Puzzle Solved: Easy Tips for Healthy Blood Sugar

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Sugar

In my last blog, “The Missing Piece of the Diabetes Puzzle,” I shared an insight that’s ahead of its time. One of the reasons for the rampant rise in type-2 diabetes is that the range for normal blood sugar is too high.1 This explains why many people have symptoms, like extra weight around the middle and unexplained fatigue, for years before they are diagnosed. Now that I’ve shared this important information, I also want to offer ways for you to solve the puzzle.

Before you make any changes, you have to know what you’re dealing with. (Of course this is true of any health concern.) Start by checking your blood sugar with a glucometer for at least a few days and under different conditions. This will show the link between your lifestyle, your emotions, and your blood pressure. The glucometer then becomes a biofeedback device! (And you can’t kid yourself about what’s really happening.) Start by checking your blood sugar first thing in the morning, before you eat. If you find that it’s elevated to 100 mg/dL or so, then follow my “prescription” below. If your blood sugar is normal, start to incorporate these tips little by little to avoid problems with sugar as you age. Here aresome tips for promoting healthy blood sugar levels.

  • Focus on breakfast. If you’re only going to do one thing, then make sure to eat some protein at breakfast every morning. Aim for at least 10 gms. If you’re in a rush, then a low-glycemic shake with protein (or even a high-protein nutrition bar) is a good start. When you get protein first thing in the morning, it sets you up for “normal” blood sugar for the rest of the day.
  • Know that blood sugar response is quite individual! A month or so ago, when I was talking to many of you on Facebook about blood sugar, I learned from many of your posts that some so-called “healthy” foods, like whole grains, actually spike blood sugar in some individuals, but not in others. Similarly, watch out for fructose (sugar fruit). In many individuals, fructose will spike blood sugar, whereas whole fruit will not—even though whole fruit contains fructose. Hint: If there’s a dish that you like so much you could eat it all the time and in large quantities, chances are really good that it’s spiking your blood sugar. Alas!
  • Eliminate wheat. Many of you mentioned the book Wheat Belly, by William Davis, M.D., in your Facebook posts. Wheat Belly is a treatise on how the kind of gluten found in the mono-culture wheat we grow in the United States is often metabolized in the body just like sugar! So if you want to really get serious about your blood sugar, I suggest that you stay away from grains completely for a month or so. Note: I’m avoiding quinoa at the moment because, even though my blood sugars are fine, I notice that grains seem to make me fat. Darn.
  • Check your stress levels. If you’re eating well, but under a lot of emotional stress, it may cause high blood sugar. You might also notice that you’re putting on weight. Since stress releases cortisol, and cortisol spikes blood sugar, you will find that undue emotional stress will spike your blood sugar. This also explains why coffee on an empty stomach can spike blood sugar. The caffeine causes the body to release cortisol.
  • Consider supplements. If your blood sugar is higher than the ideal numbers I mention above, there are supplements you can take that really help control blood sugar while you’re upgrading your diet. Green coffee extract and Gymnema sylvestre are two good options.
  • Make friends with stevia. Stevia is an herb that is very sweet. I carry Nu-Naturals liquid stevia with me wherever I go. (With the exception of Truvia, the other brands don’t hold a candle to Nu-Naturals and are often bitter.) I use stevia in my iced tea, in my coffee, and to add a little extra sweetness to berries and fruit or to plain kefir.
  • Exercise helps. When you are stressed, the excess cortisol produced by the body is designed to help you run away from the threat! When there were tigers to run from, the body used the cortisol to flee. The problem is that, today, our stresses are not the kind you can run away from. So instead of running from the tiger, do ten minutes of exercise. In an office building, you can walk up and down stairs or up and down the halls. You will be amazed at how effectively this quells the urge to reach for a candy bar or a donut.
  • Stop dieting. If you’re going to eat sugar, just be sure to eat some protein and add lots of salad, green vegetables, beans, and other low glycemic foods to the mix. This will go a long way toward keeping blood sugar even. As an added bonus, over time, those with the stable blood sugar are the ones who lose their excess belly fat, too!

I know this topic isn’t particularly sexy. And I know these changes require commitment and discipline, which isn’t too appealing. But following this prescription is true preventive medicine. And incorporating even half of these tips will help you set the stage for better health on many levels.

If you’ve figured out another way to manage your blood sugar levels, I’d like to hear from you. Please leave a comment here or on my Facebook page. Note: It can take up to 24 hours (and occasionally longer) for your posts to show up on DrNorthrup.com.

References

  1. “Normal” is set at 99 mg/dL, while recent studies indicate that fasting glucose levels should be in the range of 70–85 mg/dL. Blood sugar levels after a meal (non-fasting) should only rise 40 mg/dL over your fasting level. This means that your blood sugar level should be in the range of 110–125mg/dL one or two hours after a meal.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

Comments

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  1. Kaleigh Bourassa
    2 years ago

    I was discovered with Type 2 diabetes back in 2008. I was lucky enough to find a better alternative treatment for it in 2015. If you are now taking medicine, please look into better choices! To see what I did about it, please click on my name. You do not have to take meds to get rid of type 2 diabetes! Click on my name and you will see some choices you have.

  2. Olivia Sherwin
    2 years ago

    These are some great tips, and I especially like your advice to incorporate protein as part of your breakfast. I didn’t know that doing so could help you control your blood sugar! That’s a fairly simple thing to do, so I’ll definitely add protein to my breakfasts. Thanks for the great post!

  3. Catherine
    5 years ago

    I’ve recently learned that my blood sugar is being cleared immediately after eating by glucose spikes – even after a healthy breakfast of greek yogurt, fruit and cup of cereal. Are there glucose meters available to measure LOW glucose levels to help me moderate my diet? My symptoms are cognitive difficulties, weight gain and elevated cholesterol. I had problems with excess cortisol for several years as well, which I’m certain contributed to this blood sugar problem.

  4. Kat
    5 years ago

    I am using agave syrup instead of sugar as it claims to be low GI. Does anyone know if this is a good substitute? I don’t know which is best to use- is stevia better?

    1. colleen whalen
      1 year ago

      According to J.J Virgin’s lectures on PBS – agave syrup is FOUR TIMES higher on the glycemic index compared to High Fructose Corn Syrup! Agave syrup is highly refined, highly processed. Do not be fooled by advertising claims which falsely allege that dark brown agave syrup is somehow “less refined” and “less processed”. The dark brown agave syrup is a product of the Maillard Process – when sugars/carbs are cooked and turn brown. This actually creates ACRYLIMIDES which are known to be highly carcinogeic!

      Better alternatives which are far lower on the glycemic index include Dried Coconut Sap – also known as “Coconut Sugar”. It is the nectar from the blossoms of the coconut tree. It is far lower on the glycemic index than white sugar, organic sucanat, honey, High Fructose Corn Syrup. That being said – keep your consumption of Dried Coconut Sap/Coconut Sugar at a very moderate level. Organic raw fresh fruit is great if you have a sweet tooth – but eat it in MODERATION and focus on low glycemic fruits – any kind of berries, apples, cherries and all types of stone fruit – and yes even BANANAS are relatively low glycemic. Bananas have RESISTANT STARCH which is insoluble fiber and it does not spike insulin. Bananas should be eaten in moderation – not more than 2 per day. Do not EVER eat dried fruit – it is OK to soak dried fruit in purified water and hydrate it – only eat this in moderation.

      Unrefined maple syrup that is organic and raw LOCAL honey are OK – but definitely consume them in MODERATION and very tiny amounts.

      If you still have cravings for sweets – try TIGER NUTS – they are not really “nuts” but prehistoric root vegetable tubers. They are extremely high in resistant starch and insoluble fiber which does not create insulin spike Tiger Nuts can be soaked in water to hydrate them and that also lowers the glycemic load – glycemic index. I drink the soaking water At first, chewing Tiger Nuts taste a little wierd – but then after a few chews they are incredibly sweet and delicious. Tiger Nuts are among the very oldest foods and were eaten by 80% of humans living in the prehistoric era. They are African in origin but spread around the world. Tons of micronutrients and macronutriets. They are sort of expensive – but worth it!

      When you eat foods which have a high glycemic index or glycemic load – always eat them with good quality healthy fat and protein. Examples of good quality healthy fat are organic RAW nuts, avocado, pastured grass fed fermented dairy products from livestock which are living on the open range in the sunshine. I do NOT drink milk! I only eat FERMENTED raw, unpasturized grass fed, pastured WHOLE MILK dairy products such as kefir, yogurt, cultured butter. Dairy should always be fermented. Goats milk is far better than cows milk. Sheep, lamb dairy produts are also better than cows milk.

      Forget about this nonsense about “low fat” dairy and skim milk, non fat dairy. For dairy products that are grass fed, pastured living on the open range – raw milk FULL FAT whole milk fermented dairy products are extremely high in Conjugated Linoleic Acid and tons of Omega 3. These factors balance out the cholesterol. Pastured organic eggs from hens that have full access to pasture have TONS of Omega 3 and Conjugated Linoleic Acid. Forget about those “egg white omelets” and tossing out the yolk. You cannot digest the protein in the egg white without the fat, choline in the yolk. I always cook the egg white and eat the yolk RAW because heat/cooking destroys Omega 3.

      I have been practicing Plant Based Nutrition since 1969 when I was 15. I am 62 and in excellent health. Was vegan for 23 yrs but quit – because a vegan diet is nutritionally deficiet. I still stick to 80% of the plate is plant based food – 20% or less is animal protein/animal fat.

      I eat 3 eggs a day, whole full fat dairy that is grass fed pastured – 3 times a week I have a tablespoon of pastured, grass fed butter which is organic. Just got my CBC Chem Panel bloodwork back from the doctor – also got tested for A1C to check for diabetes – pre diabetes. My bloodwork came back immaculate. Great HDL/LDL cholesterol levels and nothing “flagged” on my bloodwork as unhealthy.

      My blood glucose while fasting for 12 hrs was 88. That is OK but I would like to get it down to
      75 to 85 – but no big deal.

      If you are on a tight budget – stick to shopping at organic farmers markets – you can get great organic food for 50% lower price than Whole Foods. Join an organic foods coop. Stick to the bulk bins – avoid canned beans – focus on dried beans. Always soak them overnight in purified water – toss out the bean soaking water – also soak your whole grain kernels – soaking overnight brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat kernels, etc – elimiates phytin and makes the grain more digestible.

      If you are concerned about blood glucose levels – focus on fermented foods – kombucha, non-dairy kefir water, raw organic sauerkraut, raw organic pickles which are naturally fermented. I make home made beet kvaas and the fermentation process makes it lower glycemic – also “ginger bug” beverage can be home made – save a ton of money by making these probiotic foods yourself at home instead of buying them in the store.

      Think happy thoughts and keep hope alive!

      Colleen Whalen
      Food Literacy Educator
      Community Nutrition, Certified
      Permaculture, Certified
      Serve Safe Food Safety Protection Manager, Certified

      Facebook Page – Plant Forward – Sustainable Food & Ag Policy for the Third Millenium

  5. suzanne
    5 years ago

    I scramble up a dozen eggs each week usually on Sundays, adding a little bit of cheese ( I use the laughing cow triangles 35 cal each and lots of minced garlic salt and pepper.
    After cooking I add lots of salsa and pop in all in a container in the frig.
    Ready for the microwave any time I need a quick breakfast, lunch or dinner.
    I find this an easy way to keep my sugar stable.

  6. Beverly
    5 years ago

    Could you suggest a protein drink that would be good for my breakfast. Thanks. Bev Cummings

  7. Marcella Elmer Garcia
    5 years ago

    A daily regimen of 1 tsp. ORGANIC APPLE CIDER VINEGAR in 8 oz. water, 3 times daily, HELPS to keep my A1C levels lower, relative to previous “borderline” readings. Initially taken to balance intestinal pH levels in lieu of proton-pump inhibitors (which works very well for this Ol’ Girl), organic ACV seems to reveal a happy side effect of lowering/maintaining my blood sugar levels, among many other wholesome attributes.

  8. Deb Reidy
    5 years ago

    the glucometer is really enlightening. the actual steps of testing my bloodsugar has helped me think about what it would be like if I had to do this all the time and boy does that motivate me to improve my foods for my body.

    Thank you for your radio show and your newsletters. You are a hero for me!

  9. Cheryl De Beer
    5 years ago

    Thank you agian for all your wonderful advice! Please could you give me some samples of an ideal breakfast and what kind of protein bars to eat (I live in the UK, but am on holiday in the USA at the moment). I am desperate to fix my weight and sugar. I cannot go on a ‘diet’ anymore and would love to just eat normally and healthily – desperate!

    Thank you
    Cheyrl de Beer

  10. Mary Bowen
    5 years ago

    I look forward to receiving my monthly newsletter from you. I then share it on facebook with all my friends. Your work and passion inspires me to follow by example for my children especially my two daughters. Thank you for being a pioneer in women’s health and sharing your knowledge. I’m am grateful.

  11. D Lutsky
    5 years ago

    great tip on avoiding grains for 1 month, something most families have a difficult time wrapping their thoughts around because it is such a prevalent food in our culture.

  12. Gayle
    5 years ago

    This is welcome advice. And it is so do-able. Thank you!

  13. Lisa Rodriguez
    5 years ago

    Dear Dr.Northrup,

    Thank you so much for your newsletter every month! I look so forward to all the great information that you share! I have a question regarding your 1st tip listed above. Can you please recommend a low-glycemic, high protein shake and nutrition bar?

    Thank you,
    Lisa Rodriguez

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