What is blood sugar?
When we talk about blood sugar (aka blood glucose), we are referring to the amount of glucose that is present in your bloodstream at any given time. This amount can vary throughout the day but is kept tightly controlled, by various mechanisms, within a certain range to allow for optimum body functioning. Most of you would have a heard of blood sugar balancing in relation to diabetes prevention. While this is extremely important, balanced blood sugar plays a role in energy, weight loss, weight maintenance and overall health for everyone.
WHY does it matter?
If you’re wondering: ‘Okay that’s cool and all, but why should I spend the next few minutes reading about this? Why is it so important?’.
Trust me, taking steps to control your blood sugar balance via your diet is such an important aspect of health. By having a good understanding of blood sugar balancing and why it’s important, and by following my blood sugar balancing tips below and making them a habit, you can set yourself up for a healthy life.
Besides the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many other chronic diseases, long term blood sugar imbalance may contribute to increased fat storage in the abdomen (referred to as visceral fat, which is also dangerous for heart health), inconsistent and poor energy, fatigue, brain fog, feeling hangry (hungry/angry – it’s definitely a thing!), moodiness, sugar cravings and weight gain. Because stable blood sugar means no sugar or carb cravings, and an internal environment that allows for the release of fat from fat cells, even stubborn weight can start to shift when blood sugar regulation improves.
Since blood sugar imbalances perpetuate inflammation, stable blood sugar reduces inflammation and helps balance hormones. This imbalance can exacerbate and drive the following health conditions:
- Type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and insulin resistance
- Prevent weight loss
- Autoimmune conditions – or any inflammatory conditions
In an ideal world, if you follow my blood sugar balancing instructions below, any meal or snack you consume should cause a gradual increase in blood sugar. Providing sustained energy (as the glucose in your blood stream is utilised for energy), having a much smaller release of insulin, and with a gradual slow decline. You feel fuller and sustained for longer, avoid any of the symptoms mentioned above, and you eat another meal or snack before your blood sugar drops too low again.
The blood sugar rollercaoster
What we want to avoid, is what I call the “blood sugar rollercoaster”. This is what the blood sugar rollercoaster looks like:
STEP 1: You eat a croissant for breakfast (you’re hoping into your seat on the coaster). This refined carbohydrate is quickly absorbed into the blood stream, as there is not enough fibre, protein or fat present to slow down this absorption. Causing you to reach a peak in the rollercoaster. You’re feeling oh so great on your sugar high until..
STEP 2: In response to the quick increase in blood sugar, your body goes into overdrive to get the sugar down to within range, and starts pumping out large amounts of insulin (the hormone that shuttles glucose from the blood stream into your cells). In this scenario, the large amounts of insulin causes the glucose in your blood to drop too quickly..
STEP 3: Then, the inevitable crash, you’re at the bottom of the dip on our coaster ride, your blood sugar has dropped to below what is required. You’re tired, hangry and moody. Your body then sends you intense cravings for the most sugary, carbohydrate laden food you can find..
STEP 4: Enter the chocolate biccy and sugary coffee… and we return to step 1 to start this ride all over again.
If you’re blood sugar control mechanisms are functioning perfectly, you may not experience this rollercoaster. However, if you continue to push your body’s blood sugar control mechanisms over and over, say by living off donuts and milkshakes, this system will eventually start to malfunction. When your body can no longer effectively regulate your blood sugar, this can lead to the rollercoaster and health effects outlined above.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the occasional donut and milkshake (yum!), it’s what we do the majority of the time that matters. If 9 times out of 10 you’re eating a nourishing, blood sugar balancing meal or snack, then don’t be afraid of that one sugary, carby splurge (unless of course you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, then please follow the advice of your health care professional).
Other causes of blood sugar imbalance
Apart from dietary causes of blood sugar imbalance, other causes exist. In-depth discussion of these is beyond the scope of this article. However, for completeness sake, I will mention them here. See your naturopath or other health care professional if you feel any of the below might be relevant for you.
- An imbalance in gut microbiome
- Oxidative stress
- Sex hormone imbalances
- A lack of vitamin D
- An increase in parathyroid hormone
- Chronic stress
- Drugs including the contraceptive pill, HRT and glucocorticoids
- Inefficient leptin action
HOW to get off the rollercoaster
I have tried and tested guidelines for balancing blood sugar that I share with all of my clients. It is such a simple, yet effect tool when it comes to improving your health. Here are my top tips for keeping your blood sugar balanced over the course of the day:
- Eat regularly: every 3-4 hours.
- Protein and/or healthy fat: with every meal and snack.
- Eat complex carbohydrates rather than simple sugar: avoid refined sugars, processed foods, simple carbs (see below)
I have a worksheet for you that will help you identify complex vs simple carbs, as well as provide blood sugar friendly snack suggestions and a yummy bliss ball recipe.
If you feel you may have blood sugar regulation problems, or you’ve been diagnosed with insulin resistance, pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes, I want you to know that it can be reversed.
You can book in to see me for naturopathic treatment, and together we can get your health back on track.
Disclaimer: The information provided by Victoria Heath is for educational and informational purposes only. The information provided is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional advice or care. Please seek the advice of a qualified health care professional before making any changes to your current regime or diet.