Cereal, potatoes, toast and pancakes are all favorite ways for Americans to start their day. Dowse it with some syrup, sugar or fruit and then we’re out the door ready for the day’s action! Wash it down with some juice or coffee and it’s nearly the perfect recipe for blood sugar mania.
The body requires continuous energy to perform all the necessary actions of life. The blood sugar is the basis of this energy, feeding every cell the necessary fuel to replicate, eliminate, transform substances and much more. Not only does blood sugar provide our physical energy, but it also provides our mental energy and the fuel to stabilize our moods.
Blood sugar may not be given much attention until the moment when it’s disruption creates a crisis. Symptoms of low blood sugar are often more easily identified by those closest to us, like our friends, partner’s or parents! Crabbiness, being short-tempered, inability to focus, anxiety and panic, light-headedness, shakiness and fatigue are all common symptoms of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia.
High blood sugar goes unnoticed by most people until it is identified in the blood with routine lab testing. When the blood sugar is high, there are not typically immediate symptoms but it can contribute to fatigue, increased thirst, blurry vision and a sense of feeling “off.” Over long periods, high blood sugar or hyperglycemia results in damage to the delicate capillary beds in the body. This especially affects the hands, feet, brain, eyes, nerves and heart. Diabetes Mellitus (type I or II) is a disease of poor blood sugar regulation, either innate or acquired.
Blood sugar levels normally have a degree of variation throughout the day. This is based on a complex relationship between the liver, pancreas and endocrine or hormonal system. Each day, we have a cycle of energy produced by our adrenal glands, known as our circadian rhythm that directly influences our blood sugar. Ideally, when we wake in the morning (preferably on our own without an alarm) we have the highest energy of the day, a strong appetite and mental clarity. As we approach mid-day, the energy level lowers gradually and we experience mid-day hunger for our lunch. Then we descend gradually into the evening with our energy dipping to it’s lowest around 10pm.
Variation in this rhythm explain why some people are morning people and others are night owls. The circadian rhythm can be disrupted by a variety of factors including night shift work, chronic stress, inadequate nutrition, trauma and illness. When disrupted, the circadian rhythm can significantly impact the energy we perceive as our ability to get through the day. Beyond this, it also affects the immune system, digestion and our hormonal balance.
The liver is the organ in charge of providing a continuous supply of sugar or glucose to the blood. When we eat a meal, the liver is going to be triggered to put the glucose into storage once the food is broken down. In between meals, the liver is going to be triggered to remove glucose from storage and release it into the blood. Along with the liver, the pancreas works in partnership to transport glucose into each cell of the body, ensuring that the sugar reaches the areas that need it in an effort to not overwhelm any part of the body with too much.
The body is amazingly resilient to balance blood sugar and adapt to extreme variations in diet and lifestyle. The fact is that a person can start their day with coffee and doughnuts and not be apparently harmed, right away. While nobody is going to be better off eating doughnuts for breakfast, there are times in our lives when it can cause more harm than others.
- Childhood: The immature organ systems are vulnerable to variations in blood sugar. Because developing bodies have a high demand of energy, the necessity to provide a healthy, balanced source of fuel is great. In kids, blood sugar fluctuation is most easily identified by their tantrums, tearfulness, hyperactivity or episodes of being “difficult”.
- Times of High Stress: When we endure a high degree of physical or psychological stress, the resiliency of the blood sugar regulation is more vulnerable. When we exist in a fight or flight state, the body is forcing more energy into the system to endure the stress. If we choose not to eat well, we are more likely to suffer long-term health consequences.
- Illness: When dealing with an illness, the body is utilizing all the resources it can to get well. If the blood sugar is unstable, it can weaken the immune system resulting in a longer duration of illness. This is especially true of chronic disease.
- Hormonal Fluctuations: As we shift from one era of life to the next, the hormonal changes significantly tax the liver. When the liver becomes over-burdened blood sugar can be more difficult for it to control.
Feeding ourselves well requires more than just making healthy choices for our ingredients. It also requires portion control. The basic guideline for blood sugar management encourages a strict limitation on processed foods. Simple carbohydrates increase blood sugar such as many of our typical breakfast foods, any sweeteners, fruit, processed grains such as breads, pastas and cereals.
For optimal blood sugar support, focus on the ratio of each meal incorporating approximately 30% protein, 30% vegetables and 30% complex carbohydrates with each meal. The remaining 10% can be the fruits, simple carbohydrates and oils. This is a general guideline and some people will benefit from a very different format for blood sugar control. For a personalized approach to your healthcare, contact Stillwater Healing Arts Clinic.