Even if you don't have diabetes or pre-diabetes, getting your blood sugar under control is crucial in maintaining your health. Having erratic blood sugar levels can lead to troubles with sleep, sugar cravings, and hormones. Plus, who wants to have energy slumps every day at mid-morning or mid-afternoon? There's also new evidence coming forward that is connecting your blood sugar levels to neurological health too. Some are even calling Alzheimer's Type III Diabetes! All the more reason to get your blood sugar on track, no matter your current state of health.
When we eat any form of carbohydrate, our body breaks it down into glucose - a usable form of energy for the body. When this glucose hits our blood stream, we call upon insulin (our storage hormone) to help take the glucose in our blood to where it needs to be instead of hanging out far too long in our blood stream (aka high blood sugar levels). This is where most people start to have problems because our insulin sensitivity isn't always on the right path (more about that in a second). Once insulin arrives, it shuttles the glucose into our cells, muscles, and liver where it is needed and utilized for various processes. However, we only have so much storage and usage for glucose. If we have too much and our "storage bins" are full, our body converts that extra glucose to fat, and it is stored on our bodies. We have limited storage for glucose and unlimited storage for fat.
This is the process that our body follows every time we eat carbohydrates, whether they be from pop-tarts or an apple. Obviously, one is a lot healthier than the other and comes alongside of nutrients and fiber, but they both break down to glucose in the body either way.
Like I mentioned, the problems begin with insulin. Often, our bodily signals and calls to insulin are disrupted. So, when we eat a food with carbohydrates in it, it takes either a long time for insulin to arrive or it takes a ton more insulin to take care of an amount of carbohydrates that wouldn't normally require that level of insulin. Our insulin levels are disrupted by stress, hormonal imbalance, poor gut health, lack of sleep (that's a big one), and the foods we eat (artificial sweeteners for sure).
In addition, our bodies can be insulin sensitive or insulin resistant. Insulin sensitivity means that the body responds to the call for insulin in a timely manner and clears the glucose out of the blood stream efficiently. Insulin resistance means that our bodies don't respond properly to our call for insulin. It's like the boy who cried wolf - eventually the shepherd quit coming similar to how insulin can quit coming or take more and more effort to get it to come and do it's job.
Either way, getting your insulin on track will help you regulate your blood sugar levels. This can be done by focusing on sleep, gut health, and stress of course, but also done through diet as well.
Sleep is critical for regulating blood sugar because sleep is our body's time to rejuvenate and make sure all pathways are in proper working order, including our insulin pathways. Our gut health also plays a role in this, as our body is in a chronically inflamed state when our gut health is compromised, and high or erratic blood sugar levels can be tied back to chronic inflammation. Stress, as we know, disrupts all our hormones (including insulin) as our body secretes more cortisol and also sees are rise in inflammation throughout the body.
When it comes to regulating your blood sugar through diet, I always recommend eating plenty of real, whole food in a PFC Balanced plate. Having protein and healthy fat alongside of good, wholesome sources of carbs (veggies and fruit) helps keep your blood sugar from spiking too high in response to any carbs that you eat. Plus, pairing protein and/or fat helps lessen the glycemic impact of high carb foods. Avoiding gluten, refined and processed foods, artificial sweeteners, tons of added sugar, alcohol, and caffeine are also critical in keeping your blood sugar in line. Artificial sweeteners are one of the biggest offenders on that list, as they are 400+ times sweeter than sugar. This tricks your taste buds and makes you carve sweet foods more often. Plus, artificial sweeteners contain no calories but are sweet, which further disrupts your insulin levels and responsiveness.
Exercise is another great way to help with blood sugar regulation. Don't focus so much on chronic cardio exercise. Rather, I like to start slowly with exercise that isn't overly stressful on the body. Yoga, weight lifting, walking, and swimming are great options. Do not exercise on an empty stomach if you have trouble with low blood sugar. Instead, have a PFC balanced small snack 60-90 minutes before exercise.
If you need to test your blood sugar levels or want to to see where they are at, these are the ranges I look for:
Fasting (usually taken in the morning before breakfast): below 90-95mg/dl is ideal. Conventional ranges usually say under 100mg/dl, but I prefer a little lower. 100-110 is considered pre-diabetic, while 125 or greater is considered diabetic by conventional standards.
2 hours post-meal: conventional standards say below 140mg/dl, but I would say that lower is better.
HbA1c: 5 or below, although research shows the best is 4.6 or lower. Conventional ranges say 5.7 or below is fine and 6.0 or above is the diabetic range.
However, testing is really only necessary if you want to see where your levels are at and keep track of them. If you haven't been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, I would focus more on the nutrition and lifestyle aspects first before worrying too much about testing. If you do have pre-diabetes or diabetes, then testing is definitely a good option. This is the meter I would recommend for testing.
Overall, blood sugar regulation is a key aspect of our overall health. Whether you have diabetes or not, keeping your blood sugar stable will ensure that your energy, mood, and weight stay on track!