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6 Easy Ways To Balance Blood Sugar And Improve Your Wellbeing
How do you balance blood sugar, and why is it important? Skye covers some of the science, looks at the symptoms and causes of blood sugar imbalance, and details how you can help.
What is blood sugar and why is it important?
Blood sugar levels measure the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. Glucose is essential to life, and you must have regular and sustained supplies delivered throughout the day. Glucose comes from the carbohydrates you eat, and it is your primary energy source, which is absorbed by virtually all of the cells within your body.
The cells within your body (except your red blood cells) all have mitochondria. The role of mitochondria is to help provide energy, which is done by turning the glucose in your food into ATP. ATP moves energy through the body and your cells break down the chemical bonds to release that energy for you to use. You need ATP to function and also for growth and repair.
When you eat carbohydrates, the glucose enters your blood and in response you release a hormone called insulin. Insulin is what encourages your cells to pick up glucose as fuel. However, this is also where many ‘blood sugar’ issues arise. If you have been consuming too many carbohydrates or sugar your body begins to lose its sensitivity to insulin and you stop being able to absorb glucose properly, and it stays circulating in your blood as opposed to being absorbed.
Reasons why your blood sugar becomes unbalanced
Diabetes - There are certain medical conditions that affect how your body produces or absorbs insulin. As we mentioned above, type 1 diabetes is one of these conditions. As is type 2 diabetes.
PCOS - A hormonal condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can also affect blood sugar levels. PCOS can cause insulin resistance which leads to very similar issues that can be seen with diabetes, but it can also affect how the body produces hormones and how the reproductive cycle works.
Perimenopause - Perimenopause is another time when insulin resistance can appear. The metabolic changes that happen in perimenopause originate from the fluctuations and changes in what hormones the thyroid and adrenal glands release.
These fluctuations can greatly affect blood glucose levels, which can lead to people struggling with imbalances. Estrogen helps with insulin sensitivity, so with the fluctuations and the eventual decline of estrogen, this ability to help with insulin also reduces, leading to unbalanced blood sugar levels.
Stress - All forms of stress can contribute to unbalanced blood sugar levels. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) plays a role in how you manage your blood glucose. If you are stressed, it can dysregulate your HPA, leading to poor glucose management. Poor sleep also contributes to your ability to manage stress, which then affects your ability to manage your blood sugar levels - a pretty cruel cycle.
Diet - A diet high in processed foods or carbohydrates can also add an extra burden to the pancreas, which after repeated overuse, will start to show signs of insulin resistance.
Symptoms of blood sugar imbalance
- Frequent headaches
- Sugar cravings
- Poor sleep
- Frequent infections
- Slumps in energy
- Weight gain
6 things you can do to help balance blood sugar
1. Protein for blood sugar balance
Protein helps keep you feeling fuller for longer (so you don’t reach for the chocolate and chips half an hour after eating) and helps balance your blood sugar so you have more evenly distributed energy throughout the day. Protein breaks down more slowly than carbohydrates and sugar and releases glucose more slowly, so you don’t get the highs and lows of blood sugar. Starting the day with a high-protein breakfast or having high-protein snacks on hand is a great way to help balance blood sugar.
2. Eat more fibre
The modern diet is low in fibre. We are consuming far less fibre daily than we used to, and this has had an effect on our digestive system as well as our blood sugar. Fibre, like protein, slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream, helping balance blood sugar. Juices, for example, might contain three or four apples. But if you were to eat four apples, you’d probably struggle.
That is because the fibre present in whole fruits and vegetables takes longer to process and digest, which ultimately fills you up quickly. Fibre and prebiotics are essential for a healthy microbiome which helps support not only your digestive system but your immunity and mental health as well.
Being active helps support your cardiovascular system, your nervous system and how your body balances its blood sugar levels. After exercise, your blood glucose levels drop, making your body more sensitive to insulin. The Mediterranean diet is one of the most studied diets in the world and has highlighted how the act of walking after a meal can help reduce blood sugar levels. Often people in these areas would have a leisurely long meal and afterwards take a walk to see friends/family in the area.
Muscles need glucose to function, so movement (or even standing) after eating helps divert the glucose to the muscles and out of the blood, lowering the circulating sugars. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can be a gentle walk after a meal to help support more balanced blood sugars.
4. Plants that help blood sugar balance
5. Incorporate complex carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are things like grains, whole wheat products, bran, unrefined flour, kumara and brown rice. Eating more complex carbs like these can help balance blood sugar.
6. Have vinegar before your meal
Having lemon water or apple cider vinegar before meals has been around for thousands of years. Hippocrates supposedly recommended it for various health concerns. It gained traction recently as people thought it was a way to help lose weight through ‘cleansing detox’ diets. While it won't make you lose weight or ‘detox’ you, there is some evidence that consuming vinegar before eating can help balance blood sugar. Our Switchel and Fire Cider are a delicious way to introduce vinegar into your diet if you try this method.