Balance’ and ‘blood sugar’ are terms thrown around by health experts and laypeople alike but what do they really mean and how do we achieve that balance? Although many of us understand the importance of balanced blood sugar in relation to our moods and energy levels, few know how impactful it can be to long-term health.
What Is Blood Sugar?
Sugar (or glucose) is the body’s primary source of energy. The term “blood sugar” refers to the quantity of sugar in our blood circulation at any given moment, which is constantly changing. When we break down any carbohydrate, from oatmeal to vegetables (yes, those are carbs, too) to candy, sugar is created and taken to our blood where it is utilized as a needed form of energy.
Understanding the Blood Sugar Balance.
Our blood sugar levels regulate our appetite and energy levels. We feel our best when our blood glucose levels remain even and consistent, neither too high nor too low. Blood sugar balance is vital for keeping our energy levels, brain health and moods in check. But, when our blood sugar drops or spikes, it can result in irritability, increased sugar cravings, weight gain, poor sleep, anxiety, brain fog and low energy. Longer-term, diabetes is also a risk.
Note that maintaining a healthy blood sugar level is crucial for everyone, not just people with diabetes or other serious health problems.
What Causes Blood Sugar to Rise & What Are The Risks?
Insulin and glucagon are the two primary hormones that regulate blood sugar levels. Your pancreas produces insulin, which is then injected into circulation to control blood sugar levels every time you eat. Insulin acts as a traffic signal in the bloodstream, regulating how much sugar is circulated as well as how much sugar is retained in our cells.
Most of the food you eat, not just the high-carb meals, is converted into glucose, which is then absorbed into your system. Glucose is essential for proper operation of your muscles, brain and organs. But, it can’t be used as fuel until it’s absorbed into your cells.
Enter your pancreas, which generates insulin to assist in managing the quantity of sugar distributed to your cells. Insulin’s function is to unlock the gate to your cells, allowing glucose to enter and exit circulation. Without it, glucose aimlessly floats around your bloodstream with no exit strategy, which is how it builds up and becomes a problem.
In a non-diabetic person, this process is automated. It keeps your blood sugar levels at a normal range while also providing the energy that your cells need to perform. It’s balanced.
But, in someone with diabetes (and those at risk), the glucose buildup causes blood sugar spikes (hyperglycemia), which can lead to organ, nerve and blood vessel damage long term. More serious complications are heart disease, blindness, neuropathy, kidney failure and death.
What Is Insulin Resistance?
When you consume meals high in refined sugars or starchy carbs, you’re feeding your system more glucose than what it needs. Done repeatedly and in surplus, the mechanism gets overloaded. The body should be able to control these extra glucose and sugar levels within an hour or two in a balanced condition but, when things get out of balance, the body stops responding to insulin and blood sugar levels remain high.
As you continue eating too many problematic foods, your body will need more and more insulin to keep your blood sugar levels in check. Unfortunately, your body will eventually develop resistance to this insulin reaction, which means insulin will no longer have the ability to open your cell doors. This causes two issues: excess glucose builds up and your cells become energy-starved as insulin is still unable to open the doorways that let glucose in.
What Can I Do to Maintain My Blood Sugar?
Whether or not you have diabetes, balancing your blood sugar is indicated for overall health and feeling your best. Eating whole foods, vegetables, beans and fruit will far outweigh diets high in bread and pasta. Skipping meals, especially breakfast, is not recommended nor is fasting or intermittent fasting. Refined sugars, alcohol, artificial sweeteners and caffeine (sorry!) are not recommended. Increase your water intake if it’s low.
The advice is not all diet-based. Pain can cause stress which can increase blood sugar levels so it’s an extra incentive to avoid injuries, sunburn, GI issues (often from eating inflammatory foods), etc. Get enough restful sleep (this varies by person but aim for quality over quantity). Physical activity and regular exercise are also extremely helpful, but you already knew that as they are always recommended!
If you experience frequent urination, fatigue, increased thirst, blurred vision and headaches or suspect an insulin issue, give us a call. We’ll run the in-depth tests that you can’t get at a regular doctor visit, looking beyond the basics. ACI Medicine checks your hormone and neurotransmitters along with glucose levels and several other indicators. Sometimes, being proactive when it comes to your health is the best medicine!