How to Keep Your Blood Sugar Balanced
Updated: Dec 14, 2022
Let’s talk about blood sugar balance and its important effect on your overall health. Having unstable blood sugar levels, particularly craving and eating too much sugar or skipping meals are common themes that have become normalized for some people in today’s world.
Symptoms of blood sugar imbalance
If you tend to experience more than one of these generalized symptoms throughout the day, then you’ll find this article helpful:
You go through mood swings
You get irritable if you skip a meal
You feel hungry constantly
You have intense cravings for sweets
You feel spacey and find it hard to concentrate
You overdose on caffeine to compensate for feeling tired
You get drowsy in the afternoons
You feel edgy but with no apparent cause
You have a hard time losing weight
You struggle with sound sleep
Back when I was in my 20s and before I knew about blood sugar balance, I used to skip meals quite often (80% of the time I would not eat breakfast or I would often skip lunches because I was on the go, studying or just busy). It took me a long time to understand that by going long periods of time between meals, I was causing my blood sugar levels to drop way too low and as a result I was getting all symptoms of unstable blood sugar such as irritability, shakiness, fatigue and most importantly the famous feeling of Hanger! (hungry+angry)
Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is essential for the body’s overall health. Unstable blood sugar levels can affect the body’s ability to function normally and can even lead to complications if not managed properly.
What is blood sugar ?
Blood sugar refers to the concentration of glucose in our bloodstream. Glucose is our body’s preferred energy source. When we eat food, carbohydrates break down into glucose and head into our bloodstream so we can use it as energy. In a fasted state our body only has ~4 g of glucose circulating around.
When the body detects a rise in blood sugar, the pancreas will release a hormone called insulin to bring the glucose from the blood and into the cell to use for energy.
Insulin acts like a lock and key – plugging into the cell to allow glucose to enter. We either use glucose for energy right now or store it in the muscles or liver for later. We can store up to ~100 g of glucose as glycogen in the liver and ~400 g in muscles to use as energy later on. Anything extra will convert into triglycerides for storage in our fat cells
Blood sugar is really a Goldilocks situation. Not too high, not too low… you want to keep it just right!
Cortisol (Stress Hormone ) that wakes you up
If you have ever woken up at 2-3 AM, it could be because your blood sugar dropped 6-7 hours after your last meal and your cortisol increased to compensate. When blood sugar drops too low, your body initiates a stress response. Cortisol, your stress hormone, is released because it is able to pull glucose from protein stores, and tell the liver to make glucose via gluconeogenesis. This can also increase anxiety levels and then lead to a cycle of eating more than we planned or want to (less likely to listen to our hunger/fullness cues) and restrict later on to ‘make up’ for overeating. This keeps us stuck in a restrict-binge cycle in our minds and our blood sugar on a spike-crash roller coaster.
How to Keep your Blood sugar Balanced
1.Build an eating schedule to get into the habit of creating an intentional routine
Hunger cues kick in as blood sugar drops and get more severe the lower blood sugar goes. If you wait until you’re hangry to eat, your body is already dealing with the effects of low blood sugar.
Try to eat within 1-2 hours of waking up, before drinking coffee, and have a breakfast that is made up of good quality proteins, some healthy fats, and whole-food carbohydrates. Try to avoid sweet breakfasts to keep the blood sugar stable. Think an egg and veggie scramble with avocado toast. If you prefer a sweet breakfast, organic Greek yogurt (full-fat, only ingredients should be cream and bacteria) with berries and a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds is another great option.
Throughout the day, eating balanced meals roughly every 3-4 gives your body enough time to properly digest your meals, while also not being so long that your blood sugar levels will drop too low between meals. This is a better option than grabbing quick, imbalanced snacks every 1-2 hours.
2.Regular Exercise for Blood Sugar Balance
Working out first thing in the morning can help balance your blood sugar levels all day long. When it comes to blood sugar, the first things you do in a day really set you up so starting the day with movement and a balanced breakfast have a huge impact.
Lean muscle increase insulin sensitivity, so resistance training that builds muscle can help improve blood sugar levels, even if you do not change your diet. Strength training can include weight lifting, bodyweight exercises, or exercising with resistance tools like bands.
Going on quick walks after meals has been a life changer for me personally. This habits makes more efficient use of the glucose you consumed and keep it from hanging out in your bloodstream too long. Even a ten minute walk can significantly reduce post-meal glucose spikes.
3.Line The Digestive Tract with Fiber first
Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are all fiber-rich foods—complex carbs—that slow down how quickly you digest your food. Instead of a quick spike, the glucose becomes a steady trickle. Because these foods are carbohydrates, they can still raise your blood sugar, but they do so at a more sustainable pace.
4.Add Some Healthy Fats
Dietary fat, because of its digestive staying power, can also help regulate appetite and hence cravings. Good sources of dietary fat are nut butter, vegetable oils, seeds, fatty fish and avocado.
It takes roughly 40 hours for your body to digest fats, although the exact time varies according to the fat. The body converts foods mixed with fat more slowly into sugar, which is good for maintaining stable blood sugar levels.
5.Drink with moderation
Never drink on an empty stomach. If you haven’t eaten, drinking alcohol can wreak havoc with blood sugar. It can have a negative effect on blood sugar and can cause it to drop even up to 24 hours later. Because the body works so hard to get rid of alcohol, which it interprets as a toxin, it boosts insulin secretion, which lowers blood sugar.
6.Get to know Sugars
Its important to learn how to read packaged food labels and to always be mindful of the hidden sources of added sugars. Sometimes food ingredient labels make it hard to accurately assess how much added sugars a product has. Here are some common names for different kinds of added sugars:
High-fructose corn syrup
7. Explore Herbs and Supplements for Blood Sugar Balance
Some herbs found in nature help to balance blood sugar levels, making them invaluable to individuals diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes. What’s more, there is now ample evidence to show herbs help protect against acute and chronic diseases. Herbs also enhance the flavor, aroma, and color of food and beverages.
Several supplements, such as American ginseng, aloe vera, gymnema, fenugreek chromium and berberine have been shown to decrease blood sugar levels. Consult your trusted healthcare provider to provide suggestions and guidelines for supplements that can help reduce blood sugar spikes.
Carbs are not our enemy. We need glucose for energy focus and motivation throughout the day! The goal is to maintain stable blood sugar while tapping into your own hunger + fullness cues by incorporating whole unprocessed foods, eating consistently throughout the day, balancing meals, incorporating ways to manage your stress, and learning to work with your body, not against it.
What to do next…
Any questions? Leave me a comment below.
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