By Dr Leah Linarelli
Why Care About Regulating Blood Sugar?
Have you struggled losing weight? Or, have you struggled with symptoms like mood swings, anxiety, irritability, pounding heart, hot flashes, waking in the middle of the night, feeling exhausted after lunch or having food cravings? These could all be symptoms of abnormal blood sugar fluctuations. Keep reading to learn more.
Blood Sugar and Insulin
Often, when our blood sugar spikes too high from eating specific foods, the equal and opposite reaction occurs: our blood sugar drops too low. This occurs thanks to our body releasing a hormone called insulin, which shunts excess blood sugar into our cells to use for energy or store as fat. Having too much sugar in our blood can be damaging, and insulin helps to prevent that. The higher our blood sugar goes, the more insulin is released to counteract the high sugar spike, which can unfortunately result in a “crash” and you can experience the unwanted symptoms.
Knowledge is power, and a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) can allow you to track which foods and events spike your blood sugar, which in turn spikes your insulin. This gives you the information to know which foods might affect your sugar and mood more or less. This knowledge allows you to adjust your food intake to keep you within a healthy blood sugar range. Take note that there are variations on what the blood sugar range should be, and it depends on the goal:
• Most doctors try to keep diabetic patients between 70mg/dl-140 mg/dl to manage their diabetes.
• Optimally, it is best to keep a blood sugar within 70mg/dl-110 mg/dl.
• If you are trying to be in ketosis, it is best to try and stay between 70-90mg/dl.
Low blood sugar symptoms can occur under 70mg/dl, however, sometimes people don’t feel these symptoms until under 60 mg/dl:
• Dizziness/light headedness
• Irritability aka “being hangry”
• Pale skin
• Increased heart rate
• Waking in the middle of the night
Why should you care about insulin?
Insulin is a growth hormone, and it shunts sugar into our cells. Any excess sugar gets turned into fat, which is how our body stores energy for future use, like a battery. Biology is way more complex than this, but to put it simply, when insulin is high, we are NOT burning fat. Instead, we are building it. If your goal is weight loss, observing blood sugar fluctuations can help bring awareness to foods that prevent you from losing weight as well as food timing! Excess insulin can result in the following:
• Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
• Cardiovascular disease
• Type II Diabetes Mellitus
• Different cancers including colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, endometrial cancer, and breast cancer.
• Contribution to female reproductive disorders including Painful Menses (dysmenorrhea), Endometriosis and PCOS
My CGM Experience
As a naturopath, I am constantly trying to find ways to educate and empower patients, whether it’s with the newest information or latest technology. So, I tried a CGM on myself prior to fitting any patients with one. It gave me a lot of insights to pass along to my patients! Here is what I noticed:
• My blood sugar spikes higher later in the evenings, even if I had the same meal (just a later dinner). This is common in many people, as many of us have the genetic variation that makes us more resistant to insulin when our melatonin rises. Learning that about myself, I try not to eat after sunset, which varies year-round.
• My blood sugar dips in the night if I don’t eat a high fat/high protein meal. I sometimes wake up between 2-3AM, often sweating. Does that sound familiar? I thought it was from having a bad dream but it turns out, it was just my blood sugar dipping too low. Stress management in the form of creating a night-time routine has also been incredibly helpful, since the body is able to more efficiently tap into and burn fat sources when less stressed, which helps to prevent blood sugar from dipping too low.
• Movement after eating a higher carb meal, such as walking or air squats, helps decrease blood sugar back to a normal level.
• 8-10 oz of water before and after a meal equals decreased blood sugar for me.
• Apples and cherries raised my blood sugar more than corn tortillas did! I absolutely love organic fruit, especially when it is in season. But, if my goal was weight loss, I would have these in moderation (1 cupped hand per day) and in the morning when my body is more receptive to carbs.
• The order you eat your food matters! Eat your veggies first to coat the stomach and get digestion rolling, then protein/fat and carbs last.
• Never eat your carbs alone! When I ate an apple alone, my blood sugar spiked to 130 mg/dl. When I ate it with Justin’s Almond Butter, my blood sugar only went up to 107 mg/dl. That’s a significant difference!
• If your goal is weight loss, decreased food cravings, a more stable mood, less painful menses, or help with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), a continuous glucose monitor could bring great insights into blood sugar fluctuations that could be corrected to achieve your goals!
• Everyone’s body reacts differently to different food, stressors, time of day and movement. Tracking your blood sugar can be a powerful tool for optimizing the best diet for you.
• You can work with one of the doctors at Nature Medica to regulate blood sugar through nutrition, supplements, botanicals and lifestyle to become a healthier, happier, version of you!