Blood glucose level is one of the most important measures a person can use to determine their health in certain areas, especially related to certain chronic illnesses. One such illness, Type-2 diabetes, is the most prevalent chronic disease in the developed world.
Some estimates have determined the prevalence of the underlying cause of diabetes, hyperinsulinemia, to be affecting nearly 83% of the American population. Therefore, understanding metabolic health and the role of glucose is important, and even more so for 83% of at-risk individuals.
Blood Glucose Basics
When we eat food, it is digested by the mechanical and chemical interactions of the mouth, stomach, and intestines. The nutrients, such as glucose, are absorbed into the bloodstream.
Then signaling molecules, like insulin, are responsible for moving the nutrients out of the bloodstream and into the cells. When the body has a difficult time moving the sugar into the cells due to insulin resistance, then the amount of sugar in the bloodstream stays high, affecting your glucose level.
Doctors use prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar to identify diabetes. Your doctor may order an A1C test, called hemoglobin A1C, which represents your three-month average blood sugar.
Insulin and Insulin Resistance
Insulin is nicknamed the master hormone by some since it affects more signaling cascades than almost any other molecule in the body. Insulin is produced by the beta-cells of the pancreas in response to the glycemic level of food. In other words, the amount and ease of sugar to digest.
When insulin is constantly being put into the bloodstream, cells tend to react less and less to its effects by the downregulation of insulin receptors on the face of the cell, amongst other mechanisms.
One example: more insulin will be required to push harder against the gradient when stores are full, as in the case of enlarged fat tissue. Excess insulin is increasingly being identified as one, if not, the main contributor to many chronic conditions, including:
- High blood pressure
- Excess oxidation
Low Blood Sugar
Blood sugar can also be too low (below 70 mg/dL) -- this is called hypoglycemia.
If your blood sugar is low, test it with a glucose meter or a continuous glucose monitor ( CGM). If you don’t have access to these tools, consume 15 grams of carbs or take a glucose tablet to raise high blood sugar levels, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
Hypoglycemia is usually a temporary state the body goes through in response to eating high-glycemic foods that cause a blood sugar spike and then subsequently a blood sugar crash. It has been hypothesized to be more prevalent in people with hyperinsulinemia due to both symptomatologies resulting from behavioral misregulation of blood insulin levels.
Some symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Cravings for sweet food
- Feeling jittery or lightheaded
- Loss of consciousness
Severe symptoms are generally associated with diabetes medications since they will often drive blood sugar too low.
Hypoglycemia is often an indicator of more serious blood sugar complications to come. Cleaning up your diet and improving your nutritional status can help stave off future problems.
Managing Blood Glucose
For those looking to naturally manage their diabetes or prediabetes, there are several different areas you should consider along your journey:
Strength training and other aerobic exercises can be of great benefit in managing your blood glucose.
These exercises deplete your glycogen stores in the muscles and allow your body to be better prepared to deal with the next meal by having a greater surface area of insulin-responsive tissues that can remove that sugar from the bloodstream.
The primary cause of metabolic diseases, such as type two diabetes and other forms of hyperinsulinemia is our diet. Maintaining a healthy blood sugar requires reducing the amount of sugar the body has to process and lowering anticipatory insulin releases that can drive up the likelihood of experiencing symptoms of low blood sugar.
Eating a low glycemic diet that cuts out products like sugar, bread, white rice, and anything made with refined grains but incorporates good fats and proteins can significantly benefit your body’s natural metabolic mechanism. For your carbohydrates of choice focus on eating mainly fiber-rich vegetables, fruit juice, and legumes because they are full of vitamins, minerals and have less readily available sugars that would otherwise cause major blood sugar fluctuations.
The glycemic load that your body takes on is what determines the amount of insulin that is released into the bloodstream: the larger the load, the larger the spike, and the larger your risk factors are for insulin resistance in the long run. Sometimes, the pancreas even overshoots its mark, dropping levels into the hypoglycemic range.
Getting your blood glucose under control will also make it easier to fast without experiencing hypoglycemia and lose weight. One great form of fasting that has been effective for a lot of people with hyperinsulinemia is intermittent fasting.
Herbs and Supplements
High blood sugar can deplete your nutrient stores. This is because the kidneys work to filter the blood and high blood sugar keeps them working overtime. This ultimately leads to damaged kidneys and nephropathy in the long term and micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) loss in the short term.
Herbs and supplements can also bolster your metabolic health and help regulate your blood glucose levels:
- Berberine (Berberis vulgaris): This herb is a mainstay in blood sugar control as it activates an enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). AMPK is a metabolism regulator that increases the insulin sensitivity of the cells and reduces the liver’s production of glucose.
- B vitamins: B vitamins are an integral part of human health and have roles in various mechanisms. High blood sugar has been associated with kidney damage and vitamin deficiency. People on anti-diabetic medications, such as metformin, tend to have deficiencies of B vitamins, specifically B9, folate, and B12. Incorporating a B multivitamin can increase health in this way.
- Chromium: Chromium is an essential trace element that your body needs for several functions. It improves the movement of nutrients, including glucose, in the cells giving your body better blood glucose control.
- Cinnamon (Cinnamomum Verum): Cinnamon has been shown to lower the three-month average blood sugar level, hemoglobin A1C, as well as having beneficial impacts on other key metabolic health indicators in the blood:
- lower LDLc (Low-density lipoprotein; “bad cholesterol”)
- lower triglycerides (fat)
- higher HDLc (High-density lipoprotein; “good cholesterol”)
- higher insulin sensitivity by GTT - Glucose Tolerance Test
- Omega-3s: Omega-3 is a great natural supplement that can aid in metabolic health. Having an elevated ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 has been shown to raise your risk of diabetes and heart disease. The standard American diet has an excess of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids that come in ratio disrupting amounts from seeds and vegetable oils. Reducing consumption of seed and vegetable oils and supplementing with an Omega-3 supplement or incorporating more fish into your diet will do wonders for your metabolic health.
- Vitamin D3/K2: Supplementing with vitamin D3 and K2 can help regulate calcium levels. Calcium regulation is important for patients with increased stress on their vasculature due to elevated insulin levels. In an elevated insulin state, the body tends towards coronary calcification.
The Bottom Line
Whether you currently have diabetes or are part of 83% of people in the developed world with hyperinsulinemia, understanding your glucose level and its effects on insulin regulation in the body is extremely important to your longevity, vascular, and metabolic health.
Doctors look at hemoglobin A1C to diagnose diabetes, but this indicator may not be giving you the whole picture of your health. They may also request for a random blood sugar test. Regardless of when your last meal was, a blood sugar level of 200 milligrams or higher may suggest diabetes.
Preventing and reversing the onset of disease through the proper diet and incorporating the right supplements can help you get your blood sugar back to normal blood sugar levels. Normalizing your blood glucose can help you avoid the crash of hypoglycemia and the long-term effects of hyperinsulinemia.
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