Your body works hard to keep the sugar in your blood at a safe level. As soon as you eat that cookie or bowl of pasta, your pancreas starts putting out the hormone insulin to process the sugar you’ve taken in. Too much sugar in your blood makes it thick and syrupy, which is not good. Imagine how much extra work that is for your heart as it tries to pump goopy blood around your body.
In the short term, a spike in your blood sugar will cause a sugar rush, followed by a sugar crash, with all the cravings and lethargy that go along with that. In the long term, repeated spikes in your blood sugar can cause heart and kidney problems, to issue with eyesight and nervous system.
When we work our pancreas too much by consuming simple sugars that cause sugar spikes, it’s going to tell us, ‘I'm tired, and I need a break’. It can’t keep up with the amount of insulin needed to deal with the sugar, and that's when we're going to see insulin resistance, prediabetes, Type 2 diabetes and related heart problems.
Don't play candy crush with your body, keep your blood sugar in check with the following information...
Sugar consumption has more than tripled worldwide in the past 50 years, and in Europe alone, people on average are consuming 100 grams of sugar a day – a far cry from the World Health Organisation’s recommendation.
Although the biggest culprits of our sugar consumption include fizzy drinks and sweet treats, hidden sugars in our diet often surprise us. For example, we feel we are being healthy when enjoying a fresh fruit juice or don’t consider the high levels of sugar within a glass of wine. Whilst on their own, these little indulgences may seem insignificant yet the overall amount of both hidden and added sugars in our diet can have an effect on our insides, but on our skin too.
Excess sugar in your bloodstream can cause Glycation, a natural chemical reaction which happens when sugar levels in the bloodstream spike beyond what our insulin can handle. Glycation affects the part of our skin that keeps it ‘springy’ – collagen and elastin. When these two proteins link with sugars they become weaker, promoting the signs of ageing; skin becomes drier and less elastic, causing wrinkles, sagging and a dull skin appearance...Ugh!
It is advisable to look at your sugar intake within your diet and try to have no more than the recommended amount, as this is what the body is able to handle without adverse effects. Added sugars should make up no more than 10% of your daily calorie intake.
To help you manage this, try and be aware of how much sugar per day you are having. Read food labels and make healthier choices when buying processed foods. Often supermarket brands operate a traffic light labelling policy to help steer you to make healthier choices. Know your sugars – honey, fruit juices and alcohol all contain high amounts of sugar. Drink water – replace fizzy drinks, juice and energy drinks with water and be aware that flavoured waters often include hidden additional ingredients.
Get Your Beauty Sleep
Scientists have found that the sleep hormone melatonin can reduce glycation damage by up to 50%. Your body goes through the circadian rhythm each day, and the cycle lasts for 24 hours. The circadian rhythm includes the behavioural, mental and physical changes.
Learning good sleep habits are essential given the close connection between sleep and diabetes. A decreased amount of sleep can increase blood sugar levels. Even sleep deprivation for one night can increase your body’s insulin resistance. As a result, your blood sugar levels may rise with it. A lack of sleep, or insomnia, has been connected to diabetes.
Plan When & What You Eat
Complex carbohydrates help control blood sugar. Every food you eat is turned to sugar – it’s the main energy source for your body. But for some foods, this process takes longer, which gives your body more time to deal with the sugar. This is why brown rice, whole wheat pasta and whole wheat bread are healthier for you. The extra fiber slows down digestion, helps you avoid a sugar spike and makes you feel full for longer. The refined white versions will strain your pancreas and likely make you want to eat more.
The insulin your body releases to control the sugar actually makes us hungry, so after your sugar spike, you may attempt reaching for more things to eat.
You can make simple swaps like switching from fruit juice to eating whole fruit, or switching out sugary jelly for sugar-free peanut butter on your toast. Among the sneaky things that raise your blood sugar levels may be the order in which you eat foods during any given meal. Research from Glucose Goddess shows in images below what can happen when individuals eat the same food, but with slight changes.
You're probably wondering why eating a meal in a certain order makes a difference? Well, we'll let the research speak for itself. And science shows that if you eat the constituents of a meal in a specific order, you can reduce the glucose spike of the meal by 75%! So you're eating the exact same food, but there are much fewer consequences on your body. Cool, no? The ideal order is suggested to be vegetables first, protein and fats second, then starches and sugars last.
Wondering what this looks like in practice? Let's say you're sitting down for a home-cooked meal, and you have a healthy serving of grilled fish, spinach 4and brown rice, with a slice of cake for dessert. Theoretically, you'll want to eat the spinach first, then the fish, followed by the rice, and finish off with dessert.
If you're at a restaurant, on the other hand, try to avoid polishing off the complimentary bread before consuming a meal. As people who eat the bread on an empty stomach create a big glucose spike. So by the time they've finished their main course, they're smack in the middle of a massive glucose crash, feeling really hungry. That's not to say you must skip the bread basket altogether—if you wait to have it alongside your protein, fats and vegetables, you'll have a much steadier glucose response.
Over the years, diet experts have discussed the benefits of downing a big glass of water right before or during a meal, helping you eat less and thereby lose weight. Makes sense no? And drinking more would seem to make you more full—and less likely to gorge on second helpings of dinner no? However, it's now recommended not to drink a half hour before meals, and up to an hour after meals. If this sounds too crazy for you, try taking small sips only to wash down food—otherwise, you risk diluting your stomach's reservoir of hydrochloric acid, which is essential to digest foods and absorb their nutrients.
Avoid Sugar Bombs
Foods worth mentioning for lower blood sugar levels are oats, Greek or unsweetened yoghurt, nuts and seeds, coconut butter, dark chocolate, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, most vegetables, sweet potatoes, greens, fatty fish, garlic, fibre-rich fruits.
Except for pineapples and melons, most fruits have low GI scores of 55 or below. This is because most fresh fruits contain lots of water and fibre to balance out their naturally occurring sugar, which is called fructose. However, as fruits ripen, their GI scores increase. Fruit juices also have very high GI scores because juicing removes the fibrous skins and seeds. So, fresh fruit is best. A few fruits worth noting which are better enjoyed in moderation are dried fruit, pineapple, overripe bananas and dates.
Most people know that eating sugar-filled pastries or sweets can cause blood glucose levels to rise, which poses a special concern. However, foods don't have to taste sweet to spike blood sugar levels. Bagels, starchy potatoes, sticky white rice for example are silent spiker's.
Apple Cider Vinegar Superstar
It turns out even a small amount of vinegar consumed with meals can help control blood sugar. One study found consuming two teaspoons of vinegar with carbs may reduce post-meal blood glucose levels as much as 20 percent.
The acetic acid in vinegar slows down the rate at which the stomach empties the food you've eaten into the small intestine, which in turn slows the breakdown of carbohydrates and gives the body more time to remove glucose from the blood, ultimately the reason you may see a reduction in the spike of blood sugar you'd typically get after eating.
Exercise helps your body regulate blood sugar and is essential for everyone. Being active most days of the week keeps you healthy by reducing long-term health risks. Improving insulin sensitivity and enhancing mood and overall quality of life. Most of the time, working out causes blood glucose to dip. But some people, after certain types of exercise, notice that their glucose levels actually rise during or after exercise. If you are concerned about blood sugar levels, stick to moderate exercise as vigorous exercise will release adrenalin (stress hormone) and raise your blood sugar.
The food you eat pre and post workout may also contribute to your glucose levels, positively and negatively. Banana, chicken, rice, porridge, apples and peanut butter for example are great pre workout foods. However, fizzy drinks, spicy foods, refined sugars and avocado for example should be avoided for various reasons,
To Blessed To Be Stressed
Stress can be broken up into two categories; emotional or mental stress and physical stress. Emotional or psychological stress tends to originate internally. This type of stress can occur for many reasons. Some reasons, such as nervousness for a job interview or becoming angry in traffic, can lead to an emotional stress response, as can losing a loved one or going through a traumatic event.
Managing stress can help avoid blood sugar spikes. It’s well known that stress negatively affects our bodies. One of the reasons is that it knocks our hormones out of balance. When we are in a moment of stress, the hormones adrenalin and cortisol are released, and our blood sugar rises to give us energy to deal with the immediate threat. This is helpful initially, but if you are under chronic stress, it’s a problem.
Not Eating Is Bad
Skipping meals isn’t the best diet plan for anyone. For some people this is unavoidable due to fasting for example, however it can lead to immediately dangerous blood sugar swings, as well as potential complications down the road. An eating approach that involves consuming a consistent amount of carbohydrates — which break down into glucose or blood sugar at regular intervals throughout the day can help prevent blood glucose spikes.
At some time or another, we’ve all been too busy, too stressed, or too tired and ended up skipping a meal. But skipping meals may also increase your chances of binging on foods that aren't good for you. If you skip meals, you may be hungrier and more vulnerable to eating foods that are particularly calorie-dense, and you'll be in a hurry to get food, so anything that requires cooking or extra effort won't be very appealing. Resist skipping meals even if you have to eat something small, like a non-meal “meal” pieced together when time is tight.
The liver’s functionality is an important part of understanding how alcohol affects blood sugar, and the effects depend on several factors, such as whether you’ve eaten recently, are fasting, or are in a ketogenic state for example. These effects are also influenced by whether you mix the alcohol with other carbohydrate-containing liquids like juice or soda.
Alcohol technically does not have sugar itself; however, most alcoholic beverages contain sugar that will cause an increase in blood sugar to occur. Additionally, alcohol contains “empty calories” that do not provide the body with energy but do have to be processed by the body. Between meals and while you sleep, the liver makes new glucose (sugar). The liver then sends this sugar into the bloodstream. Here, it helps to prevent or slow down a low blood sugar reaction. When you drink, it disrupts the process.
Drinking can affect your blood sugar for up to 12 hours. If you feel you may have low sugar levels, if could be a good idea to eat a snack to raise it. Try snacks such as yogurt or cereal with milk, or apple with peanut butter. You can help prevent low blood sugar when drinking by eating a meal or snack that has carbohydrates when you drink.
Some symptoms of low blood sugar can look the same as being drunk. The ones that are most common to both are feeling dizzy, light headed, or confused; and getting sleepy. Others may think your signs of low blood sugar are due to drinking, so bare this in mind.
High blood sugar levels can cause nerve damage throughout the body not to mention slumps in energy. This type of fun interaction tends to happen in the evening, prime time for your glucose levels to be fluctuating depending on what you have consumed, this can affect the ability to experience sexual stimulation/arousal and the release of vaginal lubricant.
These changes may result in painful sex and a reduced ability to experience an orgasm. This may affect sexual pleasure making sex seem more of an inconvenience than a pleasure. In addition, women with diabetes are more likely to experience infections, such as thrush, cystitis, and urinary tract infections. These can all impact the ability to have or enjoy sexual intercourse.
It can be a struggle balancing our sugar levels, hormone levels and many other aspects of our system. This is why it’s important to focus on your lifestyle. Try new healthy foods, exercise, prioritise sleep as much as you can, all this will help your body manage your sugar levels and keep you healthy overall.
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