Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Blood Sugar

Maintaining balanced blood sugar is critical for optimum health and well-being. As the rate of diabetes, pancreatic cancer, childhood and adult obesity, and many other blood sugar related illnesses are increasing, our awareness of the contributing factors can aid in prevention and start the healing process. There are a few basic guidelines one can follow to assist in balancing their blood sugar levels naturally.  Exercise, whole foods, and a low stress lifestyle are the key ingredients to healthy living, and can be the best preventative measures taken against high/low blood sugar problems. 

 When looking at balancing blood sugar from a wholistic approach, I consider each aspect of ones being as a possible cause. However, not only can our diet, but our mind and emotions cause high or low blood sugar. An imbalance of blood sugar can also cause emotional disorders, fatigue, and irritability which affects our mind, body, and spirit.
 Worry can exhaust the body and raise or lower the blood sugar. When worry congests the pancreas it has a tendency to overproduce insulin and cause the blood sugar to drop too low, as sugar burns up faster than insulin in the blood. The same effect is seen when too much sugar is consumed.  When the pancreas has been overproducing insulin for an extended period of time it becomes fatigued and cannot produce adequate amounts of insulin to maintain a balanced blood sugar level.  This is when the body flips into high blood sugar, which can lead to diabetes.

      The subtle energy of thought can move into denser vibratory forms and affect ones state of health. For example, identifying with a negative emotion, such as worry, can lead to various methods of self-sabotaging behavior which can throw off ones glycemic balance (i.e. consuming comfort foods, not eating enough, overeating, lack of exercise/lethargy). To heal the cause at a mental level is often achieved through processing one's emotional state, which created distressing and worrisome thoughts. A good way to stay stress free, or lower our stress levels is through daily rejuvenating activities. Whether you connect through surfing, playing music, prayer or meditation, a daily reminder of who you are and why you are here on earth can be a wonderful way to lower stress and prevent dis-ease.

     Most commonly, blood sugar imbalances are thought to originate in the physical body. Almost everything we eat is eventually converted into sucrose (sugar), even a percentage of protein breaks down into carbohydrates and becomes sugar.  Carbohydrates account for more than 60 percent of the energy required for the body to function properly. While the brain and body rely on sugar for energy, the source of sugar consumed can determine our state of health.

   There are two main sugar sources categorized as simple and complex carbohydrates. The difference between simple and complex carbohydrates is the time it takes for the starch to break down into sugar during digestion/metabolism and reach the blood stream. Simple sugars are found in foods such as fruit, candy, soda, alcohol, and processed white breads and pastas. Simple sugars have simple chemical structures and can easily be absorbed by the body, making their delivery to the blood stream almost immediate. They work quickly to give a boost of short lived energy. However, the high speed of absorption of these sugars can be damaging to the body unless one engages in heavy exercise before or after consumption. These foods also contain very little nutrients, and actually rob the body of needed B vitamins. Simple sugars are not recommended for diabetics, and if eaten are best used in moderation. Some simple sugars are beneficial, such as whole fruit, never dried fruit or fruit juice. 

   Complex carbohydrates are the preferred nutritional source. Complex carbs are usually made up of a long chain of sugars and therefore take longer to break down. Rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, complex carbs carry long lasting energy in comparison to simple sugars, and are the body's source of fuel. Examples of complex carbs are whole grains, dairy, vegetables, and beans.

    Insulin leaves the blood stream much slower than sugar. If insulin levels rise to meet the high sugar levels in the blood, and the blood sugar drops suddenly, excess insulin may be left in the blood stream. Excess insulin in the blood can cause anxiety, sleep disorders, skin problems, and many other health complications. If the blood sugar is low, fatigue and dizziness may set in,  mental focus may diminish, and more serious symptoms are experienced in extreme cases, including hypoglycemia and diabetes.
   Extreme highs and lows in blood sugar usually precede diabetes, making it important to maintain a steady level throughout the day. When blood sugar levels rise quickly the liver can start processing the sugar into fat to serve as a buffer to keep excess sugar out of the blood stream. Insulin production is triggered upon consumption of sugar in order to maintain a balanced ratio of insulin-to-sugar in the blood. When sugars reach the blood quickly they can throw off this balance. Frequently sending shocks of sugar to stimulate insulin production can exhaust the pancreas- often leading to diabetes, renal failure, and death.

  A highly effective way to prevent blood sugar imbalance is to eat 22-25 (women) and 24-27 (men) grams of protein at breakfast. By eating protein within 1 hour of waking the body can stabilize blood sugar levels and help to maintain balanced blood sugar throughout the day.  Also, anyone wanting to maintain optimum health, diabetics especially, can stay away from refined sugars, simple carbohydrates, and too much fruit to assist in managing blood sugar. Plenty of exercise is one of the best ways to maintain healthy blood sugar since it burns excess sugar in the bloodstream, reducing the need for insulin.  Drinking plenty of water, and getting the right amount of sleep you require (6-9 hours depending on individual needs) can also be highly beneficial.  We can see the affects of blood sugar on all levels. (see my article Nutritional Basics for more dietary tips).