Blood sugar, also known as blood glucose, is a critical component for overall health, not just for individuals with diabetes. Here’s why blood sugar is important and how it can become unbalanced, along with tests to assess blood sugar control and lifestyle interventions supported by research.
Importance of Blood Sugar for Overall Health:
- Energy Source: Glucose is the primary energy source for cells, providing fuel for various bodily functions, including brain function, muscle activity, and cellular metabolism.
- Metabolic Regulation: Blood sugar levels influence the regulation of hormones and enzymes involved in metabolism, including insulin and glucagon, which play a vital role in nutrient uptake, storage, and utilization.
- Cognitive Function: The brain relies heavily on glucose for optimal cognitive function, and fluctuations in blood sugar levels can affect cognitive performance, attention, and mood.
- Cardiovascular Health: Chronic imbalances in blood sugar levels, particularly persistent high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), can contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary artery disease and stroke.
- Gut Health: Blood sugar imbalance can have significant effects on motility, particularly in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Imbalanced blood sugar levels can lead to constipation or diarrhea.
- Weight Management: Blood sugar control is important for maintaining a healthy weight, as imbalances can lead to increased appetite, overeating, and difficulty in managing body weight.
Causes of Blood Sugar Imbalance:
- Diet: Consuming excessive amounts of simple carbohydrates, sugary foods, and drinks can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. Conversely, inadequate carbohydrate intake or prolonged fasting can result in low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
- Sedentary Lifestyle: Lack of physical activity can impair glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, contributing to imbalances in blood sugar.
- Hormonal Factors: Various hormones, such as cortisol and growth hormone, can influence blood sugar levels. Hormonal imbalances, such as in conditions like Cushing’s syndrome, can lead to abnormal blood sugar control.
- Medications and Health Conditions: Certain medications, such as corticosteroids or antipsychotics, can affect blood sugar levels. Additionally, medical conditions like hormonal disorders or pancreatic diseases can impact blood sugar regulation.
Tests to Assess Blood Sugar Control
- Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG): This test measures blood glucose levels after an overnight fast and helps diagnose diabetes or pre-diabetes.
- Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT): This test involves consuming a glucose solution, and blood sugar levels are measured at various intervals to evaluate the body’s response to glucose.
- Glycated Hemoglobin (HbA1c): This test provides an average of blood sugar levels over the past two to three months, reflecting long-term blood sugar control.
InsideTracker makes it easy to keep track of how well you’ve been managing your blood sugar by including HgbA1c and blood glucose in your blood draw. Go to https://insidetracker.com/nutritionrewired to get 20% off any blood test.
Tips For Balancing Blood Sugar:
- Exercise, even if it’s just short walks around your meals. When you move your body, insulin sensitivity is increased, so your muscle cells are better able to use any available insulin to take up glucose during and after activity.
- Eat your vegetables first! If you have a meal that allows for it, eat your vegetables before your protein and then carbohydrates. Research has found this to be an effective method for weight management.
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Research shows that lack of sleep can decrease insulin sensitivity, increase inflammation, and lead to poor food choices.
- Stay hydrated. One study found that self-reported water intake was inversely and independently associated with the risk of developing hyperglycemia. I love using LMNT for electrolytes
- Start your day off with your largest meal, including 30 grams of protein. Most of my clients are not getting enough protein at breakfast, or skipping it altogether (no coffee doesn’t count!).
- Don’t skip meals. A skipped meal alters the balance between food intake and insulin production, and can cause your blood sugar levels to eventually drop. In addition to that, I often see patients over eating at their next meal, causing a large spike in blood sugar.
- Eat more fiber. Aim for 30-35 grams of fiber each meal. Fiber is not absorbed, and therefore will not raise blood sugar levels.
To listen to my latest podcast episode on blood sugar balance with Kim Rose, a registered dietitian specializing in diabetes and blood sugar management, click the link here.
In great health,