: time to chuck them. They are nutrient deplete (seriously, absolutely no benefit other than containing calories) and they spike your blood sugar very high. This spike in blood sugar (aka. blood glucose) will result in your body bringing tons of insulin onto the scene to move that bucket of sugar into your cells. Unfortunately, this process will work too well and your blood sugar level will drop too low, resulting in reactive hypoglycemia and sugar cravings. That is why you crave sugar soon after meals. This can be the beginning of a roller coaster ride for your body's blood sugar management team: You continue to eat processed junk spiking your blood sugar, insulin comes in and works too hard to move the sugar into cells, which causes your blood sugar to drop low enough to cause sugar cravings. If you indulge this craving the whole things repeats itself until your body is literally worn out. The insulin receptors stop working as well, moving you into non-insulin dependent Type II diabetes. If you continue, your body will be too tired to make insulin at all and you will have insulin-dependent Type II diabetes and require insulin injections. Once your body loses its ability to produce its own insulin, it can never be reversed. You will require insulin injections for the rest of your life. Not Fun. Let's stop you from getting there. (If you are already there, we can still vastly improve your quality of life and prevent you from other unfortunate complications of diabetes. Never give up on your health!)
Not only is exercise good for weight management and cardiovascular health (just to name a couple), but the physical act of contracting your muscles will move glucose (sugar) from your blood stream into your cells WITHOUT the use of insulin. How cool is that?! If you are heading on the path towards diabetes, or have already been diagnosed with diabetes, how important do you think it is to give the insulin in your body a break? VERY that's how important. Since it is the contraction of muscles that is key, strength training really is the golden boy in this scenario. Instead of just hopping on the elliptical, throw in some strength training and you will reap the rewards!