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.
- “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.