Optimizing Blood Sugar

Effects of Unbalanced Blood Sugar

Unbalanced blood sugar places a real strain on the adrenal glands and the body’s resources because, unless one is in a state of ketosis, the body runs on sugar – glucose – that’s circulating in the blood. If there’s too much (hyperglycemia) or too little (hypoglycemia) glucose in the blood, the adrenal glands may produce excess cortisol and adrenaline to counter the resultant inflammation and/or to boost the body’s energy on a temporary basis.

If blood sugar is too high or too low, immediate symptoms may occur such as:

Excess inflammation in the long term is a common root cause of most chronic health conditions. Left unchecked, a vicious cycle emerges in which unbalanced blood sugar causes chronic inflammation, which burns out the adrenal glands, which causes chronic fatigue thereby causing an increased demand for energy, which typically comes from glucose.

What Is Optimal Blood Sugar?

Optimizing blood sugar is one of the key things you can do to improve symptoms both in the short and long term. The Centers for Disease Control states that a fasting blood sugar level of 99 mg/dL or lower is normal, 100 to 125 mg/dL indicates prediabetes, and 126 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes. However, it is imporant to note that these readings should be taken over a period of time because a one-day significant change may not be enough to confirm a diagnosis. This is why the serum hemoglobin A1C or HbA1c test that measures average blood sugar over the last three months is important to do as well.

Because almost half of Americans have either diabetes or prediabetes, many people are somewhat aware of the effects of high blood sugar. What is less understood is hypoglycemia, in which fasting blood sugar level is below 70 mg/dL. If blood sugar is very low, there is a risk of going into a diabetic coma or seizures. Children with neurodevelopmental disorders and other chronic health conditions seem to be more likely of having reactive hypoglycemia, in which blood sugar may drop below 70 mg/dL during the day.

Functional-medicine doctors believe that optimal fasting levels of blood sugar are between 70 and 85 mg/dL. Keeping it in this tight range is more conducive to being in mild ketosis, especially if fats are increased and processed carbohydrates are minimized. Ketosis is the state of burning ketones as an alternate fuel source for the body. Ketones are derived from fat, and they provide a much-more-stable fuel supply of glucose, which comes from carbohydrates, does.

By maintaining this optimal fasting range, some of the above-listed symptoms may stabilize. Moods generally improve, and energy may increase as well. In addition, because blood-sugar spikes and dips aren’t causing a strain on the adrenals, the body can focus on long-term healing rather than short-term emergencies caused by these blood-sugar inconsistencies.

One happy byproduct of optimizing blood sugar may be the resolution of hormone-related problems such as:

  • Endometriosis
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Amenorrhea
  • Fertility problems

This is because many sex hormones such as progesterone and testosterone are made from cholesterol, as is cortisol. The body will preferentially make cortisol over sex hormones because it has to deal with the emergency issue necessitating its production first. Therefore, by reducing the need for cortisol such as by lowering stress and optimizing blood sugar, sex-hormone production may pick up and issues may resolve.

Tips for Optimizing Blood Sugar

First of all, you’ll want to get a home glucose monitor kit that contains test strips, lancets and a digital monitor. They are fairly inexpensive and can be found in most pharmacies. Test blood sugar just before eating the first meal of the day by following the instructions in the kit. Record results in a daily log. It’s helpful to note what was eaten the day before as well as exercise, sleep pattern and unusual things that may have happened the day and night beforehand. Doing this will help you understand what helps to keep blood sugar stable as well as what affects it.

Optimizing blood sugar takes a multi-factorial approach, using seemingly trite but profoundly helpful methods such as changing the diet, exercising and performing mind-body techniques to control emotional stress levels. However, there are a host of other ideas here to reduce the total load of stressors, so read on.

Change the Diet

The consumption of excess carbohydrates, especially if they are in the form of simple, processed carbohydrates such as white flour and sugars, typically causes blood sugar levels to spike excessively if they are not eaten with fat, fiber and protein. Blood-sugar spikes are often followed by periods of low blood sugar, maybe even to the point of hypoglycemia, and this can create a vicious cycle as the body often demands quick energy in the form of simple carbohydrates if this is the case.

Add in more fat (not in the form of vegetable oils or fried foods), fiber and protein in both meals and snacks, then log morning fasting blood sugar to quantify the effects.

Keep in mind that hidden food sensitivities and intolerances could be causing hidden inflammation in the body, which in turn affects blood sugar. Try an elimination diet to see if this is the case. In addition, look into diets such as the Paleo diet, Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) or Gut And Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet that eliminate processed carbohydrates and emphasize fresh foods. The side benefit of these diets is that can also help to resolve gastrointestinal issues such as acid reflux and chronic constipation.

Exercise

Exercise can use up some excess sugar in the blood, and it’s best to incorporate some form of movement, even if it’s just a walk, into the daily routine. A minimum of thirty minutes per day is a good goal. Be sure to track exercise in a log to see its effect.

Perform Mind-Body Techniques

Stress places excess energy demands on the body and is likely to cause cravings for quick-energy boosters such as chips and crackers. If there’s not enough fuel to meet these needs, the liver will also convert stored glycogen into glucose. Calming techniques can lower stress levels and thus help regulate blood sugar. Examples are:

Look at Other Ways of Reducing the Total Load of Stressors

Most people are familiar with the effects that emotional stress has on the body. What’s less commonly known, however, is that there are many other forms of chronic stress – known as the total load – such as:

The correction of any of these factors can remove a layer of stress on the body, thus allowing it to heal further and better optimize blood sugar. Check out our reference library to learn more.

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