Never in the history of mankind have we had such an outrageously high sugar intake. With this comes metabolic problems. It is estimated that nearly 88% of U.S. adults have some sort of metabolic disorder. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abdominal obesity, high serum triglycerides, and/or low serum high-density lipoprotein (HDL), then you could possibly have insulin resistance and need to reevaluate your relationship with sugar.
Why does this matter? Insulin resistance from blood sugar dysregulation is associated with a myriad of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancers, Alzheimer's disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), just to name a handful. Luckily most of these are preventable and reversible with proper diet and lifestyle modifications.
Let's look at the basics of blood sugar so you can understand what you can do to prevent or reverse metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.
Anyone can have blood sugar imbalance. We often think that a person has to have type 2 diabetes or obesity to have imbalanced blood sugar levels. But often the imbalance starts long before outward symptoms appear. Blood sugar, also referred to as blood glucose, is the amount of sugar present in your bloodstream. Glucose gets into your bloodstream based on the foods you eat. The more sugar you eat, the more glucose will be detected in your bloodstream. If sugar consumption is imbalanced, your body will store excess glucose in your cells for later use. If you do not require the stored glucose, say because you are constantly consuming sugar, this can lead to an overabundance of glucose in your body.
The macronutrient carbohydrates are most often associated with blood glucose spikes. Your glucose will tend to be higher if you're eating refined grains, breads, noodles, baked goods, and other sugary processed foods. People who consume a lot of these things tend to spike their blood glucose. But what goes up must come down. So they experience a blood sugar crash. Sometimes you might hear this referred to as the blood sugar rollercoaster. The medical term for this is hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is one of the first signs that your body has a blood sugar imbalance. Blood sugar imbalances have been associated with insomnia, mood swings, food cravings, and more.
Standard American meals (especially breakfast meals) consist of simple carbohydrates - think pancakes with maple flavored corn syrup. When you consume a meal such as this one, your pancreas releases insulin to help bring down your blood sugar levels. Any blood sugar not needed for energy at the time will be stored as glycogen and triglycerides. Too many meals like this one, and your blood sugar starts to dip too much (this is called reactive hypoglycemia). Your body sees this as an emergency, which triggers it to release hormones such as cortisol to bring your blood sugar back into balance. One way to prevent this is to break your fast with a meal of quality proteins and fats instead of simple carbohydrates.
If you want to prevent or reverse metabolic disease and balance your blood sugar, try to limit your intake of refined carbohydrates. Instead, focus on healthy fats and quality proteins at every meal. Avoid snacking if possible. Consume more at each meal, focusing on nutrient-density and fiber to fill you up. Reducing stress and moving more can also help quell the blood sugar rollercoaster.
If you suspect you may have blood sugar issues, nutritional therapy might be one tool that can work for you. Working with a qualified nutritional therapy practitioner can help you to figure out your specific needs when it comes to balancing your blood sugar to prevent or reverse metabolic disorders caused by insulin resistance.