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It’s been common knowledge for some time that refined carbohydrates like sugar, white bread, soda, and breakfast cereals can cause blood sugar spikes. Diets like keto that minimize the consumption of all kinds of carbs are rapidly gaining popularity for their positive effect on blood sugar levels, due to their exclusion of foods that are high on the glycemic index.
The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking system that assigns a number to different kinds of carbohydrates based on their impact on blood glucose. A GI value of 55 or less indicates that a given carb is digested fairly slowly, causing less of a rise in blood sugar and insulin levels than a carb with a higher GI value. These lower-value carbohydrates include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and dairy products – all of which are generally minimally processed, especially in comparison to higher-value carbohydrates like bread made from refined flour, cereals, French fries, soft drinks, and various snack foods.
But what makes the avoidance of blood sugar spikes so crucial anyway? In the short term, rapid rises in blood sugar followed by crashes can cause lethargy, headaches, drowsiness, excessive urination and thirst, and blurry vision, among other symptoms. A person’s ability to concentrate might also be negatively impacted.
If high blood sugar is left untreated, it can lead to serious complications like the development of type 2 diabetes, heart attacks or strokes, eye damage, kidney disease and even failure, and nerve problems like diabetic neuropathy.1 These complications can arise because glucose, while essential to the body for energy, can act as a poison if levels are elevated for an extended period of time. High blood sugar levels gradually destroy the pancreas’ natural ability to produce insulin, resulting in permanent damage. Excess glucose in the blood can also cause blood vessels to harden, leading to buildups in the arteries that restrict blood flow and increase the risk of blood clots.2
For these reasons, it’s clear that high blood sugar is no trifling matter. Depending on your current lifestyle, regulating blood glucose levels to prevent the onset of serious health problems might require some significant shifts in your diet and activity level. The good news is that making these changes now can reduce your risk of developing chronic conditions, improving your health and quality of life for years to come!
Here are the steps registered dieticians and medical professionals recommend taking in order to regulate blood sugar levels.
Because the grains used in food items like bread, cereal, and store-bought desserts have been so heavily processed, they lack virtually any nutrients and contain none of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that whole grains still possess. For this reason, they’re very easily digested by the body, releasing a large amount of glucose into the bloodstream at once and causing blood sugar levels to climb. It’s best to opt for whole-grain options – or, if you’re exploring a low-carb style of eating, to leave the grains off your plate entirely.
Fiber is an indigestible substance that slows both the digestion process and the absorption of carbohydrates in the intestines for a gradual release of glucose, rather than a rush. It promotes a feeling of satiety and can help to regulate appetite and hunger cravings. Oatmeal, some nuts and legumes, and most vegetables are good sources of fiber. Fill ‘er up!
While we’re not here to say you should never eat cake, the average American consumes almost triple the number of grams of sugar the AHA recommends as a maximum amount – on a daily basis. The ease with which the body breaks down the simple sugar known as sucrose causes an almost immediate rise in blood sugar and can contribute to weight gain. It’s best to keep the consumption of added sugars to a minimum and opt for low-GI fruits when you need a sweet treat.
Easier said than done, but worth every effort: Managing your weight helps your body better control blood sugar levels. The more excess weight a person carries, the harder it is for their body to use insulin effectively, contributing to the onset of type 2 diabetes. Diet is a huge factor when it comes to weight loss, but exercise is also important – not only because it increases calorie expenditure, but also because it encourages cellular sensitivity to insulin and enables the absorption of sugar from the blood by the muscles. Find an exercise routine or physical activity you enjoy, and it won’t feel like a chore!
Stress negatively affects blood sugar by prompting the body to release hormones like cortisol. Cortisol, in turn, stimulates the release of sugar into the bloodstream as it prepares the body for a fight-or-flight response to the perceived stressor. In stressful situations where a snap decision is needed, this process is useful, but most of the stress we experience in our modern lives isn’t so easily resolved and the continued release of cortisol can wreak havoc on the body. Relaxing activities like yoga and meditation can reduce stress and help to rebalance blood sugar levels.
Getting an adequate amount of sleep each night also helps to control blood sugar. Sleep deprivation is one such stressor that can trigger the release of cortisol, as well as increasing appetite and suppressing the release of growth hormones. These factors combined can elevate blood sugar and encourage weight gain. Make sure you’re getting enough shut-eye to keep your hormones in check so that your diet and exercise efforts don’t go to waste.
There isn’t an agreed-upon standard for daily water consumption, but generally speaking, the more you drink, the better off you’ll be. Because blood is composed mostly of water, the simple act of hydration lowers blood sugar by increasing blood volume. On the other hand, dehydration triggers the release of a hormone called vasopressin, which tells the kidneys to stop flushing and filtration processes in order to retain water. Vasopressin also stimulates the release of sugar into the bloodstream by the liver.4 To prevent the release of vasopressin, drink water whenever you feel thirsty and increase your consumption on hot days or during and after physical activity.
Lifestyle changes can feel overwhelming, but you don’t have to go it alone. We’ve developed a line of U.S. Doctors’ Clinical products designed to support the maintenance of healthy blood sugar levels because we know your efforts are worthwhile and we want to help you stay the course.
Try HyperBalance to encourage the reduction of stress on veins and arteries, provide support for strong liver function, and promote healthy blood flow.*
GlucoVita, formulated specifically to encourage the improvement of nutrient balance and the maintenance of normal blood sugar levels, contains 10 specific Ayurvedic extracts for antioxidant support, appetite reduction, and the prevention of glucose absorption.*
For heart health support from vitamins, minerals, and botanical extracts, there’s the aptly named HeartHealth: A unique formula designed to encourage maximum oxygen absorption and use, normal cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and healthy veins and arteries.*
VeinHealth contains a proprietary blend of diosmin and hesperidin to promote good circulation, vein elasticity, and cell defense against free radicals.* It encourages the transportation of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body with natural extracts derived from the rinds of lemons and oranges.*
For general antioxidant support and the maintenance of cell health, tissue elasticity, and immune system function, try OxyPlex!* It contains vitamins A, C, and E; selenium, and our unique AntioxiPro blend of antioxidant compounds to encourage organ function and overall well-being.*
No matter where you are on your health journey, it’s never too late to start making beneficial changes. Even a small step in the right direction can produce powerful, positive results! Choose one healthy habit to commit to today to help your body regulate your blood sugar levels. Your future self will thank you!
*These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.