How You Can Support Healthy Blood Sugar Levels - Wakunaga of America
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How You Can Support Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

That “hangry” feeling you get before lunchtime? We’ve all been there and it’s certainly no fun. But what really causes hunger-induced irritability?

When you haven’t eaten for a while, the level of sugar (glucose) in your blood decreases. When your blood sugar gets too low, it triggers a cascade of hormones, like cortisol (a stress hormone) and adrenaline (the “fight or flight” hormone) that raise and rebalance your blood sugar—and spark those hangry feelings.

Not only will keeping your blood sugar levels in a healthy range lessen those hunger-induced episodes, it’s also very important for reducing the risk of diabetes. Let’s run through some simple ways that can help keep your blood sugar levels balanced.

Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

Blood glucose levels change throughout the day. They are at their lowest point before your first meal of the day. After eating, your blood sugar levels rise, then they “settle” after about an hour. Health authorities consider a normal fasting blood sugar level to be below 99 mg/dL. In people with diabetes, the levels will differ a little more. And instead of targeting a specific blood sugar level, their aim is to manage their blood sugar and keep it within a certain range. The American Diabetes Association recommends targeting levels of 70-130 md/dL before eating for a person with diabetes. Within two hours of eating a meal, blood glucose levels should be less than 180 mg/dL.1

Consistently high blood sugar levels are associated with a condition called hyperglycemia. This condition normally develops when there is not enough insulin in the body, or when the cells become less sensitive to insulin. Without sufficient insulin, glucose cannot enter cells, causing it to build up in the blood stream. This is dangerous, because left unmanaged, high blood glucose levels could eventually lead to conditions like nerve damage, foot ulcers, vision problems, tooth infections, and more.2

Hypoglycemia, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite. This happens when the blood sugar levels fall below the normal range. Low blood sugar is most prevalent in people who take insulin, but it can also occur when you are taking certain diabetes medications. Some common causes of hypoglycemia include taking too much prescription insulin, not eating enough food or skipping a meal, increasing the amount of exercise you engage in, or drinking alcohol. If your hypoglycemia goes unchecked, it could eventually lead to seizures and loss of consciousness.3

Top Blood Sugar Balancing Tips

So what can you do to take charge of your blood sugar and keep it balanced? Let’s take a look.

Live that low-carb life: Carbohydrates cause blood sugar to rise. When you eat carbs, they are broken down into simple sugars. Those sugars then enter the bloodstream. As your blood sugar levels quickly rise, your pancreas releases insulin. This prompts your cells to absorb the sugar from the blood, which causes your blood sugar levels to drop. Many studies have shown that eating a low-carb diet can help to prevent these blood sugar spikes.4  Try and eat fewer carbs, especially refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, soda, candy, and dessert.

Limit your sugar intake: The Healthy Eating Pyramid suggests that sugary drinks and sweets should be eaten sparingly, if at all. The average American, though, consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day, which adds up to an extra 350 calories daily!  There’s definitely some room to cut back on the sweet stuff. Studies show that consuming dietary sugars is associated with developing insulin resistance, resulting in the body not being able to control blood sugar effectively.5 In general, it’s best to avoid or minimize your intake of sweetened beverages and foods that are lacking in healthy nutrients. Sure, they are tasty, but they aren’t doing you any favors.

Exercise more: Exercise helps control blood sugar spikes by increasing the sensitivity of your cells to the effects of insulin.6 Increased insulin sensitivity means your cells are better able to use the available sugar in the bloodstream. Exercise also helps your muscles use blood sugar for energy and muscle contraction. So consider taking a brisk walk in the neighborhood to gently bump up your activity level. You could also try biking, dancing, hiking, swimming, or whichever mode of exercise you feel comfortable with.

Nutrients that Can Help

If you would like to add a supplement to your regimen to help balance your blood sugar levels, look for a supplement containing nutrients like niacin7, chromium8, and bitter melon.9 These nutrients have been shown to help stabilize blood sugar levels.

Simply put, a few lifestyle changes like sticking to a low-carb, reduced-sugar diet, as well as exercising, can help stabilize your blood sugar levels. And always talk with your doctor before adding new supplements to your regimen or if you have and questions regarding these dietary changes.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.


References

  1. Weatherspoon, D. Healthy Blood Glucose Levels: Targets, Extremes, and Lifestyle Tips. Medical News Today. 2019. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/249413#what-is-glucose
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Hyperglycemia in Diabetes. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperglycemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20373631
  3. Mayo Clinic Staff. Diabetic Hypoglycemia. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-hypoglycemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20371525
  4. Ajala, O, English, P, Pinkney, J. Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Different Dietary Approaches to the Management of Type 2 Diabetes. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 2013;97(3):505-516
  5. Macdonald, I A. A Review of Recent Evidence Relating to Sugars, Insulin Resistance and Diabetes. European Journal of Nutrition. 2016; 55(Suppl 2): 17–23.
  6. R. Chipkin; S.A. Klugh; L. Chasan-Taber. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 2001; Aug;19(3):489-505. doi: 10.1016/s0733-8651(05)70231-9
  7. Goldberg, R; Jacobson, T. Effects of Niacin on Glucose Control in Patients with Dyslipidemia. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. U.S. 2008; Apr;83(4):470-8. doi: 10.4065/83.4.470
  8. A Scientific Review: the Role of Chromium in Insulin Resistance. The Diabetes Educator. 2004; Suppl:2-14

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.