When it comes to hyperglycemia a.k.a. elevated blood sugar, a little information and a few healthy habits can go a long way. I also cannot stress the following point enough—type 2 diabetes is preventable and even reversible! So read below and learn some ways you can keep control of your health and wellness.
What causes elevated blood sugar or hyperglycemia?
Sugar causes elevated blood sugar. I’m not being coy. The unfortunate part is that few of us realize how much sugar is sneaking into our food until we start looking at ingredient labels and asking question. From the prepared food at your local market or café to the packaged food in your pantry, sugar is ubiquitous. The more sugar you eat, the more insulin your body needs to remove it from your blood stream—read our last blog post for a refresher. It’s always a good idea to check your labels and add it up the sugar.
Refined flour elevates blood sugar. Think that whole grain pasta is really whole grain? Nope. Do you see pasta growing in nature? Think most wheat crackers are whole grain? Nope. Wheat is milled into flour for those crackers, whereby it loses around 80% of its fiber and most B vitamins; plus the body processes refined grains just like sugar because it isn’t in a whole grain form.
Lack of nutrients elevates blood sugar. Energy metabolism or the process of turning carbohydrates into energy for your cells requires a plethora of vitamins and minerals, including most B vitamins, magnesium, chromium, iron and zinc. Without a balanced diet, it’s likely your blood sugar will become deregulated.
Sedentary lifestyle elevates blood sugar. Your muscle cells have the ability to stimulate translocation of glucose receptors from inside the cell to outside the cell. Think of it like a solar panel on the outside of your house. You can get electricity inside your house through power lines, but by adding a solar panel to the outside you’re collecting electricity from the sun directly. Your muscles can absorb glucose directly from your bloodstream without the help of insulin. The more vigorous exercise, the better!
If the above factors don’t pertain to you, keep in mind that chronic stress, lack of sleep and hormonal imbalance have also been linked to blood sugar dysregulation.
But your doctor would know if you had elevated blood sugar or hyperglycemia, right? Maybe?
As you know, test results are often divided into ranges to guide medical practitioners on diagnoses. So, there’s a range for many of the tests you’ll get in a regular check-up.
• Fasting glucose measures your blood sugar after 8 hours of no food. Pre-diabetes is >99 mg/dL.
• Hemoglobin A1c measures the percent of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells, that is glycated or has sugar stuck to it. Pre-diabetes is >5.6%
• Oral glucose tolerance test measures how your blood sugar responds 2 hours after an artificial glucose drink challenge. Pre-diabetes is >140 mg/dL
I won’t get into the problems with these tests. But, the guidelines for diagnosing pre-diabetes using these ranges are troubling. Think about it like this: if your gas indicator light is on, you need gas. You don’t wait until you run out of gas before filling the tank up, right?
Before your fasting blood sugar was 100, it was 99, 95, 90 and so on. So why should we wait until we are close to the cut-off numbers to diagnose someone with pre-diabetes or risk factors for getting diabetes? The sooner we have the conversation and are informed by our doctors—think “if you don’t modify your diet and lifestyle, you are likely to develop a debilitating disease”—the sooner we’ll have the impetus to change.
As I mentioned earlier, type 2 diabetes is preventable and reversible. It’s not easy to make the changes needed, but it is possible and people do it every day. Working with your doctor, a health coach, and others can even make it easier and enjoyable!
If you have a pre-diabetes diagnosis, are overweight, have a family history of diabetes or had gestational diabetes when pregnant, you’ll benefit from taking steps, no matter how small, to keep your blood sugar levels healthy. Here are a few recommendations to start with:
• Choosing healthy carbohydrates not only provides your body with energy but also vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals. Healthy carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, beans, oats, brown rice, or quinoa are in their natural forms and can help maintain stable blood sugar.
• Remove added sugar or sugar substitutes for all the reasons explained above. Sugar destroys your blood vessels and increases blood glucose. Sugar sneaks into even the most “healthy” foods like canned soup, salad dressing and tomato sauce.
• Exercise allows the body to use glucose without the help of insulin. This is an under-appreciated benefit of regular exercise. Our muscle cells can take up glucose from the blood without the help of insulin. And using less and less insulin to remove blood sugar from your system can improve your insulin sensitivity!
• Fiber slows the rate of absorption of carbohydrates. Increase your natural fiber intake (not synthetic fiber added to packaged food) slowly to at least the recommended intake of 30g daily.
• Eating smaller, more frequent meals is a strategy used to keep insulin levels low. With smaller meals, there’s less glucose from your food and thus your body needs less insulin. Eating frequent, balanced meals helps to ensure your blood sugar stays more level, making you less likely to overeat or experience uncomfortable symptoms.
• Nutrients in supplement form such as magnesium, chromium and alpha-lipoic acid have been shown to help the body utilize glucose and thus maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Connect with a trained practitioner, however, before adding these supplements to your daily routine.
There is a LOT more information out there on how to treat and reverse type 2 diabetes, but what we’ve covered is a good start. Make sure to take advantage of many nourish challenges on hubbub to keep yourself on track. Good luck!
Centers for Disease Control and Preventing. (2015, May 15). 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/data/statistics/2014StatisticsReport.html
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC). National diabetes statistics, 2007. Washington (DC): NIH Publication # 08–3892, 2008. Available at http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (June 2014). Diagnosis of Diabetes and Prediabetes. Retrieved from http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/diagnosis-diabetes-prediabetes/Pages/index.asp
Nelms, M., & Sucher, K. (2015). Nutrition therapy and pathophysiology. Cengage Learning.