Is Your Blood Sugar Destroying Your Health?- by Dr. Nathan Servey, your local Victoria, MN Chiroprac
We have all heard about blood sugar and know that it is important. Too high and you have diabetes. Too low and you feel tired, weak, and slow. But what exactly does "blood sugar" mean? How is it controlled by the body and what causes it to rise and fall? Why are rates of type-II diabetes SKYROCKETING (1 in 10 US adults have diabetes and nearly half have pre-diabetes) and what can we do to stop it? Dr. Nate breaks-down this complex topic and explains the vital role diet, exercise, and lifestyle plays in controlling blood sugar.
What does "Blood Sugar" really mean and how is it regulated?: Much of what we eat, both carbs and fats, gets broken down into glucose in our bodies. Glucose is a type of sugar molecule that is easy for our body's to store and use for energy. Blood sugar loosely refers to the amount of glucose in our blood stream at any given point in time. Our bodies need to keep that level in a very tight range in order to function correctly and it does so through various hormones, namely insulin and glucagon. Insulin is produced by the pancreas when our blood sugar is too high, it helps lower blood sugar levels. Glucagon is also produced by the pancreas when our blood sugar is too low, it helps raise blood sugar levels.
What causes our blood sugar to rise and fall?: Many factors affect blood sugar levels, but in healthy people food is the biggest driver. After a meal, our blood sugar rises and we produce insulin to lower it; go awhile without food and it drops and we produce glucagon to raise it. Other factors including stress, lack of sleep, and excess toxicity cause a sustained rise in blood sugar.
What causes type-II diabetes?: When our blood sugar is high, our bodies produce insulin. Insulin tells certain cells in our bodies to "take in" insulin (out of the blood and into the cells). Over time, if we have to continue producing a ton of insulin to counteract high blood sugar levels, our cells develop "insulin resistance". That is, our cells become less responsive to insulin. This results in even GREATER amounts of insulin being produced and greater resistance. Vicious cycle. The end result is long term, high blood sugar levels which damages tissues.
How does the "Glycemic Index" fit into this?: The 'glycemic index' (GI) is a measurement of how fast a food is broken-down into glucose AND how much total glucose is produced. The larger the glycemic index number for a food, the more that food will spike your blood sugar. It is important to note that just because a food has a high or low GI does NOT make that food healthy or unhealthy. In my opinion, while the GI is interesting and sometimes useful, it is often misused in creating meal-plans and diets for those at risk of blood sugar disorders such as diabetes.
How do fats and carbs affect blood sugar differently?:
Carbs get broken-down into glucose very quickly. This causes a rapid rise in blood sugar and a huge release of insulin. Fats get broken-down much more slowly and cause a more "controlled" insulin release. This is why carbs are used for "immediate energy" and fats are used for "sustained energy". We will discuss meal strategies next!
How can we help maintain healthy blood sugar levels?
Using what we have learned so far, what sort of diet do you think would be best for controlling and promoting healthy blood sugar?
Disclaimer: If you have blood sugar issues, consult with your medical team and chiropractor before making major lifestyle changes as it can alter dosages on insulin or medications.
Diet: To promote healthy blood sugar, we want to minimize any and all "spikes" (that is, sudden increase and sudden drop) which are caused when we eat a lot of carbs by themselves with no fat (ie: soda, candy, fruits, pasta noodles, plain potatoes, plain bread, etc.). This doesn't necessarily mean avoid all carbs (although that is a useful strategy). Instead, add healthy fats to healthy carbs (ie: add butter to sweet potatoes, add nut butter to fruits, add olive oil to whole grains, etc.). The degree to which you limit carbs depends on your current health situation. In patients with diabetes, I usually prescribe a low-carb, paleo-like diet for several months with careful blood sugar monitoring.
Exercise: Another useful way to promote healthy blood sugar levels is through exercise. Aerobic exercise such as running quickly lowers your current blood sugar level with blood sugar benefits lasting for about 48 hours. Anaerobic exercises such as lifting weights has a more long term effect. A weekly exercise routine should consist of both.
Stress: As mentioned above, poor sleep and excessive stress contributes to insulin resistance. Adequate sleep and stress management is important. Chiropractic, meditation, and nutrition are important lifestyle choices which help to manage stress.
Toxicity: Finally, toxicity in the body including heavy metals, pesticides, preservatives, medications, drugs, POC's, etc. all interfere with normal metabolism and blood sugar regulation. This is where a prescribed, supervised detox program can work wonders (again, under the supervision of your chiropractor or functional medicine expert).
The take-away is... Patients with type-II diabetes who commit to their lifestyle including diet, exercise, and stress can often "reverse" their diabetes. This means that their blood sugar levels are within the "normal" range without drugs or injections!
If you know someone with diabetes or someone who is worried about their blood sugar, give us a call at 952-443-9000 and ask for a FREE health consult to learn how we can help.