How Carbohydrates Affect Blood Sugar
Our bodies literally run on sugar. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose to fuel all our cells. Glucose molecules are absorbed into our bloodstream where insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, carries it to the cells to be converted into energy or stored for later use. When we eat sugary food or highly processed carbohydrates which quickly break down into glucose, we experience a rapid increase in blood sugar. Our body compensates for the high sugar levels with a spike in insulin to take care of the excess glucose molecules.
Unfortunately, this spike in insulin ends up leaving our blood sugar levels too low which causes us to feel hungry, tired, and cranky. And of course, our body knows that the easiest way to quickly alleviate feelings of hunger and irritability is by eating highly processed carbs and sugar so that is what we crave. If we give in to these cravings, we start the cycle all over and end up riding the blood sugar roller coaster.
Rapid fluctuations in blood sugar on a regular basis are bad for our health for a number of reasons. First of all, the organs involved in regulating blood sugar become overworked and fatigued. Our pancreas and adrenals in particular can begin functioning less efficiently, creating all sorts of unpleasant symptoms.
Also, chronic blood sugar spikes can cause your body to become insulin resistant. Cells are slower to take up the glucose molecules that the insulin is delivering, leaving the glucose circulating in the blood and leading to chronic high blood sugar levels and wreaking havoc on the body. Finally, daily blood sugar spikes and drops leads to hunger pangs and cravings for high carbohydrate foods, which can lead to weight gain and mood swings.
So how do we keep our blood sugar levels balanced? Let’s look at two key steps we can take.
Control blood sugar with food. In order to avoid high spikes in blood sugar levels it is most important to avoid sugary foods and highly processed carbohydrates which break down into sugar quickly. When you eat be sure to include high fibre foods, whole grains, fats, and proteins which all digest slowly and raise blood sugar levels at a steady rate. Also, eat smaller more frequent meals throughout the day instead of a couple of big meals.
Control blood sugar with herbs and supplements. There are several herbs, vitamins, and minerals which are known to help maintain healthy glucose levels.
- Gymnema Sylvestre, fenugreek, and bitter melon work together to slow the absorption of glucose in the intestines and support insulin production.
- Alpha-Lipoic Acid is a strong antioxidant that acts as a free radical scavenger and has been shown to support glucose transport to cells.
- Green tea contains EGCG which has been shown to protect pancreatic islet cells and to support healthy insulin action.
- Biotin, one of the B complex vitamins, is important in the conversion of glucose into energy and has resulted in the significant lowering of fasting blood sugar levels.
- Cinnamon supports healthy insulin activity and increases the uptake of glucose into the cells.
- Zinc is involved in virtually all aspects of insulin metabolism and it protects against beta-cell destruction.
- Manganese is a cofactor in many enzyme systems involved in blood sugar control and energy metabolism.
- Chromium is needed to make glucose tolerance factor, which improves insulin function.
These herbs and supplements can be taken individually or many can be found together in blood sugar support complexes where they work together to keep glucose levels steady.
Choose whole, nutrient dense foods to support healthy blood sugar with food and supplement this kind of diet with supportive herbs, vitamins, and minerals. This should help keep you off the less-than-thrilling blood sugar roller coaster.