by Dr. Will Cole
There is a shocking number of adults in America living with diabetes and pre-diabetes – 100 million to be exact. That is not even counting the vast amount of people struggling with unhealthy blood sugar levels. A condition that was once rare is now commonplace.
But there is hope. Many blood sugar problems are either improvable or reversible. As a functional medicine practitioner, I see the simplest of lifestyle changes make a big impact in helping patients rebalance their blood sugar. But before you can implement any changes, it’s important to understand why your blood sugar is imbalanced in the first place. I often find these being the biggest contributors to too low and too high blood sugar:
1. You are not getting enough antioxidants.
Colorful vegetables and fruits naturally contain antioxidants which have been shown to help regulate blood sugar. In fact, multiple studies have shown that alpha-lipoic acid supplements help to improve insulin resistance and balance blood sugar levels. The benefits of this antioxidant don’t stop there either – it also protects brain cells against excitotoxicity, boosts heavy metal detoxification, enhances cell energy production, and strengthens immunity.
Additionally, the bioflavonoid found in cinnamon called proanthocyanidin can alter the insulin signaling activity in fat cells to help manage diabetes. Cinnamon has also been linked to lower triglycerides and blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetics. Green tea contains the compound EGCG which also has been shown to stabilize blood sugar. Matcha powder has some of the highest levels of this powerful antioxidant.
Nrf-2 is a protein whose role is to help regulate antioxidant gene induction by turning on genes that are responsible for antioxidant and detox pathways. When Nrf-2 is activated it also drives-down inflammation. You can activate Nrf-2 by including antioxidant-rich foods such as:
- EGCG in green tea
- Quercetin in apples
- Curcumin in turmeric
- Resveratrol in grapes
- Rosmarinic acid in rosemary
- L-sulforaphane in broccoli
- Thiosulfonateallicin in garlic
Research also shows that peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors – or PPARs for short – can help improve blood sugar. Wild-caught fish, astragalus, sea buckthorn, ginger, and green tea are all powerful PPAR activators.
2. You eat too many snacks.
Constantly needing to munch on food is a major sign that your blood sugar is out of whack. Constantly snacking keeps blood and insulin levels spiked with no time to calm down. Intermittent fasting is one of my go-to tools to help keep the hormones responsible for blood sugar in check since it is proven to lower insulin resistance and increase metabolism.
Make sure to work with your doctor if you have a blood sugar problem and want to incorporate fasting into your routine. As your glucose begins to stabilize they can monitor your progress and make adjustments to your fasting periods as they see improvement. Leptin resistance is another hormone problem that has been shown to greatly improve through intermittent fasting.
3. You are low in micronutrients.
In a study published in the medical journal Circulation, it was shown that out of 5,000 people, those who regularly took higher dosages of magnesium for 15 years had a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome which is often a marker for diabetes. Another study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found similar results. After 5 years those who consistently had greater magnesium intake had better insulin sensitivity. Magnesium can also lower diabetes risk by lowering blood pressure and triglycerides.
Chromium is another micronutrient that is essential to not overlook as low levels have been linked to increased risk of insulin resistance and high triglyceride levels. Supplementing with chromium can be a simple way to improve the function of blood sugar receptors. Focus on chromium-rich food sources like potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and sea vegetables.
4. Your sleep quality is poor.
Poor sleep and blood sugar problems go hand in hand. If you are constantly not sleeping well at night it will impact your blood sugar levels and vice versa. This is because our blood sugar levels rise more with the less sleep we get. No wonder why people with sleep problems are at a greater risk for diabetes. In fact, those who got fewer than six hours of sleep every night had more blood sugar issues than those who slept a full eight hours.
5. You need more water-soluble vitamins.
Methylation is your body’s biochemical superhighway that controls many aspects of your body including blood sugar regulation. B vitamins are the fuel behind methylation and can be supported through supplementing with activated B vitamins such as B9 L-Methylfolate (L-5-MTHF) and B6 Pyridoxyl-5-Phosphate (P5P). Dark leafy greens like spinach, okra, and turnip greens along with grass-fed beef and chicken liver are loaded with essential B vitamins.
6. You are low on fat-soluble vitamins.
Vitamin E, also known as tocopherol, can help improve insulin sensitivity. A standard dose ranges between 600 and 900 milligrams. Vitamin D is also one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in America and can contribute to a whole slew of health problems. Research showed that after 12 weeks of vitamin D supplementation, body fat was lowered by 7 percent, which lower weight can help manage blood sugar. Vitamin D deficiency is also correlated with metabolic syndrome. A good standard dose is between 60 to 80 ng/mL per day.
7. Your microbiome is imbalanced.
Your gut controls almost all aspects of your health, including your blood sugar. One study transplanted the microbiome of diabetic mice into healthy mice and found that it made the healthy mice diabetic, without changing their diets! Diets high in sugar can contribute to candida overgrowth which is linked to blood sugar problems and cause an overgrowth of bad bacteria.
8. You’re not eating enough healthy fats.
Omega-3 fatty acids have the power to lower your risk for heart attack and stroke and can also convert diabetes-linked very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), to healthier low-density lipoproteins (LDL). Research has found that high blood sugar affected the function in areas of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease. It’s no surprise then that medical literature refers to Alzheimer’s as “type 3 diabetes.”
A ketogenic diet can do wonders for your brain health by transforming you into fat burner instead of a sugar burner. This transitions your body into relying on fat for fuel instead of sugar which has been shown to enhance brain health including in cases of dementia. This is because fat is a more sustainable and longer lasting form of energy. In fact, as babies we relied on fat in the form of breast milk for energy and development. Hop off the blood sugar roller coaster and load up on healthy fats instead.
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