When discussing the concept of blood sugar regulation, we’re simply describing the process by which the levels of sugar in our blood are maintained by the body. This sugar is called glucose, which is created by breaking down the food we eat and is the form that the body can use for energy. When we eat excessive amounts of sugar and carbohydrates and lower amounts of fat and protein, our glucose levels spike and this can result in unstable blood sugar levels. It often also results in cravings for more sugar and can also trigger cravings for other stimulants, such as caffeine (1). Today we’re going to break down 4 pillars for healthy blood sugar to keep you feeling happy, balanced, and craving-free.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the average American consumes between 150 to 180 pounds of sugar each year – an unbelievable amount compared to two or three hundred years ago when normal sugar consumption was one to five pounds per year. According to the Nutritional Therapy Association, as early as the 1940s, many doctors, including Weston Price, D.D.S., and Francis Pottenger, M.D. predicted the epidemic of modern degenerative illnesses stemming from the reliance on devitalized, denatured, and artificial foods. Never before in the history of mankind have we been so heavily reliant on these processed, lifeless foods and it’s wreaking havoc on the health of our nation.
For those reasons, the first, and by far the most important, pillar to regulate blood sugar is balancing your macronutrients (meaning the fats, protein, and carbohydrates that you eat). Make it a priority to incorporate high-quality proteins, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and filtered water throughout your day. These foods will fuel your body and help your system naturally regulate blood sugar levels. Avoiding refined sugars and processed carbohydrates are equally as important, as these foods are addictive and can create a blood sugar roller coaster. It will look like this: crave something sweet or caffeinated for an energy boost, our blood sugar spikes, shortly after we crash, and soon thereafter we crave sweets or caffeine again to maintain the “high”. You can break this vicious cycle by removing these stimulants, and incorporating a plentiful amount of protein and fat, along with your other macronutrients and an overall healthy diet.
The second pillar to maintain healthy blood sugar levels is exercise. Exercise is typically one of the first management strategies advised for patients newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and is firmly incorporated in the management of type 1 diabetes (2). Together with diet and behavior modification, exercise is an essential component of all diabetes and obesity prevention and lifestyle intervention programs. Exercise training, whether aerobic, resistance training, or a combination, is very helpful in regulating blood sugar levels (3).
The third pillar is stress management. Stress management comes in many forms, such as massage, exercise like yoga, walking, or pilates, or simple at-home techniques such as deep breathing, a hot bath, or a foot soak. When you’re stressed and your body enters “fight or flight” mode, glucose is released to give your muscles the energy needed to run and escape. In the modern day, there’s a good chance that threat is more mental than physical, which means you won’t need that extra energy after all (4). The result is elevated blood sugar which takes its toll on your body. Practicing stress management techniques will take the body out of this constant “fight or flight”, allowing our blood sugar levels to regulate.
The fourth pillar is to eat every 2-3 hours throughout the day. This may be confusing to some, as there are schools of thought suggesting that intermittent fasting is the better choice for blood sugar regulation, and from an evolutionary perspective, intermittent fasting was likely the normal state of affairs. However, for those people with blood sugar regulation problems, eating every 2-3 hours throughout the day will help maintain healthy blood sugar levels (5). Choosing healthy snack options should be the focus, with an emphasis on protein and fat.
Together, these four pillars will provide the ultimate foundation for healthy blood sugar keeping you happy, balanced, and craving-free. If you have been diagnosed with blood sugar dysregulation or any blood sugar disorder, it’s best to discuss all of these treatment options with your licensed health care provider.
1) “Blood Sugar Dysregulation.” Heather Carr, DPT, 31 May 2015, heathercarrdpt.com/uncategorized/blood-sugar-dysregulation/.
2) Galassetti, Pietro, and Michael C Riddell. “Exercise and Type 1 Diabetes (T1DM).” Comprehensive Physiology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23897688.
3) Kirwan, John P, et al. “The Essential Role of Exercise in the Management of Type 2 Diabetes.” Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28708479.
4) “How Stress Can Cause Diabetes and Obesity.” Mercola.com, articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2018/02/08/stress-blood-sugar-levels.aspx.
5) Gerald, and Chimonger. “Intermittent Fasting, Cortisol and Blood Sugar.” Chris Kresser, 1 Apr. 2019, chriskresser.com/intermittent-fasting-cortisol-and-blood-sugar/.