Are you fed up of feeling tired, wired, stressed or anxious all the time and just want to feel balanced and in control again? Well you’re not alone. But here’s the thing………..It’s so easy when we’re looking here, there and everywhere for ways to improve our health to overlook the things we think are just too simple or basic.
For example – have you ever heard of balancing your blood sugar? Maybe you’ve tried it but didn’t feel that it worked. Or maybe you’ve wondered what it’s all about but not quite understood it. Well I’m going to share a few things which might seem really simple and basic, but which I know can help.
So we all know that food can be fun, and even comforting. But in its simplest form, food is just an energy source or a building block for the trillions of actions our bodies take every day. And here’s the thing. It’s what our bodies do with food which really matters.
Take away = Food in its simplest form is energy or a building block. It’s what our bodies do with it that really matters.
So what is blood sugar balance?
The term ‘blood sugar’ can seem a bit confusing because we often hear about it in relation to diabetes. This is because the ‘mellitus’ part (as in diabetes ‘mellitus’) comes from mel (as in sweet sugar). But what we’re talking about is glucose, which is a major energy source for our bodies. It is formed when carbohydrates, which are a type of sugar called saccharides, are broken down in the body. This then travels throughout our blood stream to our cells. The ’balance’ part is actually about maintaining adequate levels of glucose in our blood stream and how readily and for how long this can be made available to our cells and organs.
Take away = Blood sugar balance = carbohydrate to glucose to a sustained energy supply.
So why don’t I feel balanced?
Well what may happen is that we start the day without breakfast, or just have a coffee or eat something really small. At the same time we’re moving around and doing things that use up energy. But because of the energy we’ve used while sleeping, we’re in a blood sugar deficit. We then run out of the house and an hour or so later may get cravings, feel a bit slow or even shaky. This means that our blood sugar levels are really low.
We might then react by eating the quickest most available (often sugary food) which gives us a quick hit of glucose, but often sends our blood sugar levels sky high. To regulate this, our pancreas releases a chemical called insulin which moves the glucose in to our cells. That’s great for a while and we may start feeling better, buzzy even, but the problem is that glucose from highly sugary foods isn’t sustainable. So after the peak our blood sugar level drops quickly. We can then just feel worse and have to have something else to give us another boost. Before we know it we’re on this crazy roller coaster.
Take away = Roller coasters are great at the fair, but not when we’ve got 7 more hours in the office! We need to have a balanced level of glucose for sustained energy throughout the day AND night.
So why’s this important?
Well for one thing, the roller coaster just feels horrible. The other thing is that the brain doesn’t have the capacity to store glucose, so it needs a steady supply. Of course the body is too intelligent to let our brains starve, so there are storage systems (in our muscles and the liver in particular) but moving the glucose out of these is much harder than if we can just provide a steady stream.
Take away = The headaches and those techy feelings that we often ignore are actually our brain trying to get our attention. The brain really NEEDS glucose to function properly!!!!
Is this why I feel tired all the time?
There can be so many reasons for feeling tired. But having low glucose levels can be part of the problem. Even when we’re just thinking or sleeping our body uses huge amounts of energy. When we feel tired it’s an indicator not only that the brain is running on a less than full tank, but that our muscles, blood vessels and all of our organs are too. Although this video relates to what happens in diabetes, I think that it’s useful because it explains how the body uses glucose and what happens when it is unable to do so. Blood sugar and the body
Take away = A lack of glucose means a lack of energy.
Does this have anything to do with why I might be feeling stressed or anxious?
It may well do. You see when our body senses anything that it perceives as a danger, it activates our stress response. ‘Danger’ could be anything from missing a meal (not supplying enough glucose) to worrying about a meeting. To respond to this, the body releases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones shut down the functions of the body which aren’t essential, so digestion, immune function even parts of the brain. And instead our heart rate increases, our breathing becomes quicker and shallower and even the bladder and bowels relax. That’s when we can get a dodgy tummy or get a tight panicked feeling in our chest. Cortisol is so effective that once it’s in the blood stream, it can keep hormones switched on for far longer than it takes the ‘danger’ to be dealt with. When this happens we can just end up feeling constantly stressed.
Take away = In addition to the blood sugar roller coaster, stress can create its own, cortisol roller coaster.
But what’s this got to do with blood sugar balance?
Well, when the body is in a fighting state, it needs more energy. So cortisol stimulates the liver to release more glucose into the blood stream. This then activates the release of insulin. The more that cortisol wants to flood the blood stream, the more insulin wants to regulate and store.
Take away = Stress causes the body to be more stressed. But balancing blood sugar can help to reduce the need for cortisol to be released unnecessarily.
I’ve heard that carbs are bad and just make you fat?
Firstly, there’s a huge array of carbohydrates which can provide us with sustained levels of glucose. The most beneficial are found in vegetables, beans, whole grains and some fruit. The least helpful are those from simple sugars (sweets, cakes, white bread, pizza). These just break down really quickly and give us the peak and spike we talked about. When we have more glucose than our bodies need, it is firstly stored in our liver and muscle tissue and then through a complex process, can be stored in fat cells.
So what should I be eating and what should I do when my blood sugar level drops?
Breakfast – Balancing our blood sugar really starts from the time we wake up. So having breakfast is a great start and can help us to keep going through to 10 – 11am. For those of you screaming that you hate breakfast – look in to trying smoothies. I’ve included them in the diet sheet at the bottom of the page.
Balanced meals – It always sounds so easy and is often said, but in general (unless you have a very specific health issue that needs certain foods omitted) eating a balanced diet is the key
Slow it down – ‘Keep the jackets on’. What I mean is; cook vegetables with their skins on rather than peeling them. Not only are huge amount of vitamin and minerals found in the skins, but fibrous foods are harder for the body to break down into glucose. So this will mean that we’re getting a steady stream of glucose and an appropriate release of insulin. A good way to understand which foods break down steadily and give a slow glucose burn is to look at those on the GI or Glycaemic (glucose load) Index Gi Lis
Have a snack – Keep snacks close by and eat them before you’re in desperate need of a boost. Although we haven’t touched on the benefits of fat in this article, fat is a slower and more effective conductor of sustained energy than glucose. So having a snack such as nuts which contain fat or avocado on an oat or rice cake will sustain our energy for longer.
Drink water! – Water fills us up and aids digestion. It helps to remove excess hormones and transports the enzymes needed to break down food. Put a glass in front of you so that you can see it or put it somewhere that you pass regularly so that every time you get up, you won’t be able to miss it!
I really hope that this has been useful. But if you recognise that you’re always feeling tired, or you’re having regular headaches or fluctuations in mood and really need help. Then please call me for a free introductory chat and to find out about having a consultation and a sustained programme of support Working together