It’s becoming more and more common for people to come to my clinic having been diagnosed as pre-diabetic and told to manage their blood sugars or face medication to control blood sugar. Let’s look at what actually happens in the body and how you can take control of this and help yourself naturally with your diet.
How do high blood sugars happen!?
Our diets contain all types of nutrients, depending on what we eat.
When we break down carbohydrates (bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, biscuits, pastries) they turn to sugar or glucose. Our diets can also be high in added simple sugars – juices, fizzy drinks, sweets.
Our bodies have to regulate or control the amount of sugar in the blood so it can be used if we need energy, or else excess glucose gets stored in the liver as glycogen or, with the help of insulin, sugars can be converted into fatty acids, circulated to other parts of the body and stored as fat. This is why many people who have blood sugar issues are over weight or may have been told they are on their way to having a ‘fatty liver’.
How is blood sugar controlled in the body?
The pancreas is an organ in our bodies that sits behind the stomach. It has a few jobs in our body; an exocrine function that helps in digestion and an endocrine function that regulates blood sugar.
The pancreas produces insulin, a naturally occurring hormone that helps your body use sugar for energy; it moves glucose from your blood into cells all over your body. Think of insulin as the ‘key’ that opens the ‘doors’ of the cells in your body (see pic). Once insulin opens your cell doors, glucose can leave your bloodstream and move into your cells where you use it for energy. Without enough insulin, glucose can’t get into your cells and instead builds up in your blood. Leading to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)
Exercise lets the body sweat out extra water. This causes water weight to drop immediately after exercise. A workout also stimulates blood flow and improves circulation, which can reduce fluid buildup throughout the body, especially in the legs and feet. Exercise reduces water weight even more by burning through glycogen energy stores. Again, replacing lost fluids is vital after any physical activity to avoid dehydration, so water water water!
If our system becomes unable to regulate the sugar intake in our bodies, we may become insulin resistant….
So what Is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well anymore to insulin and can’t use glucose from your blood for energy. To make up for it, your pancreas gets confused and keeps making more insulin. Over time, your blood sugar levels go up.
Insulin resistance syndrome includes a group of problems like obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.
Signs your blood sugar may be out of balance:
- Feeling exhausted all the time
- Sugar and carb cravings
- Being overweight (Check your BMI here!)
- Mood swings
- Excessive thirst
- Going to the toilet often
- Trouble concentrating
- Blurry vision/ dizziness
- Mood swings or nervousness
- Dry skin
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Patches of darker skin around armpits (acanthosis nigricans)
Risk Factors/ Causes of Hyperglycaemia & Insulin Resistance
Things that can make this condition more likely include:
- Diet high in carbohydrates or sugars
- Obesity, especially belly fat
- Inactive lifestyle
- Gestational diabetes
- Health conditions like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and polycystic ovary syndrome
- A family history of diabetes
- Ethnicity — it’s more likely if your ancestry is African, Latino, or Native American
- Age — it’s more likely after 45
- Hormonal disorders like Cushing’s syndrome and acromegaly
- Medications like steroids, antipsychotics, and HIV medications
- Sleep problems like sleep apnea
How can I help myself if I have high blood sugars?
*If your blood sugars are particularly high (over 100 mg/dL) always see your GP as this can be dangerous if not managed properly
The glycemic index (GI) is a tool you can use to determine how a particular food could affect your blood sugar.
- Foods that are high on the GI will raise your blood sugar faster. Refined carbohydrates rank high on the GI. These are grain products that digest quickly in your stomach. Examples are white bread, normal potatoes, chips, pastries, sausage rolls, hash browns and white rice, along with fizzy drinks and juice. Limit these foods whenever possible if you have prediabetes or high blood sugar as they will spike the sugar in your blood.
- Foods that are processed, refined or have little fibre and nutrients register high on the GI. Avoiding excessive intake of added sugars by limiting sugary beverages, cakes, cookies, sweets, sugary dairy products (yoghurts)
- Foods that rank medium on the GI are fine to eat. Examples include whole-wheat bread and brown rice. Still, they aren’t as good as foods that rank low on the GI such as those listed above in the meal plan.
- Foods ranked low GI on the scale have less effect on your blood sugar spike.
- Foods with high fibre are low on the GI.
- Drink enough water
- Have a dessertspoonful of apple cider vinegar in morning and night- this will stabilize blood sugar
- Chromium is an excellent mineral used to balance blood sugar and sugar cravings. (See health practitioner for advice)
- Incorporating fibre to reach a goal of 25 to 30 grams per day by eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Limiting saturated and trans fats by choosing lean protein and low-fat dairy
- Focus on high-protein and high-fibre foods with no added sugars. Protein and fibre slow digestion, which helps prevent a blood sugar spike.
- 50% of the plate filled with nonstarchy vegetables, such as leafy greens
- 25% with a lean protein, such as chicken, turkey, beans, tofu, or eggs.
- 25% with carb foods- preferably whole grains (brown/ black rice, oats or quinoa)
Examples of non starchy veg:
Artichoke, Asparagus, Baby corn, Bean sprouts, Brussels sprouts, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Cucumber, Kale, Turnip, Leeks, Mushrooms, Onions, Peas in the pod, peppers, Salad greens, Sprouts, Squash, Sugar snap peas, Tomato, Turnips, Water chestnuts
- 25% with healthy carbohydrates, such as whole grains like brown /black rice, quinoa, oats
- 25% with lean protein, such as chicken, turkey, fish or tofu, (not fried)
Snacks you CAN have:
- Nuts- any kind- a handful twice a day will stabilise blood sugar
- Nut butter- peanut butter, almond butter, try out a few different ones
- Fruit slices or berries- Avocado, Strawberries, Banana, Grapefruit, Raspberries, Apple, Grapes, Peaches
- Cheese (be careful if you have high cholesterol)
- Humus with cucumber sticks
- Oat cakes with nut butter
Please note this blog is for information purposes only and does not intend to diagnose or prescribe. Always see your GP if you have symptoms of hyperglycaemia.
If you found this blog helpful, please let us know!
Extremely informative & very useful thanks Miss Maeve !!
Excellent advice Maeve, love the simple explanation