Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels can help sustain energy, control appetite, burn fat, and most importantly, reduce the risk of acute and chronic disease. Fortunuately, blood sugar changes are largely driven by diet and lifestyle. But wait, what is blood sugar?
The main energy system used by the human body, utilizes glucose as fuel. Glucose enters the body in the form of food, typically foods rich in carbohydrate - bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, fruit, sweets, etc. Once the food reaches the stomach, it is broken down in the digestive process, and glucose is released. Next, it is absorbed in the small intestine, where it passes into the bloodstream and can be used as an immediate source of energy. A hormone called insulin, released by the pancreas, allows glucose into the body’s cells. Excess glucose is transported to the liver and converted into glycogen or converted into fatty acids and stored as body fat.
The body is designed to keep the level of glucose in the blood constant. Specific cells in the pancreas (beta cells) are constantly monitoring blood glucose levels. When it rises (typically after eating), more insulin is released which drives blood sugar down. In turn, lower insulin levels alert the liver to release stored glycogen, which will be turned back into glucose when the body needs it. This is how a healthy system maintains steady blood sugar levels through-out the day.
When this perfect system is constantly being pushed to its limit, either by a diet too heavy in carbohydrate (most particularly processed grains and refined sugar), or by other factors that raise blood glucose like chronic stress, chronic infection or poor sleep, the pancreas simply can’t produce enough insulin to meet the demands of the glucose levels present in the blood. Eventually, cells stop responding to the flood of insulin and blood glucose levels become chronically elevated (hyperglycemia). If this is repeated for long enough, we develop insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes and other chronic disease.
A 2018 study out of the University of North Carolina, looked at the prevalence of metabolic health in American adults. They looked at data from 8,721 men and women in the United States to determine how many adults are at risk for chronic disease. Researchers discovered that only 12% of American adults are metabolically healthy, leaving the other 88% in a state of metabolic derangement; high blood sugar, insulin resistance and the like.
The good news is, this is all well within our control, and you don’t have to be another statistic.
The easiest and most effective way to lower blood sugar, is to significantly reduce its over-all consumption. Then, prioritize protein and healthy fats. Avoid heavily processed and refined foods. Choose carbs that are high in fibre, like leafy greens, vegetables, low sugar fruits, nuts and seeds. Find tools to properly combat stress, prioritize sleep and don’t forget to move your body!
By Cait Mizzi, CFNP