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Blood sugar – the foundation to good health

Energy levels during the day, the way you think, how likely you are to develop chronic disease, sexual dysfunction and even excess belly fat all trace back to one core subject; metabolic dysfunction. Literature shows that living longer and living better all really starts with decreasing chronic inflammation in our lives. A great place to start with this is simply looking at what we eat and it’s effect on our blood sugar. We are constantly overloaded with health content and different types of diets you should be following. Frankly, it can be very overwhelming, not to mention contradictory! Good health doesn’t have to be this huge unattainable thing, where you only eat a vegan diet and spend your days meditating. Simply making a few small changes to your food choices can have a huge impact on your overall health, mood and energy. Not to mention reduce the risk of chronic lifestyle diseases such as diabetes mellitus, arthritis and heart disease.

Metabolic dysfunction simply refers to blood sugar dysfunction, glucose levels and insulin resistance. You may associate these terms with diabetes. However current investigations are looking at the role of blood sugar for not just pre-diabetic people, but for people with seemingly good health. It is currently not a widely understood area in mainstream medicine. Greater research and clinical trials are to be undertaken for this disorder to be widely embraced across the board by all mainstream medical practitioners.

Current research shows that chronic inflammation is the root of many conditions. Seven out of ten of the leading causes of death in the US are related to metabolic dysfunction. However, you may interpret this as good news! It essentially means that many of the issues we face are within our control to change. Some key lifestyle changes can significantly lower our risk of many of the ailments that plague modern society, termed ‘chronic lifestyle diseases’. Metabolic dysfunction is further compounded by lack of exercise, lack of adequate, quality sleep and chronic stress.

As a society we are eating more sugar and processed food than ever before. When we eat carbohydrates they are converted to glucose and the pancreas needs to create enough insulin to uptake the glucose out of the blood and into the cells. The cells use this glucose for energy (also known as ATP). The body is generally able to deal with a spike in blood sugar at least once a day, however when we are spiking and dipping our blood sugar levels all day due to the type of food that we eat, the system becomes overloaded and dysfunctional. The pancreas needs to release so much insulin to deal with the excess glucose and eventually the cells begin to block this insulin, this is  known as insulin resistance.

When insulin resistance happens the body has to release even more insulin to get the same amount of glucose into the cells. It becomes harder to get glucose into the cells to be converted into energy and we find ourselves in a state of energy deficit inside the cells. Tissues then don’t have enough energy to function adequately and the system becomes dysfunctional. Insulin resistance also has a flow on effect to difficulty burning fat and consequently, weight gain, especially around the midsection. The body simply doesn’t see the need to use fat for energy when there is so much available glucose and stops breaking it down.

How does this blood sugar issue cause inflammation? Unstable blood sugar triggers the immune system. When the immune system is continually excited this creates chronic inflammation in the body and we start to see symptoms. That is, metabolic dysfunction takes on many forms depending on where it is occurring in the body. For example, in the brain it may look like depression, Alzheimer’s disease, fatigue, mental confusion or poor memory. In the ovaries it may present as infertility. In the liver it may look like fatty liver, and the skin, it may present as acne or rashes. The lungs may present like asthma and at the heart, like heart disease or increased blood pressure.

How do you know if you are regulating your blood sugar adequately throughout the day? The tricky part is that what may spike one person’s blood sugar, may not have the same effect on another. Generally, if you feel hungry, irritable, lethargic, shaky or lightheaded 60-90 minutes after a meal this is likely a drop in blood sugar (or hypoglycaemia). Meaning your body has had a spike in glucose and has now has hit rock bottom. Meals with large ratio of carbohydrates or foods of high glycaemic index are the usual culprits.

Here are some easy tips for regulating blood sugar throughout the day:

  • A good rule of thumb for each meal is to limit complex carbohydrates to half a cup and only eat whole grains, brown rice instead of white, wholemeal or buckwheat pasta, quinoa and legume-based spaghettis. Adding lean meats, other fats and proteins to each meal such as nuts, seeds and avocados
  • Eating breakfast within 20 minutes of waking is ideal.
  • Drinking at least 2 litres of filtered water, this not only helped every system in your body function more optimally, but it also curbs a lot of unnecessary snacking.
  • Getting 30 – 60 minutes exercise daily will help stabilise blood sugar, especially great to move after a big meal.
  • Eating small frequent protein based meals/snacks is much more preferable then long stretches between meals.
  • Getting minimum 8 hours of sleep per night, waking and going to sleep at the same time each day.
  • Testing with blood glucose monitor over a month can be a great, fast track way of figuring out the most suitable diet for your body.
  • Using a half teaspoon of cinnamon to daily diet can be beneficial for blood sugar control, digestion and the immune system.
  • Bach flower remedy Peach Flowered Tea Tree has a balancing effect on the pancreas and the kidneys, two organs that are responsible for blood sugar regulation and insulin production.
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