Blood sugar imbalance is a condition where your body does not handle glucose effectively. Throughout the day blood glucose levels may fluctuate outside of the body’s desired blood glucose range. Levels may swing from being very high, perhaps after a meal, stimulant or stress – To being very low, for example if you skipped breakfast.
Glucose is a sugar that we naturally produce in the body as a result of the foods we eat. Glucose is the main source of energy for our body and it circulates in the blood so it can reach the cells to help generate energy.
Insulin is a hormone responsible for keeping the blood sugar levels between the normal desired ranges. Insulin works by opening channels on cell membranes, allowing glucose to travel from the blood into body cells. During times of blood sugar imbalance insulin is a little out of control.
In some situations, like after a carbohydrate or sugar-rich meal, too much insulin is produced. When insulin is high lots of cell glucose channels become open, which results in the blood glucose level dropping too low. During insulin resistance the cell membranes have difficulty recognising insulin and too few channels are opened. In this situation both insulin and glucose remain high in the blood and some cells stay deficient in glucose.
The pancreas is a gland located in the abdomen that is an essential part of the digestive system. Cells in the pancreas secrete insulin into the bloodstream. These cells can often become exhausted after long periods of producing excessive levels of insulin. Once tired, these cells can no longer produce adequate amounts of insulin to achieve the ideal blood sugar balance in our body.
Low insulin production also leads to blood sugar imbalance. Blood sugar imbalance can be a precursor to diabetes mellitus, and it is therefore important to address the contributory factors before the condition develops further.
Symptoms of blood sugar imbalance
If you are suffering from blood sugar fluctuations you are likely to experience several, or more, of the following symptoms:
- The need for more than 8 hours sleep
- Feeling thirsty
- Frequent urination especially in the morning
- Heavy sweating regularly during the day
- Fatigue, Dizziness, Mood swings
- Cravings for sweet foods
- Headaches, Palpitations, Energy dips
Factors that may influence blood sugar imbalance
Lifestyle, hereditary and ailment factors that may make you more susceptible to blood sugar imbalances include:
- Impaired insulin secretion
- A stressful or sedentary lifestyle
- Cellular insulin resistance
- Being overweight
- Family history of diabetes type II
- Use of social drugs
- A diet high in saturated fat, sugar, and refined carbohydrates low in fibre; excessive stimulants such as tea, coffee, colas, chocolate and alcohol (etc.)
Being Overweight & Blood sugar imbalances
Obesity creates fat stores around the pancreas and smothers the insulin receptors, which is why obesity alone is a significant precursor to diabetes. Insulin sensitivity will often return once a person loses weight, so long as they have not been put onto insulin – which stops natural insulin production as the level in the body is strictly regulated. In addition the endocrine system is very sensitive and if natural production is inhibited by extrinsic administration of insulin it switches off the capability of the body to produce it naturally.
Nutritional supplements that can help blood sugar imbalance
Chromium is a mineral and has the permitted health claim “Chromium contributes to the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels” from EFSA (European Food Safety Authority). Organic chromium is an active ingredient of a substance called GTF (Glucose Tolerance; the body contains about 6mg of chromium in total.
GTF chromium is now being recognised as important in carbohydrate metabolism. It stimulates the activity of enzymes involved in the metabolism of glucose for energy and the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol.
Chromium GTF appears to increase the effectiveness of insulin and its ability to handle glucose. When chromium levels are low, GTF levels are low too and the activity of insulin is blocked; blood glucose levels therefore remain elevated.
Whole grains, eggs and meat are the best sources of chromium. Most fruit and vegetables are low in chromium, except for broccoli, which has a naturally high level. Chromium is difficult to absorb. Only about 3% of chromium from food is retained in the body. Excretion occurs mainly through urination and the amount stored in the body decreases with age.
Wholefood GTF chromium is better absorbed and longer retained than isolated chromium, and is also significantly less toxic. There is now an RDA for chromium, set at 40µg. The Council for Responsible Nutrition tells us that the average daily intake in the Western world is 30µg, and the upper safe limit for supplementation is around 600µg.
The mineral zinc improves cell health, making up a component of the enzymes necessary for insulin to bind to cells so that glucose can enter and be utilised for energy. Diets high in carbohydrates are usually low in zinc. The richest food sources of zinc are oysters, liver, brewer’s yeast, eggs, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms.
Cytoplan PhytoMins Cytoplan PhytoMins
Cytoplan PhytoMins is a multi-mineral Wholefood formula which contains 200ug per capsule of GTF chromium which contributes to the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels. PhytoMins is a plant-based supplement in gluten free capsules providing hydroponically grown minerals also including Zinc, Selenium and Copper.
PhytoMins has 60 one-a-day capsules per bottle and is currently 40%* off for both retail and practitioner customers (* for October 2013 only).
Dietary Recommendations for good blood sugar levels – Foods to Avoid & Increase
Avoid: Confectionery and all sources of simple sugars, particularly “hidden” sugars in processed food. Reduce intake of fruit high in sugar (bananas, grapes) and all dried fruit. Avoid refined carbohydrates such as white rice, white bread and white pasta.
Increase: Complex carbohydrates such as whole-wheat pasta**. Increase the intake of vegetables, lentils and pulses. Increase the intake of fruits that are not too high in sugar.
**We previously recommended a diet with good levels of whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, rye, oats). However we no longer do so as the lectins in potatoes, wheat and oats bind to the insulin receptors so in theory are most likely to dysregulate glucose tolerance. Ideally, therefore, we recommend a ‘Paleo Diet’ (see link at bottom) with little or no grains and potatoes and starch in the diet derived from vegetables.
Avoid: All saturated and ‘trans’ fats; avoid processed foods high in fats.
Increase: The intake of mono-unsaturated oil: olive oil is particularly effective. Increase omega-3 fats from oily fish, linseeds, and hempseeds; increase nuts and seeds.
Avoid: Sources of protein attached to saturated fat (red meat, pork, bacon, processed meat, sausages).
Increase: Protein from sources unattached to saturated fats, such as lean chicken and turkey, white fish, oily fish, eggs, yoghurt, cottage cheese, feta, mozzarella, nuts and seeds. Include high quality protein with every meal and snack.
Avoid: Drinks containing sugar such as squashes, undiluted fruit juices, carbonated soft drinks. Reduce stimulating drinks such as coffee, tea and colas.
Increase: Drink two litres of water daily – taken away from meals and sipped slowly to avoid stress on the kidneys. For variety, drink diluted fruit juices, organic vegetables juices and herbal teas.
Increase: The intake of dietary fibre (both soluble and insoluble) from whole grains, lentils, pulses, fruit and vegetables: fibre has been shown to help balance blood sugar.
Identify any areas of stress; adopt more effective time management to allow time for relaxation. Join relaxation/yoga classes, breathing techniques etc. Try to find relaxation techniques that work for you.
Exercise has been shown to have a significant blood glucose balancing effect. Start an aerobic exercise programme to be followed at least three days a week.
It is very important to consider a weight loss strategy if you are overweight.
The Glycaemic Index (GI)
A low-glycaemic diet is a healthy diet, and many people nowadays are attempting to follow this ideal. The table below will help you understand the glycaemic index of many common foods, and hence the ones to eat and those to avoid.
The glycaemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100, according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which is both a stress on our immune system and pro-inflammatory. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health.
If you are worried about your blood sugar levels we recommend that you consult with your doctor.
If you have any questions regarding this article, any of the health topics raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time.
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