Controlling Your Blood Sugar
The Lifestyle Choices That Will Make a Difference
By Joel Thuna
High blood sugar (also called hyperglycemia) is a serious health concern. It occurs when your body doesn’t make enough or effectively use insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar glucose in your body. High blood sugar is associated with diabetes.Typically, insulin helps to move glucose from your blood to your cells, where it’s used for energy. But with type 2 diabetes, your body’s cells aren’t able to respond to insulin as well as they should. In later stages of the condition, your body may also not produce enough insulin.
All of us have fluctuations in our blood sugar based on time of day and when as well as what we eat, our level of physical activity and our metabolism. The concerns arise when our levels are high for a prolonged period of time. This prolonged elevation leads to issues such as type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic medical condition in which the levels of sugar, or glucose, build up in your bloodstream. Uncontrolled type 2 diabetes can lead to chronically high blood glucose levels, which can cause several symptoms and potentially lead to serious complications. Your body must rely on alternative energy sources in your tissues, muscles, and organs. This is a chain reaction that can cause a variety of symptoms and complications. Almost 50% of adults are living with high blood sugar issues, either diabetes or pre-diabetes and the numbers are on the rise.
Diabetes complications include: eye problems (diabetic retinopathy); feelings of numbness in your extremities, or neuropathy; kidney disease (nephropathy); gum disease; heart attack or stroke; and Cancer Risk (2X the risk of liver, pancreas, and endometrial cancer. 20-50% increase of colorectal, breast, and bladder cancer). All of these complications reduce quality of life and some reduce life expectancy.
Blood sugar is controllable and in many cases without the use of medication. One big point to remember is that your body breaks carbohydrates (carbs) down into sugars (mostly glucose), and then insulin helps your body use and store sugar for energy. If you have insulin issues and you eat too many carbs this process fails, and blood glucose levels rise.
Diet: Be sure to eat a wide variety of foods rich in fiber and healthy carbohydrates — fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains (not juices or concentrates) can help keep your blood glucose levels steady. Look at the food’s glycemic index – the rate at which foods cause our blood sugar to rise. The lower the glycemic index, the slower the blood sugar rises. Keep refined carbohydrates, sweets, and animal (primarily saturated) fats to a minimum. Eat at regular intervals and avoid eating before bed. Work on being mindful about portion sizes and stopping eating when you’re full. Be sure to drink water – water helps your kidneys flush out the excess sugar through urine, it helps rehydrate your blood, lowers blood sugar levels, and could reduce diabetes risk.
Avoid the following: empty calories; foods high in saturated or trans fats (like red meat and full-fat dairy products); processed meats (like hotdogs and salami);margarine and shortening that contain saturated fats and/or trans fats; refined baked goods (like white bread and cake); high-sugar, highly processed foods and snacks (jams, cookies, cereals, ready-made food) and sugary drinks (like soda, fruit and vegetable juices)
Exercise: Be sure to talk to your doctor about what is right for you. Exercise regularly throughout the day. Your program doesn’t need to be vigorous, just get blood moving (which gets sugar moving. I recommend aiming for approximately half an hour of physical activity daily. Use a fitness app or watch and try to get at least 10,000 steps daily. Most importantly, do what you enjoy; that way it won’t seem like work or something you are forced to do.
Fiber is king when it comes to blood sugar control. Fiber slows the digestion of the carbohydrates you eat, resulting in a slower rise in blood sugar allowing your body to process it more efficiently. The type of fiber you take is very important. There are two types of fiber; Insoluble, which irritates your colon and cleans you out; and Soluble, which provides the rest of fiber’s benefits.
Soluble fiber has been shown in numerous studies (thousands) to provide a multitude of health benefits including digestion improvement, cancer prevention, weight management, as well as blood sugar control. Unfortunately it’s almost impossible to get enough soluble fiber from food alone every day.
Vitamin D + K2 are two symbiotic vitamins that have an effect on virtually every body organ and system including blood sugar control. Vitamin D works to reduce insulin resistance. Researchers have found vitamin D receptor cells in many organs including both the pancreas and the liver. Here D works to increase insulin production in the pancreas, improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.
Vitamin K2 supplementation activates a protein called osteocalcin. This protein helps vitamin D work, and also helps reduce blood sugar by improving insulin sensitivity and helping to increase carbohydrate metabolism. Ideally you always want to take these two vitamins together in a certified organic liquid.
Chromium is a micro mineral that increases the efficiency of your liver. It helps your body interact with insulin so that it tolerates glucose a lot better. It also increases the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Be cautious though, very little goes a long way.
Berberine is an active compound found in a few herbs including one of my favourites, Goldenseal. This bitter compound has shown incredible clinical results for immune enhancements (what indigenous peoples use it for), digestive health (what traditional Asian medicines use it for) and to help lower blood sugar and enhance carbohydrate breakdown. In some studies researchers found berberine to be as effective as some blood-sugar-lowering drugs. To get the most benefit you want to use a liquid Goldenseal Root Extract.
Cinnamon: Although you may enjoy a sprinkle here and there for flavour, that little bit just won’t do when it comes to blood sugar effect. Here you want to stick with capsules or concentrated liquid supplements. Take one dose (according to label directions) every time you eat carbohydrates. Cinnamon acts in a way similar to insulin (on a much smaller scale) by helping transport blood sugar into cells. Cinnamon also helps reduce insulin resistance.
Magnesium: As a society, we are magnesium deficient. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to muscle issues (pain and stiffness), cardiovascular disease, sleep issues, stress and much more. Magnesium has also been shown to benefit blood sugar levels, while magnesium deficiency has been linked to a higher risk of developing diabetes. Magnesium works through reducing insulin resistance and helping to regulate fasting blood sugar levels.
Green Tea Extract is an amazing, multipurpose supplement. We have known for decades that it plays a role in brain health, reduces cancer risk and increases metabolism which can assist in weight loss. Now researchers have found that if taken immediately following a meal, it helps reduce the blood sugar effect from that meal.
Stress is everywhere in our society. It isn’t widely known, but stress can play a key role in blood sugar control. When your body is under stress (physical or emotional) it releases specific hormones to help deal with the stress. Some of these hormones such as glucagon and cortisol cause blood sugar levels to rise.
Regular exercise as well as relaxation methods like yoga and mindfulness-based stress reduction can do wonders for your overall health; reduce your stress and lower blood sugar levels.
Always talk with your doctor about your personal nutrition and exercise requirements . They may recommend you connect with a dietician or trainer who’s well-versed in optimal plans for blood sugar control. Together, you can come up with a plan that suits your lifestyle needs.
Joel Thuna, MH is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience. www.globalbotanical.com