7 Ways To Balance Blood Sugar, Curb Cravings,
Lower Inflammation And Reduce Your Risk of Chronic Disease
Whether you’re a student struggling with ADD, an office worker on overwhelm or a Boomer facing memory loss, we all need help clearing the inflammation that fuels brain fog and cognitive problems.
It turns out that the primary driver of chronic inflammation is our excessive intake of simple carbs like sugar, refined and processed grains and artificial sweeteners.
But how can downing a sugary “energy” drink, snarfing a bowl of cereal or a bag of cookies cause inflammation? And what can we do about it?
This is a story about sugar, insulin and cytokines, the inflammatory compounds made by fat cells.
When we eat, our pancreas secretes enzymes to digest carbs into sugars, protein into amino acids and fat into fatty acids, so they can be absorbed into the bloodstream and used for energy. Insulin is the pancreatic hormone that escorts sugar from the bloodstream into the cell. It stores extra sugar as fat.
And it does this so elegantly through “insulin receptors”. Each and every cell membrane has insulin receptors, which bind with insulin (like a key in a lock) to carry sugar across the membrane and into the cell where it is used to create energy.
But a steady diet of added sugars dulls the insulin receptors, effectively turning them off and causing the condition known as “insulin resistance”. When insulin can’t do its job, it leads to the consistently elevated blood sugar we see in pre-diabetes and Type 2 or “age related” diabetes. (But now teens are developing it too!)
Insulin resistance promotes a vicious cycle of inflammation, with more sugar being stored as fat, promoting the release of more inflammatory cytokines from the fat.
Millions of Americans are stuck in this vicious cycle: the blood sugar roller coaster. You know that “sugar rush” when you eat it. The sugar “high” is caused by the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, leading to that satisfied and “rewarded” feeling. It is one of the reasons that refined sugar is considered as addictive as cocaine.
So while a sweet pastry and coffee might feel blissful for an hour or two when your blood sugar is on the rise, the rapid fall in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) from those empty calories can lead to brain fog, dizziness, sweating and irritability. That’s about the time your adrenal glands save the day by secreting adrenaline to release sugar from your liver to keep you from fainting on the street! Not so sweet!
According to a new report from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 100 million adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes (that’s 1/3 of our population)!
As of 2015, 30 million Americans have diabetes and another 81 million have pre-diabetes, which if not addressed usually leads to diabetes within 5 years. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0718-diabetes-report.html
When our sugar-rich diet meets our sedentary lifestyle, the result is inflammation that is driving brain fog and dementia, diabetes and heart disease, cancer and more.
So here are 7 ways to balance blood sugar, curb cravings, lose weight, lower inflammation and your risk of chronic disease.
1) Eat a balance of protein, fat and complex carbohydrates at each meal. Breakfast is the perfect place to start. Check out my post on protein-powered breakfasts for more. Providing your body the essential amino acids, fatty acids and fiber helps manage blood sugar metabolism.
2) Eat 7-11 servings of fresh, organic complex carbs (fiber and color-rich veggies and fruit, nuts and seeds, whole grains and beans) every day. Think of the fiber like a sponge, slowly releasing the sugar and nutrients into the bloodstream, stabilizing blood sugar levels and maximizing our feelings of fullness and well being.
3) Practice intermittent fasting: Eat your last meal of the day at least 3 hours before bedtime and take a 12-15 hour “fast” before you break your fast…at breakfast! This isn’t that hard to do…eat a satisfying dinner at 6 pm and a protein-powered breakfast at 8:00 am before you head to work. That’ll keep your brain firing all morning long!
4) Stay active: daily aerobic exercise awakens dulled insulin receptors, helping to reverse insulin resistance. Exercise builds muscle mass, burns fat, reduces cravings and increases BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) to support healthy synapses and neurons.
5) Sleep is essential for rebuilding our body and creating metabolic balance. Science has discovered “clock genes” that regulate the function of organs like the pancreas. Did you know that the pancreas reduces its production of insulin and enzymes in the evening, making it difficult to maintain blood sugar balance and digest food late at night? So skip the midnight munchies and head to bed.
6) Manage stress: our lives are filled with one challenge after another, so it pays off to develop other strategies for dealing with stress than a pint of ice cream. Meditation, exercise, deep breathing, yoga, tai chi and qigong are just a few ways to manage stress.
7) Drink water pure water and limit excess caffeine. While we love the rush of energy and productivity from caffeine, at the end of the day most of us feel tired and stressed. Drinking too much coffee revs up the sympathetic nervous system, and places a strain on several organ systems, eventually taxing our health. And definitely skip the sodas, energy drinks and excessive alcohol.
Now this doesn’t mean you don’t get to enjoy the “dolce vida” or “sweet life”. Sweet is one of the “5 tastes” in Traditional Chinese Medicine and health is said to result from having a balance of each of the flavors.
Fruit is nature’s candy, so enjoy it. Dark cherries are full of phytonutrients and antioxidants. Dark chocolate is teaming with antioxidants and phytonutrients. Almonds contain a mixture of fat, protein and starch. Blended together, these form my Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond Love Balls…a perfect keto-style dessert: full of flavor but free of sugar, gluten, grains and dairy. Share them with those you love!
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