In my last two blogs we covered several strategies to address the factors that contribute to TOTAL HEALTH, which can be summed up as FIT + TRIM + BALANCE, with special emphasis on sex hormone balance in women. Today, we are going to cover another aspect of balance: STABLE BLOOD SUGAR. This very important element of balance will enable you to GAIN HEALTH, first and foremost, and to LOSE WEIGHT secondarily-- weight loss is the fringe benefit of TOTAL HEALTH.
Stable blood sugar is in fact so important that TOTAL HEALTH cannot be achieved without it! Without balanced blood sugar, sex hormones may be haywire, and stress hormones are influenced as well which can ultimately lead to:
This is how it works:
- Whenever you eat or drink,
- Carbohydrates and sugars are converted to glucose which circulates through the blood.
- The pancreas secretes insulin, which acts like a key and enables glucose from the blood to permeate the cells of your body for energy.
- Leftover glucose is stored in the liver as glycogen which provides energy for later use.
- Excess glucose from excessive carbohydrates and sugars is stored as fat, including visceral fat and contributes to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). (1)(2)
This excess glucose is where the problem lies. When we are young, the pancreas can do a better job of regulating insulin to maintain balanced blood sugar, but over time, excessive secretion can result in hypoglycemia (excess insulin is secreted to treble blood sugar, so blood sugar drops below normal) and eventually insulin resistance and even Type 2 Diabetes. The pancreas simply gets tired of trying to keep up, and then we are faced with a health crisis. The good news is that thousands of people have been able to manage their blood sugar naturally, without the use of insulin! And a great number of people have even been able to reverse diabetes (3) through simple lifestyle changes that produce steady blood sugar.
Before we talk about lifestyle changes, let’s look at a few indicators that may point to a blood sugar imbalance in your situation. If any of the following statements apply to you, then stabilizing blood sugar may be a factor for your ability to lose weight.
- Do you crave sugary or high carbohydrate foods (starchy foods such as bread, baked goods, chips, etc.)?
- Do you feel drowsy or low on energy 1-2 hours after eating?
- Do you get jittery if you haven’t eaten in a few hours?
- Do you frequently wake at night for no apparent reason?
- Does your waist at the navel measure larger than the widest part of your hips?
- Do you suffer from hormone imbalances including infertility, PCOS, endometriosis, hot flashes, low libido, etc.?
This rollercoaster of high blood sugar which is countered by the release of excess insulin and in turn produces low blood sugar may be the root cause of all of the indicators listed above.
The charts below show the contrast between the blood sugar rollercoaster vs. normal blood sugar levels as well as the correspondence to hunger.
Image Source: www.lifehacker.com/au
What this demonstrates in graphic form is that blood sugar lows are linked to hunger and cravings, even at night! Waking up at night for no reason is often the body’s mechanism for raising blood sugar that has dipped too low-- it is essentially a defense mechanism that prevents us from going into a diabetic coma, and simply being aroused to wake up can cause a bump in blood sugar levels to prevent mortality. Blood sugar dysregulation, or diabetic coma, is in fact a common cause of death in diabetics. (4)
As I mentioned before, TOTAL HEALTH cannot be attained without balanced blood sugar, so let’s get started with a few simple suggestions for lifestyle changes that you can begin to incorporate today.
Clients often ask if herbal supplementation is really necessary. Afterall, isn’t “food supposed to be our medicine?” (Aristotle) In a perfect world, yes, food would be our medicine, and indeed in times past it was, but due to the depletion of our soils from chemical fertilizers vs. organic fertilizers (manure, decomposed plant matter, etc.) and not allowing the land to rest every seven years, our soils and hence the nutrient content of today’s food is degraded. For example, according to one study cited in Scientific American, eight modern oranges are equivalent to one orange from our grandparents’ era. So, I tell my clients that unless they want to consume huge amounts of food every day, which would not only be filling but expensive, then supplementation is the next best thing, and herbal supplementation is even better because rather than receiving isolated nutrients, you get a full complex with synergistic qualities. And, after all, we were given “every green herb” as food in the beginning!
In addition to soil depletion and lower nutrient content in our foods, supplements can help you overcome biochemical imbalances that can undermine even the best intentions and strongest willpower. For instance, if you deficient in a given nutrient, you may crave foods that contain that nutrient (this occurs not only in pregnant women, but also in men and women of all ages).
When shopping for a supplement to balance blood sugar, look for one or several of the following:
- Chromium-- increases insulin sensitivity (the opposite of insulin resistance) & lean muscle mass
- Vanadium-- mimics insulin, increases insulin sensitivity, lowers cholesterol
- Banaba-- contains corsolic acid which mimics insulin by aiding the transport of glucose into cells
- Fenugreek-- reduces blood glucose levels, improves glucose tolerance, lowers cholesterol & triglycerides
- Golden Seal (purported to be as effective a Metformin)
- Gymnema (Standard Process carries two single herb varieties). Use in combination with Diaplex for effective blood sugar management.
- Licorice Root
- Noni-- from the Morinda fruit, lowers blood sugar & prevents cataracts (4)
- Nopal-- from prickly pear cactus, slows release of glucose into blood, lowers lipids in blood
Nature’s Sunshine carries the following combinations which contain a variety of the herbs and elements listed above:
Although the foods we eat may not be the complete solution to balance blood sugar, nutrition is still a very important element. In addition to Holistic Tips for Managing Blood Sugar & Weight Loss, the following suggestions will help you to make dietary changes that will positively affect your health and cascade on down to steady blood sugar and weight loss:
- Take a multi-vitamin & mineral supplement like this time release formula from Nature’s Sunshine or Catalyn from Standard Process-- more nutrients means less hunger and more satisfaction from foods.
- Take a quality enzyme and probiotic-- both stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the small and large intestines, crowding out bad bacteria and yeast which “craves” sugar, making it harder to cut back.
- Eat plenty of “good fats” which increase satiety, slow down the release of sugars into the bloodstream from food, reduce inflammation, and increase fat-burning and metabolism in the body.
- “Julify” your favorite foods and beverages that are high in calories and sugar. For instance, substitute glycerin, xylitol, erythritol or stevia for added sugars such as honey and agave. Read All About Glycerin for recipes and substitution ideas using glycerin.
This factor just keeps coming up, doesn’t it? But stress affects every area of health, including sex drive and weight loss. A certain amount of stress is normal and necessary to be healthy, of course, but adrenal stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline should follow a cycle vs. always being at full throttle. Cortisol, for instance, should rise before waking in the morning and steadily decline until bedtime so that we can settle down and re-charge at night. Adrenaline should have peaks and valleys tied to intermittent stress and blood sugar fluctuations. But these days, excessive stress has put us into a state of constant “fight or flight,” eventually leading to adrenal burnout. Abnormally elevated levels of cortisol in acute stages of health decline may cause edginess and an inability to settle down, especially at night when it is time to sleep. Or cortisol levels may be extremely low as in the case of chronic stages of health issues, such as adrenal exhaustion, which may leave us devoid of energy, with foggy memory or concentration, with intense cravings (especially carbohydrates), or with abnormal blood pressure (hypotension or hypertension).
Last, but not least, stress hormone levels affect the balance of blood sugar in the body. Cortisol elevates blood sugar, and excess cortisol leads to excess insulin secretion which causes increased adiposity (accumulation of fat). To make matters worse, the adrenals will “steal” DHEA to make stress hormones instead of sex hormones. Not only does this affect your mojo, but it further perpetuates the stress response and creates a vicious cycle that is hard to stop. The solution? Stress management. Another option during the interim is to supplement with DHEA or even better, 7-Keto which is a metabolite of DHEA and a safer option from an herbal source. 7-Keto encourages fat-burning, the formation of lean muscle mass, and production of stress hormones. Additional Thyroid Support may be necessary so that reserve thyroid hormone stores are not depleted.
Moderate exercise is all that is needed to improve blood sugar management. An article in Diabetes Journals reveals that three 15-minute post-meal walks per day significantly improves glycemic control. It doesn’t have to be anything too strenuous, in fact, over-exercise can tax the adrenals leading to increased blood sugar imbalances as discussed in the previous section. Exercise empties glycogen stores from muscles, which provides a place for the glucose from your meal to go. If your muscles are already full, then excess glucose is stored in the liver and/ or as fat (especially belly or visceral fat). (1)(2) For more about exercise, refer back to Rev Your “Engine” & Make It Purr.
Gain health & lose weight…. or lose weight & gain health…. Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? Who can say for sure? What we DO know is that effective blood sugar management goes hand in hand with TOTAL HEALTH, so start with one or the other. But perhaps begin by getting your biochemistry in order through balancing your blood sugar using the suggestions in this blog. There are many who believe that focusing on health vs. weight is more effective in the long-run. Supplementation will kickstart the journey, and it may just make the entire process easier and more enjoyable! Contact me to schedule your Holistic Health Assessment today (remote consultation is available) to find out how you can change your diet and discover the perfect combination of herbs for you so that you can get started on The Road to Your New Vitality!
L’Chaim-- To Life!