Updated: Dec 23, 2022
When people think about blood sugar, diabetes is often the first thing that comes to mind. However, Type 2 Diabetes* is the outcome of long-term blood sugar dysregulation that has likely been causing subtle health problems for some time.
In my clinic I regularly work on blood sugar balancing with clients who are not diabetic or pre-diabetic because blood sugar imbalance and the resulting insulin resistance result in serious, life-affecting conditions that can have long-term consequences. The good news is that simple blood sugar balancing can improve your health and wellbeing in ways you might not have imagined.
Blood sugar balance is truly one of the best 'tools' nutritional therapists have to helping people with their health goals.
What is Blood Sugar Imbalance?
In a simplistic way, blood sugar imbalance is caused by eating too many simple carbohydrates and sugars that turn to glucose in the bloodstream. This spikes your blood sugar and then within an hour or two results in a drop in overall blood sugar. It is the drop that triggers symptoms you might commonly recognise:
feeling light-headed, shaky or dizzy if you skip a meal
feeling 'hangry' (hungry and angry/irritable)
3pm slump (afternoon fatigue)
sugar cravings - usually alongside the 3pm slump
low resilience to stress. i.e. small things quickly get on top of you.
random meltdowns (mostly observed in children, but sometimes seen in your local workplace!)
Once that blood sugar dips, we typically look for easy fixes to restore our energy or mood (this also happens if you skips a meal because you are too busy). These are usually simple carbohydrates again and the whole cycle repeats. This is what we call the Blood Sugar Rollercoaster. Day-long blood sugar peaks and dips causing wide-spread issues over time.
How Blood Sugar Imbalance Affects your Overall Health
Constant, daily blood sugar spikes and dips leads to overall blood sugar dysregulation and, eventually, Type 2 Diabetes. Before it gets to that, being on a blood sugar rollercoaster can also result in:
hormone imbalance (this is a big one!)
insomnia - difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
cortisol dysregulation - i.e. increased stress and inability to manage stress
obesity /weight gain
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Because blood sugar regulation is part of the delicate endocrine (hormone) system, please do not underestimate the impact that poor food choices have on other hormones. Particularly sex hormones, thyroid hormones and stress hormones.
The Simple Answer to Blood Sugar Imbalance
The simple ways to balance your blood sugar is to ensure that every meal includes protein, healthy fats and fibre. These three macronutrients slow down the release of sugar into the blood stream, meaning fewer spikes and dips, with consistent release of energy from your meal (see the green line below).
Good options include:
Protein: good quality meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes (chickpeas, beans)
Fibre: oats, vegetables (not white potatoes), quinoa, brown rice, legumes
Fats: olive oil, olives, oily fish, nuts, seeds, full fat, unsweetened dairy, coconut oil, avocado
Avoid simple carbohydrates that can spike your blood sugar very quickly (see the red line above). The common culprits are white potatoes, white rice, white bread, sugar, honey, fruit juice, sweetened breakfast cereals, pastries and cakes. Fruit is fine in moderation, but should be paired with some protein to reduce a blood sugar spike. E.g. apple with almond butter or banana and a handful of walnuts.
All foods are assigned a glycaemic index or glycaemic load count. This tells how quickly they will spike your blood sugar. Ensuring that your carbohydrates are lower GI/GL can make a big difference.
You can find out more here.
Cut the caffeine
Because caffeine sets of the stress response, it also plays a role in throwing off blood sugar balance. If you are serious about losing weight, gaining more energy and sleeping better, then reducing or eliminating caffeine from your diet for a period of time, can make a huge difference.
These simple changes will get you on the road to better energy, balanced moods and healthy weight maintenance.
If you would like some support balancing your blood sugar, please join my FreshStart programme starting in January 2023. Find out more here.