Balancing Blood Sugar – Part II

It’s no secret that too much sugar in our diets can result in many health problems, most of them a good deal more serious than bad complexion or moderate weight gain.

Over the past several decades, chronic disorders such as insulin resistance, prediabetes, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes have swept through our country, as well as many other nations. And, wouldn’t you know it – these disorders are more prevalent the older we get.

I, for one, have been cautioned by my physician to lower my blood glucose levels, and it’s been a challenge, for sure. In fact, I’m so careful with my diet and lifestyle that I’m somewhat insulted by the whole situation.

Yet, here it is, so I am again rethinking diet and lifestyle issues which are known to influence, for good or ill, blood sugar levels.

Most of the habits that help us maintain healthy, normal blood sugar levels are fairly obvious and simple to carry out. Some, though, may be surprising and more difficult to consider if it becomes necessary to change some lifestyle habits.

To be sure, a healthy diet is the key to blood sugar management.

This does not mean eating no carbohydrates or sugar, but it does mean monitoring them, and balancing them with protein, fats, and fiber from whole rather than processed foods.  These slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, help to regulate your appetite, and are important for metabolism and digestion.

I made some more specific recommendations about healthy eating for blood sugar balance in my last newsletter/blog. If you missed it, click here.

There are three other important factors in keeping good blood sugar balance.

1. Get Regular Exercise.  As you know, there are many, many benefits to regularly moving your body. The National Diabetes Association stresses that it manages blood sugar in more than one way. Short-term exercise helps muscle cells take up more glucose in order to use it for energy and tissue repair, lowering blood sugar in the process.  Long-term exercise also makes cells more responsive to insulin and helps prevent insulin resistance, a pre-cursor to pre-diabetes.

Doing about 30-60 minutes of exercise most days of the week is also a simple way to lower inflammation, manage stress, improve immunity, and balance hormones.  It increases insulin sensitivity, so that your cells are better able to use any available insulin to take up glucose during and after activity. Do what moves you!

2. Manage Stress. Excessive stress can actually cause blood sugar levels to rise due to an increased release of the “stress hormone” cortisol.  Stress for many people is the first step of a vicious cycle.  Along with raising cortisol, it also tends to increase cravings for “comfort foods,” (many of which are refined and filled with sugar or other inflammatory ingredients), and often interferes with getting good sleep. People who deal with high-stress levels have to work doubly hard at self-care, including regular exercise, which contributes to healthy blood sugar levels. Skipping workouts, drinking more alcohol and caffeine are popular coping mechanisms for many chronically stressed people.  These self-destructive habits contribute to even more stress, which interferes with blood sugar management even more.

How then, do we deal with stresses that inevitably come along in life? Things like regular exercise, yoga, meditation, spending more time outside, belonging to social groups, and connecting with family and friends are a few ways to “unwind” in life-giving, rather than life-depleting ways.

3.  Get Enough Rest. Being well-rested is crucial for maintaining a healthy outlook on life, sticking with healthy habits and even managing hormone levels.   The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 35 percent of Americans report getting less than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep every night, thereby raising their risk for a number of diseases, including diabetes. Lack of sleep can raise stress and appetite hormones, which make it harder to avoid sugar snacks, refined gain products and caffeine overdose.

Sleep and metabolic processes are linked in several key ways. Our natural circadian rhythms can trigger high blood glucose or raise the risk for diabetes when they’re disturbed.  Sleeping too little, or with poor quality can impair insulin secretion. Getting enough sleep is important enough to sugar balancing that it deserves some strategizing about if you’re having sleep difficulties. Go here for a few ideas to help.

My blood sugar levels are not close to any real danger point. Still, they have risen some, so I am making efforts to lower them. For me, it’s the business of getting enough sleep that I’m concentrating on.  Wish me well as you pursue your own good health practices.

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