Connecting The Dots Between Lifestyle & Blood Sugar
I always find it interesting the themes that reoccur in my professional and personal life. The most recent theme that keeps popping up in my life is blood sugar / glucose levels. I find it to be a great topic to hit on this month because of the Holidays. We are inundated with sweets, cookies, pies, and carbohydrate heavy snacks and meals around the Holidays. In balance, all of this is okay! Giving yourself grace to enjoy these beautiful treats in moderation is something I 100% promote. The trouble comes when we over-indulge.
When we eat a carbohydrate, whether that is a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, something starchy, something sugary, etc., our body processes it as sugar. Our body’s response to these foods is ultimately, “sugar is sugar.” Don’t get me wrong, we receive beautiful, much needed nutrients (vitamins and minerals) from our fruits, vegetables, and whole grains so do not stop eating these, please! Each carbohydrate is rated on a glycemic (sugar) scale which determines how much that food spikes your blood sugar. So even though all carbohydrates are processed as sugar, some spike your blood sugar more than others. Along with increasing your blood sugar, you increase the release of insulin. When you eat, your body breaks food down into sugar and sends it into the blood. The release of insulin (produced in your pancreas) is triggered and helps move the sugar from the blood into your cells. When sugar enters your cells, it is either used as fuel for energy right away or stored for later use. When too much sugar is consumed, there is an influx of insulin released. Overtime, our body loses the ability to use the insulin efficiently (insulin resistance); therefore, our bodies continue to produce even more insulin to help transfer the sugar into our cells. Eventually we lose the capability to create the right amount of insulin, leading to diabetes and potential insulin injections.
Along with the scary thought of being pre-diabetic or diabetic, consistently high blood sugar can leave you feeling:
- Extremely fatigued
- Frequently thirsty
In addition, you can also experience:
- Increased urination
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in ears
- Tingly sensation on bottom of feet
There are lifestyle changes that can significantly help lower blood sugar levels. Diet and exercise are huge but a common theme I have been noticing recently, is stress. Stress increases cortisol levels which in turn increases your blood sugar. Under stressful conditions, cortisol provides the body with glucose (sugar). This energy can help an individual fight or flee a stressor. However, elevated cortisol over the long term consistently produces glucose, leading to increased blood sugar levels.
Lifestyle changes that can help reduce your blood sugar:
- Eating a balanced diet, specifically eating healthy fat (fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, nut butter, seed butter) with a healthy carbohydrate (fruit, vegetable, whole grain)
- Eating at regular intervals
- Balance and moderation
- Exercise: add variety – strength training, cardio, HIIT, low impact
- Being mindful: slowing down when eating. Chewing your food at least 30x per bite
- Walking after a meal (studies have shown that individual’s glucose levels dropped 1mg/dl per minute of walking)
- Breath-work (belly breathing, 4-7-8 technique, sighing breaths)
- Removing toxic stressors in your life (relationships, jobs, the uncontrollables, etc.)
My biggest recommendation is to listen to your body’s cues. Enjoy the time you have with friends, family, pets, etc. but take a break if you need. Reducing your stress levels one small step at a time will help decrease your blood sugar and will also help you enjoy the moments a little more.