What are the benefits of balancing my blood sugar?
This is a powerful tool to help you avoid cardio-metabolic syndrome, which is marked by adrenal fatigue, weight gain, sleep disturbances, and cardiovascular disease.
When we don’t know how to stabilize our blood sugar, this results in wide fluctuations in the blood glucose level throughout the day. These fluctuations in turn cause the pancreas to secret insulin in erratic amounts over time. Insulin is a hormone responsible for allowing glucose to get into the cells for energy fuel. When this mechanism is disrupted, insulin will also convert excess glucose into triglycerides, a blood fat, and eventually store this fat in your adipose cells, causing weight gain. When insulin surges occur over many months or years, eventually the insulin receptor sites on the cells lose their ability to respond to insulin.
Once receptor sites stop responding, there is less glucose inside the cell to utilize for energy, and one of the results is fatigue, leading many to eat sugary foods or caffeine to try to get an energy boost. Increased sugar in the diet causes more insulin to be secreted, but since the receptors no longer respond, this excess sugar is converted to and then stored as fat. This creates a vicious snowball effect of fatigue, poor energy, and weight gain. After many years of dysglycemia, eventually this disease process becomes Metabolic Syndrome, characterized by elevated LDL cholesterol and inflammation, elevated blood pressure, fatigue, and abdominal weight gain. With enough weight gain and loss of insulin receptor function, Diabetes Type II often follows, with cardio metabolic syndrome frequently concurrent.
There are 4 simple rules to reverse this process:
1. Stabilize your blood sugar levels by eating frequent, small, balanced meals. In other words, have 3 meals plus 1 snack. Infrequent large meals cause insulin surges. Each meal should contain 10-30 g. clean, lean protein. Have more if you are male or an athletic female. Add to this, abundant colorful non-starchy vegetables like green beans, broccoli, cabbage, Swiss chard, or raw carrots. The more vibrant their color, the more nutrient-rich the food. Then, some healthy low glycemic carbohydrates, about ½ to ¾ cup serving. These include beans, lentils, or whole gluten free grains, preferably in their cooked, unprocessed state where you see the kernels, for example, brown rice, buckwheat groats or quinoa. Don’t forget to include healthy fat: 1–3 tsp per meal of olive oil, nut butters, or ¼ avocado. In addition to stabilizing your glucose in this manner, it’s important to learn about proper portions. Resources for this include: good ol’ Weight Watchers, or keeping a calorie log. For postmenopausal women, the portions become quite small due to slowing (efficiency) of metabolism. In my practice of 29 years, having served many of the same clients for 20 years or more, I have seen a leaner, more paleo approach assist in slenderizing and promoting longevity. See my blog post on Plant-based Paleo here.
Mid afternoon snack: Try to select whole foods. You can always tell what a whole food is, because it generally has one ingredient, as in “apple,” or “cashews.” Ideal snacks are 1 organic apple, nectarine, or orange, or 2 plums or 3 apricots, or 1 cup of berries, together with 10–25 almonds or 1 oz. of organic beef or turkey jerky. Another great snack is ¼ cup hummus plus 15 organic baby carrots and/or freshly sliced jicama. For snacks on the run, I recommend the individual nut packs at Trader Joe’s: almonds or cashews.
2. Do not start your day with coffee or tea on an empty stomach, and be sure to include adequate high quality lean protein for breakfast and lunch. A dose of caffeine in the morning after fasting through the night stimulates insulin surge. Save your coffee or tea to have with lunch or your 2:30 p.m. snack! Good protein choices include roast skinless turkey or chicken breast, dolphin-safe canned tuna (up to twice a month), a protein shake made from pastured whey isolate (if under 35) or brown organic rice protein, or for some, grass fed beef, seared rare. Your portion should be 3 oz. to 6 oz., depending on your gender and activity level.
3. Don’t drink sodas, any beverage with artificial sweeteners, or juices. Water is the beverage meant for our bodies. Drinking enough water, about ½ ounce per pound of body weight each day, is crucial for your body to clean itself through detox pathways and to reduce caloric intake. Flavor your water with Ultima Electrolyte Mix, or freshly squeezed lemon and a few drops of Stevia Clear.
4. Go to bed on time, by 10 p.m. or earlier, and if you haven’t eaten since 5 or 6 p.m. and have no difficulty sleeping, go to bed a little earlier. Dinner is the perfect meal to enjoy vegetable proteins such as lentil soup or cooked beans with salad and a gluten free tortilla. Blood sugar can drop in the night, causing cortisol secretion, which contributes to poor sleep and other night disturbances in addition to stimulating insulin secretion. The slow release of carbohydrate found in the fiber-rich legumes allow for a steady glucose level throughout the night. Studies show that sleeping longer and restfully encourages the release of leptin, a hormone that reduces appetite and encourages fat burning. Dinner is the meal where you can have less protein and it’s okay to enjoy some complex/low glycemic index carbohydrates, like quinoa, brown rice, yams, beets, winter squash, and legumes.
Of course, regular exercise greatly contributes to weight loss, not only by burning calories, but also by improving insulin signaling. Exercise is best in the morning. If done at night, it can interfere with weight loss by causing elevated cortisol levels when cortisol should be low, at bedtime. This in turn could lead to sleep disturbances.
Nutritional ingredients that can be found in supplements that improve insulin signaling and cellular glucose metabolism include: L-carnitine, chromium, EGCG/epigallocatechin gallate/green tea extract, hops alpha-isoacids, cinnamon, quercetin, vanadyl sulfate, alpha lipoic acid, and gymnema sylvestre.
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