Understanding blood sugar balance and its impact on our weight and health can be vital in achieving successful weight loss and in preventing type 2 diabetes. Jenny Logan explains more…
Written By Jenny Logan DNMed. (Jenny is a Nutritional Therapist who has worked with clients in Health Foods Stores and Private Clinics for over 20 years.)
Do you often feel hungry even after food?
Do you crave sweet food, bread or pasta?
Do you feel angry, irrational or upset when you are hungry?
Do you every get shaky when you are hungry?
Is your weight gain mostly around your middle?
Do you feel tired all the time?
Do you suffer with high cholesterol or high blood pressure?
Do you struggle to shift weight around your middle?
Do you eat low fat foods and choose ‘diet’ drinks?
Are you often thirsty?
Do you wake up in the night?
Does exercise not seem to make much difference to your weight loss?
If you have answered yes to quite a lot of those questions, then the chances are that your problems with weight loss are due to an imbalance in your blood sugar levels. You may also be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Understanding blood sugar balance and its impact on our weight and health can be vital in achieving successful weight loss and in preventing type 2 diabetes.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE EAT SUGAR?
When we eat sugary foods or simple carbohydrates such as white bread, glucose is released and enters our blood stream.
Glucose is needed by every cell in your body to help it work properly.
In order to help get the glucose from the blood into the cells, the body produces insulin.
The job of insulin is to act like a dinner bell to warn the cells of the body that dinner (glucose) is on its way, and to get ready for it.
When we have more sugar than our cells need, the remaining spare glucose will then be stored as fat.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF FAT STORE
Pear shaped people tend to store their fat around their bottom and hips. This type of fat store is known a ‘subcutaneous fat’.
Apple shaped people however, tend to store their fat around the tummy area. This build up of fat around the middle is known as ‘visceral fat’.
Visceral fat is linked to many problems, including blood sugar issues, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
This is why doctors worry about our waist measurements.
VISCERAL FAT BLOCKS INSULIN
If visceral fat builds up it can start to block the signals sent by insulin to our cells. In response, the body will produce more insulin and store all the glucose in the fat, presuming that our cells are not ‘hungry’.
BUT, the body cells have not been fed – their energy levels are low. So, they send out messages to our brain to tell us they need some food, quickly – preferably sugar.
(Think of it as being like a teenager who did not listen when called to dinner, then declares they are starving and need a chocolate bar!)
A VICIOUS CYCLE CAN DEVELOP
Every time we satisfy a sugar craving, there is another release of insulin:
The visceral fat blocks the messages
The cells don’t listen to the insulin properly, so they don’t get as much food as they want
The glucose will be stored as fat
We will start craving sugar again
So, the cycle continues.
All of this also makes weight loss nearly impossible, and sugar cravings will probably make many of the diets out there very difficult to stick to anyway.
HOW DO WE DEAL WITH THIS PROBLEM?
In the diet, we need to avoid having too much sugar and concentrate on fresh, unprocessed foods, wholegrains and protein. Many people do not eat enough protein – that’s eggs, meat, fish, chicken, nuts, seeds and beans! We should aim to have protein with at least two meals a day. With blood sugar issues then really protein at all three is desirable, as it really helps slow down the release of sugar.
Look for natural alternatives. For those with a really sweet tooth try xylitol instead of sugar. A natural substance xylitol provides sweetness without any blood sugar problems.
Alcohol, caffeine and smoking all play havoc with blood sugar levels, so should all be kept to a minimum.
Exercise could also help to get rid of some of that visceral fat.
There are also certain natural supplements which can be very supportive for people trying to deal with this problem:
CINNAMON – Clinical studies seem to indicate that taking cinnamon can help to improve the body’s response to insulin and reduce sugar cravings
CHROMIUM – Chromium contributes to the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels, therefore chromium supplements are worth considering if we need additional help balancing blood sugars.
MAGNESIUM – A Magnesium deficiency has been identified in many in patients with type 2 diabetes, especially in those with poorly controlled blood sugar levels. Low dietary Magnesium intake has also been related to the development of insulin resistance. Magnesium is also required for proper muscle function – including the functioning of the heart. Additionally, it has been shown to be helpful in reducing blood pressure, making it a great all-round support.
*Please note this information is aimed at people who are ‘at risk’ of developing blood sugar issues and type 2 diabetes. If you have been diagnosed with, or are on medications for, diabetes, please talk to a healthcare practitioner before making changes to your diet or embarking on a supplement regime.