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How to hack your blood sugar

It's hard to escape sugar, right? It seems like everyone is warning of the dangers of eating too much sugar, myself included. Biologically speaking, our bodies need glucose. Every cell in our body needs energy (glucose) to function, but we are eating more sugar than is necessary. Americans are averaging 150 pounds of sugar per person per year which creates diseases and health issues such as insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, PCOS, and Type II diabetes.


Most of us have felt unwell when our blood sugar has spiked too high (hyperglycemia) or plummeted too low (hypoglycemia), as a result of a glucose spike. Symptoms such as frequent snacking, craving carbs, sweets or both, unsteady energy, feeling tired after a meal, requiring coffee to wake up and /or get through your day, waking up at night, and / or waking up not feeling rested in the morning are all examples of dysregulated blood sugar. These unpleasant feelings are the body's way of saying that it's unhappy with having to deal with excess sugar.


Of course, the way sugar (glucose) metabolizes from person to person depends on many things including genetics, the state of your gut microbiome, hydration, stress, sleep, activity level, etc. No matter how you slice it however, excess sugar is inflammatory. Period. Therefore, it goes without saying, that most American adults are dealing with chronic inflammation. In order to reduce inflammation, consider reducing your sugar intake, and incorporate these five easy hacks to regulate your blood sugar and thereby reduce your inflammation.


Let's start with a quick breakdown of the process first.



What are carbohydrates?

  • Carbohydrates break down into sugars which our bodies use for fuel.

  • Glucose is the body’s preferred source of fast burning fuel

Two Types

Complex = Contain longer chains of sugar molecules than simple carbs

Digest more slowly because they contain fiber

Fiber is also beneficial for gut health - it feeds the good bacteria and promotes healthy

bowel movements

Examples: Vegetables, fruit, beans, legumes, and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc.



Simple = Contain shorter chains of sugar molecules

Digest more quickly and spike your blood sugar

Examples: Anything that’s been processed in a plant or factory such as flour, bread, muffins, crackers, chips, cookies, cereal, pasta, tortillas, etc.





Here’s how this works: as you digest your meal, glucose goes into your bloodstream where it’s transported to your cells to be converted to energy.


Carbohydrates ⇨ glucose ⇨ convert to fast burning energy


The little machines that do this work are called “mitochondria.” Their job is to turn glucose into ATP, which we can simply refer to as energy. One might posit that it makes sense to just eat more sugar to get more energy for the body. This is false, however. If you overwhelm your mitochondria with too much glucose, which is the case when a glucose spike happens, your mitochondria shut down because they’re stressed out, and now they're releasing dangerous “free radicals'' into your cells. They damage everything that they touch, so if they touch your DNA, they might harm it and create a mutation that could lead to cancer later on. If they touch a cell membrane, they can break the cell membrane and damage the integrity of the cell.



How does this manifest itself in your body?

  • Your immune system responds to the free radicals in the form of inflammation.

  • Diet and lifestyle play a huge role in inflammation because glucose spikes increase inflammation in your body.

  • Blood sugar naturally rises and falls during the day based on what you eat, and your body prefers to not experience huge spikes in your blood sugar (think gentle waves rather than tidal waves). You will feel the difference in your energy level if your blood sugar is better regulated.


BOTTOM LINE: Chronic inflammation creates a terrain for chronic diseases.



 


5 simple ways you can support healthy blood sugar regulation


As shared by Jessie Inchauspé, also known as the “Glucose Goddess” & author of

Glucose Revolution: The Life-Changing Power of Balancing Your Blood Sugar



1. Drink 1 glass of water with 1 - 2 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar up to 30 minutes before your meal.

Scientists say that the effect of vinegar is almost the same as the effect of medication given to diabetics to reduce glucose spikes. There’s a molecule in vinegar called acetic acid which after it arrives in your stomach and it talks to an enzyme called alpha-amylase, whose job it is to break down starch into glucose. It also goes to your muscle and encourages the storage of glucose in the form of glycogen in the muscles. These two mechanisms reduce glucose spikes by up to 30%. If the ACV bothers your teeth, use a straw.


2. Have a savory breakfast rather than a sugary one.

Foods that clearly spike blood sugar include the obvious ones such as candy, soda, juice, but breakfast items such as cereal, pop tarts, donuts, french toast are horrible as well. Cultures around the world wonder why we eat “dessert” for breakfast.


In studies, savory breakfasts keep you full longer, and your breakfast determines how you’re going to feel for the rest of the day.

Think: eggs, avocado, sausage, leftovers veggies from dinner last night + eggs, etc.



If you drink coffee, do not use oat milk as a creamer because it spikes blood sugar.



3. Don’t eat “naked carbs”- put clothes on them.

A naked carb is sugar or starch that you’re eating on its own. Anytime you eat something sweet or starchy, make sure to put some protein, fat, or fiber on it.


For example: apple with peanut butter, toast + avocado.






4. Eat your meal in this order: (if possible. If you are having soup, forget it.)

1st: Vegetables first

2nd: Protein and fats second

3rd: Starches and sugars last


By eating your vegetables first during a meal, the fiber in the vegetables lands in your stomach, then it heads to your upper intestine, where it coats the walls of your intestines with this viscous mesh, and then any starch or sugars you eat afterwards will be absorbed to a lesser extent in your bloodstream, therefore having a much smaller glucose spike.



5. Use your muscles for 10 minutes after your meals.

Top favorites: walk your dogs around the block, dance to your three favorite songs in your living room, do the dishes.







Additional tidbits of wisdom around blood sugar regulation:

1. Stress releases cortisol, which then causes your glucose level to spike. Short term spikes of cortisol are great. You need it to wake up in the morning, deal with urgent situations, etc. It’s the chronic low level stress that actually causes metabolic problems and to gain weight. Remember, insulin is a fat storage hormone. Think "Miracle Grow" for fat. Do what you can to manage your stress.


2. Good solid sleep. When you’re not rested, your body has a more difficult time dealing with any influxes of glucose. As a result, you crave sugar even more, because you feel like it’s going to give you energy. The problem: the same sugar that you’re about to eat will create a bigger spike than usual, thus putting you on the carb/sugar cravings rollercoaster. Ugh!



Blood sugar regulation is one of the keys to a healthy body, so getting your blood sugar regulation under control can be addressed through your diet as well as these fun little "hacks". Give any of them a try and let me know how they work for you.



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For additional information about blood sugar regulation, and the effects of sugar, check out these podcasts by Dr. Mark Hyman, Functional Medicine doctor @ The Doctor’s Farmacy -


Surprise Hacks to Balance Your Blood Sugar


The Best and Worst Foods for your blood sugar


The Bitter Truth about Sugar and how it’s killing you


DISCLAIMER: This blog is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or any other qualified medical professional. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search their find a practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained and can help you make changes to your health.

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