Blood sugar is the primary fuel that
powers your body.
If you’re one of the Twenty million
Americans with glycemic disregulation you’re
Running on Empty.
Sam Rose, CN MS
John feels restless and
suffers from irritability and insomnia. Gloria complains of headaches and
recurrent nausea. Susan is hungry all the time and has an insatiable craving
for sweets. Mark gets dizzy and shakes if he goes too long without eating.
Eileen has crashing fatigue and feels exhausted even after a full night’s
sleep. Carl’s blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels are all high.
Peggy’s memory is failing her and she is unable to think clearly. Peter is
battling heart disease. Jackie feels depressed and anxious for no apparent
reason. Ten year old Seth is hyperactive and has just been diagnosed by his
doctor with attention deficit disorder. Ten different people suffering
different symptoms, but each a victim of what alternative health practitioners
are now calling glycemic disregulation; an inability of the body
to properly manage its supply of blood sugar. And the number of sufferers is
growing at an alarming; some would say epidemic rate.
Blood sugar, known as glucose,
is the energy currency of the body, and every cell must have a steady supply
or it ceases to function. An end product of digestion, glucose is the assimilable
form of carbohydrate in the body. Without it we would collapse. It is such
a precious commodity, the body utilizes powerful counter-regulatory mechanisms
to ensure that glucose levels are never allowed to get too high or too low
for any length of time. Given this fact, you might be surprised to learn that
over twenty million Americans suffer from either hypoglycemia (low
blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). High and low blood
sugar are two sides of the same coin. The hypoglycemic is unable to maintain
enough sugar in the blood to keep the tissues well supplied. The hyperglycemic
has plenty of blood sugar but isn’t able to transport that sugar into the
tissues. In either case, mismanagement of glucose creates a shortfall in our
body’s primary fuel.
One of the key players in the
management of glucose is a hormone called insulin. Produced in the
pancreas, it is insulin’s job to lower rising blood sugar by transporting it
out of the blood into the tissues where it can be used for physical and mental
energy. The more sugar in the blood, the more insulin produced. Problems arise
when the pancreas, original equipment when we rolled off nature’s assembly line
eons ago, meets our highly refined and processed diet. As it turns out, the
organ’s Paleolithic design is unsuitable for managing blood sugar levels in the
modern American, whose sedentary lifestyle and fiber deficient food supply
bears little resemblance to our historic, more appropriate diet.
Reactive hypoglycemia is a condition brought on by our modern way of life.
In essence, the pancreas over-reacts to the consumption of sugary foods, fast
foods, low fiber, white flour products like pasta and white bread, and
concentrated fruit juices that, because of their refined nature, enter the
bloodstream too quickly. The resulting spike in blood sugar triggers an excess
production of insulin, which pulls glucose levels down too far too fast. This
is especially harmful to the brain, which uses over a third of the body’s
glucose and is particularly sensitive to changing blood sugar levels. Small
fluctuations will disturb your feelings of well being. Large fluctuations can
lead to depression, anxiety, fatigue, irritability and mood swings.
The internal scenario goes
something like this. Fifteen minutes after finishing that bear claw and café
mocha breakfast, an avalanche of sugar crashes into the bloodstream. We might
feel a short-lived surge of energy. Then in a desperate attempt to maintain
proper blood chemistry, the pancreas overproduces insulin to bulldoze the
excess glucose out of the blood. Glucose levels plummet, and the brain, in a
panic, triggers emergency counter-regulatory measures by our adrenal glands to
shove blood sugar back up to a proper level. Those who are sensitive to their
bodies will feel this rush of adrenal hormones as an internal trembling or
nervousness. If we eat more processed and refined foods for lunch and dinner,
we’ll ride this same rollercoaster, up and down, several times a day, week
after week, month after month, year after year. After a few decades the body’s
blood sugar management team is exhausted and the result is chronically low
blood sugar levels. What was once a tolerable down swing in energy between 2
and 5 each afternoon, becomes great, unending fatigue. Craving for sweets has
transmuted into dizziness and ravenous hunger. Irritability turns into
restlessness, sleeplessness and anxiety. Mild mood swings have become
manic/depressive, even violent tendencies.
Nor do you want to allow your
blood sugar level to remain chronically high. Hyperglycemia is a red flag that
may indicate a problem with insulin’s ability to transport sugar out of the
blood and into the cells. Decades of eating overly processed sugary, fatty, and
refined food forces the body to produce massive amounts of insulin to carry sugar
out of the blood. Hyperinsulinism is the result; an over-abundance of
insulin in the blood stream. Over time a person can gain 5, 10, 15, 20 lbs. or
more as the insulin transports excess sugar into the tissues. To stem the flow,
the body can become resistant to insulin, leading to chronically high blood
sugar, high insulin levels, and an inability to convert glucose into physical
and mental energy. Syndrome X is the ominous term being used to
describe a cluster of metabolic disorders including heart disease, diabetes,
atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides, that have their
roots in insulin resistance.
hyperglycemia, is the seventh leading cause of death in our country. At its
present rate of increase, 6% a year, the number of diabetics will double every
15 years. Left unchecked, it can lead to high cholesterol and triglycerides,
atherosclerosis, kidney disease, hypertension, heart disease, strokes,
cataracts, loss of hearing, blindness, and even death. Type II, known as adult
onset diabetes, accounts for 90% of all diabetes. Years of dietary abuse and
lack of exercise bring it on.
Until recently, natives
living on the Pacific island of Nauru ate a simple diet of mainly yams and bananas.
Diabetes was virtually unknown. When the inhabitants became wealthy with the
discovery of valuable minerals on the island, they settled into a life of
leisure and began eating a western diet-high in sugar, fat and refined
carbohydrates. Today, The World Health Organization estimates that close to
one-half of the urbanized population of Nauru between 30 and 64 years of age now has Type II
The good news about adult
onset diabetes is that it is completely preventable and reversible. Clinical
trials have repeatedly shown that returning to a more “primitive” diet, high in
plant fiber and complex carbohydrates, have shown superior results over oral
insulin therapy combined with a low carbohydrate/high protein diet, like the
one suggested by the American Diabetes Association.
If diabetes isn’t a concern
and you have no hypoglycemic symptoms, there is one more reason to consider
managing your blood sugar levels. Recent government studies indicate that over
50% of all adult Americans are now over weight. Contrary to popular belief, weight
gain is not merely the result of consuming more calories than we burn up in
activity. Excess weight, particularly the stubborn kind that doesn’t respond to
increased exercise, is often the result of elevated blood sugar and insulin
levels. When you consider the fact that the average person consumes his or her
weight in pounds of sugar every year, our corpulent condition is not very
surprising. If we don’t have an immediate energetic need for the calories in
all that sugar, insulin stores it in the body. Fat is stored energy.
Influenced by a barrage of
inaccurate advertisements and media reports, dieters continue to consume low
fat (high sugar) products that elevate insulin levels and make weight loss
virtually impossible. Dietary fat has been made the enemy, and we eat less of
it than we used to. Yet the average American man, woman and child is 10 lbs.
heavier today than they were 25 years ago. Dietary fat, as it turns out, is not
what’s making us fat. The culprit is an increased consumption of refined, white
flour products and sugary foods.
So much for that no-fat
General Suggestions for Blood Sugar
Glycemic disregulation is usually
the result of a poor diet; high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Eat a diet that supplies the body
with high fiber, complex carbohydrates and protein to provide slow burning fuel
and prevents sudden shifts in glucose levels.
Eat 4-5 small meals a day instead
of 2-3 large ones.
Breakfast: Protein shake or eggs
and whole grain toast or whole grain cereal
Mid-Morning Snack: Fresh fruit,
vegetable sticks or whole grain crackers
Lunch: Leafy green Salad +/or
other vegetables and protein (animal or vegetable)
Mid-Afternoon Snack: Licorice root
tea, fresh vegetable juice, nuts or seeds
Dinner: Steamed, grilled or
stir-fried vegetables, baked or broiled fish or chicken and whole grain dish
Get some exercise everyday
Reduce Stress: Yoga, meditation,
massage, guided imagery
Vitamins: B-Complex, C and E Minerals: Chromium (GTF), Zinc, Magnesium,
Potassium and Manganese
Sam Rose, CN MS is a licensed and certified nutritionist
and owner of Rose Nutrition Center in West Los Angeles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310-473-8835.