We all know high blood sugars are bad. But what is really happening in the background that makes it so bad?
There are many angles one can inspect on his or her blood sugar levels and it can get pretty complicated. With this post I would like to raise your awareness how blood glucose levels can impact us and why doing a blood test once a year is really not sufficient.
Let’s dive into the magical world of blood.
In order to ensure normal body function, the human body is dependent on a tight control of its blood glucose levels. This is accomplished by a highly sophisticated network of various hormones and neuropeptides released mainly from the brain, pancreas, liver, intestine as well as adipose and muscle tissue. Within this network, the pancreas represents a key player by secreting the blood sugar-lowering hormone insulin and its opponent glucagon.
Through its various hormones, the pancreas maintains blood glucose levels within a very narrow range. This is accomplished by the opposing and balanced actions of glucagon and insulin, referred to as glucose homeostasis.
- Average values of around 90 mg/dl throughout the day,
- Postmeal values below 140 mg/dl and back to normal within 2hours,
- Minimal values, during sleep or after exercise, around 70 mg/dl.
In good health, the well-functioning interactions between all of the organs and tissues involved ensure glucose homeostasis. However, if insulin function is impaired this can result in metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular issues and more.
So what spikes blood glucose
When we eat foods which are high carbohydrates, like bread, sweets, cookies, rice the body will break down these food into glucose and attempt to use it for energy.
The 10,000 feet overview, looks like this
- You eat carbohydrates
- You body break down carbs into glucose
- Glucose increases in your bloodstream
- Your body releases insulin
- Insulin drives sugar into your cells to use for energy or store as fat
- As a result your blood sugar levels come back to normal (hopefully)
When eating fat and protein there is very little to no effect on the blood sugar level.
- The human body contains approximately 5 liters of blood. This amounts to 4 grams of sugar in the blood, which is less than a teaspoon of sugar! This is how much sugar is in your blood at any point in time!!!!
What is really a spike
Let’s say you wake-up and your blood glucose levels are 90mg/dl. You are happy with that right? Then you have breakfast and your first meal of the day. Depending on what you eat the effect can be very very different.
- Eating a bowl of cereal (e.g corn-flakes) could potentially result in having blood sugar levels going-up to 150mg/dl in just a matter of minutes. You will understand if this is the case by a feeling of rush and sensation of being hi.
- Eating a bowl of fruit will potentially also result in the same effect
- Eating a salad will probably result in very minimal raise in your blood sugar levels.
The difference is that every food has what we call a Glycemic Index (GI)
- Glycemic index measures how fast and how much a food raises blood glucose levels. Foods with higher index values raise blood sugar more rapidly than foods with lower glycemic index values do.
- The glycemic index does not take into account the amount of carbohydrate in a food. Glycemic load helps you account for both the quantity and the quality of your carbs at the same time.
What is the problem
There are many problems with high blood sugar. Either high blood sugar in the morning or is high blood sugars after eating a meal.
Big spikes can put you in a coma
This is an extreme case but it is good to demonstrate the problem. If your blood sugar gets into the 300s mg/dl you will likely get into a coma. This is not a case for a healthy person, but it is important to understand.
- High blood sugar turns your blood thick and syrupy.
- The kidney can’t process/filter this amount of sugar.
- The excess sugar passes from your blood into your urine, which triggers a filtering process that draws tremendous amounts of fluid from your body.
- This drops blood pressure
- There is no sufficient amount of blood going to the brain, and this leads to a coma.
The takeaway here is that high blood sugar even if they don’t cause a coma, they cause an excess load on the kidneys and drop of the blood pressure.
Big spikes cause energy crashes
Big blood spikes such as when you eat a sweets raise the blood sugar in a matter of minutes. It is not un-normal to see blood sugar raised to 180mg/dl after endulging into a sweet with syrup for example. This is an emergency state for the body. It now needs to process a huge amount of glucose circulating in the blood. The body will release big amounts of insulin to lower it as soon as possible, so will see a sudden drop after 1-2 hours. This change from 180mg/dl to 100mg/dl can cause you cravings, to be sleepy, and lethergic.
Constant spikes put you at a high risk for heart attack
Recent reports have shown that having 1-hour post meal glucose concentrations ≥155 mg/dl is a predictor of future risk of Type2 Diabetes, even if you have a normal fasting glucose. In addition, this glucose cutoff is associated with an impaired cardiometabolic profile, characterized by high blood pressure, early signs of atherosclerosis, as well as an increased mortality.
High glucose concentrations can cause injury to a large number of organs and tissues. The big spikes are called acute hyperglycemia and have been also associated with increased renal perfusion, decreased motor and sensory nerve conduction, and increased retinal perfusion. All these mechanisms can contribute to the development of microvascular complications.
- Even in a healthy individual, frequent high glucose levels (> 150mg/dl) are associated with many complications.
What can you do
I hope you agree with me that controlling blood sugar levels is important.
Eat a whole food diet
The concept here is pretty simple.
Avoid all refined products : This includes sugar products, such as biscuits, breads, sweets, cakes, cereals. Anything that is processed is likely to have refined, hidden sugars.
Eat whole foods : Most of the food found in nature are called healthy because they have right amounts of nutrients for that particular type. Even is fruit are high in fructose they also have a lot of fiber which will buffer the effect of sugar and low the spike.
Control the amounts and type of carbs
Prioritize Protein : Choose your protein first. You need to get the right building blocks and this starts with protein. Leave carbs and starchy food as a dish dish
Prefer Leafy Greens : Veggies have a ton of nutrients and minerals and plenty of fiber. Fill the plate with them!
Familirize yourself with the Glycemic Load index. You want to choose foods that are very low in GL. Additionally avoid having big amounts
- Proper blood sugars level are both at the center of health.
- Measuring your blood glucose on a daily basis even if healthy has many benefits. Try keto-Mojo or if you want to get insights throughout the day a continious glucose monitor (CGM) like FreeStyle Libre.