31 Oct Bringing it back to blood sugar
Light headed. Shakiness. Irritable AF. And, here come the tears. No, not going through a break up. This isn’t anything unusual – just what happens most days around 11am. What’s the big deal? Nothing that cookies and coffee can’t fix right? Well, for a couple of hours at least.
As you inhale Jaffa Cake number four, it’s okay. I completely get it: you’re just doing what you know to get through this roller-coaster-crashing moment, without harming anyone (which, is actually pretty decent considering that guy in the corner who’s chewing louder than a hungry horse almost deserves a phone thrown at his head).
For the sake of his skull, the phone and your own reputation, let’s take a step back. Maybe even a seat?
And let’s chat about blood sugar. (Get sequins, Spice Girls and red pens at the ready – it’s kinda all-singing, all-dancing important.)/p>
Because a stable blood sugar level is key. It’s pretty much the foundation to achieving (and sustaining) any nutrition goal.
Hold the phone. What’s blood sugar?
It’s the body’s preferred source of fuel, otherwise known as glucose. (The brain in particular is all about glucose. It’s what air is to lungs – it doesn’t cope very well without it).
But still – why are we getting all Lady Gaga about it?
It’s one of the main components to making energy for every single cell in your body. So without glucose, your cells can’t make adequate energy. And without adequate energy, pretty much every single mechanism from hormone production to brain function is sub-optimal.
How’s that for a description: “sub-optimal”. Makes me think of a soggy piece of cardboard.
In summary: any disturbance in blood sugar levels causes a disruption in energy production which has a domino effect on all processes in the body. You can experience this as adult acne, crappy sleep, coming down with colds and a mind full of mayhem (to list just a few). And that makes for a rather pasty existence.
See why we need those sequins?
So where do we get the glucose from?
Because it’s the Queen Bee of the show, it’s got itself covered in any scenario. So you have internal AND external sources of glucose. Glycogen, or the stored form of glucose, is the internal source which gets released when certain hormones come into play. And the external source comes in the form of the food we eat, particularly carbohydrate-based food, which gets broken down into glucose.
Sounds pretty straight forward eh. What’s the catch?
Well, you’re dealing with an incredibly elegant & intelligent vessel (aka your body) which is all about balance. And regulation. And because of this, glucose doesn’t just Michael-Jackson-moonwalk into your cells and get to work making energy.
A “key” is required to “unlock” the cells and let glucose in. Insulin, a hormone, is that key. And the more smoothly this unlocking process can happen, the more efficiently energy can be made.
So what can go wrong?
In simplest terms, there are two main aspects that can come in like a wrecking ball and cause catastrophe to blood sugar:
- High blood sugar levels over a long period of time.
- Rollercoaster blood sugar levels.
We’re going to focus on the second scenario for now. Let’s go back to the daily mid-morning collapse to do that.
What’s typically going on here is:
- You had a breakfast that sent your blood sugar skyrocketing to Mars.
- A heap of insulin was then released in response to “unlock” your cells and get the glucose into them.
- Too much glucose was taken into the cells so now there’s not enough in your blood (low blood sugar or hypoglycaemia).
- This low level made your brain panic (remember glucose is to the brain what air is to lungs).
- You crashed (trembling, light headed, teary).
- Stress hormones were released to mobilise the internal source of glucose.
- Four Jaffa cakes were demolished as the external form of glucose.
- (That’s a double dose of glucose right there).
- And now you’re back at having blood sugar levels on Mars with loads more insulin being released in attempt to salvage the situation.
- And so the cycle continues.
Eeeep. How can I get off this rollercoaster?
Focus on you
We’re all incredibly individual. And we all have different blood sugar responses – so the food that works for bestie may send your blood sugar for a six.
A food, symptoms and emotions diary is really helpful for this. Before you fall asleep at how boring just the thought of that is, hear me out. When you’re able to link your emotions and symptoms back to certain foods, you’ll feel more empowered in the adjustments that you trial. Specifically watch out for:
- sugar cravings before meals.
- feeling better after meals.
- struggling to stay asleep at night.
Revel in the unrefined carbs
We’re talking full, nutritious, whole non-starchy veg, pulses and lentils rather than the refined options (white bread, rice, cakes, pastries etc) that can take your blood sugar, your body and those in your immediate environment for a cray cray ride.
Pump up that protein
Calm it down. I’m not getting all gym-bunny on you. But protein included in each meal & snack makes for a more steady entry of glucose into the blood. Even if you aren’t a meat eater, try include some form* of protein each time you eat.
*nuts, nut butters, humous, quinoa.
Particularly weight-bearing exercise – it’s most helpful for keeping that “unlocking” process smooth.
Come back to your core
The one that calls you to honour yourself. The one that’s within, and beyond, all physiological functioning. The one that doesn’t fall for the lies of “feeling deprived” but believes in the fullness of flourishing – beginning with blood sugar stabilisation.