Have you ever driven a well-maintained luxury car? It's a smooth ride, right? You press the gas, and it gradually speeds up. You release the gas, and it steadily slows down.
Now, let's hop over to a 20-year-old, less-than-maintained vehicle.
You press the gas, and there may be a delay in acceleration. You press the brake and it rumbles to a stop. The bumper is kind of falling off. Give me the keys to that luxury car, again, please!
Blood Sugar Cruise
Well-regulated blood sugar is similar to that of driving a luxury car.
There's a controlled insulin response to glucose (pressing the gas pedal).
Insulin receptors are sensitive and ready to receive insulin and glucose (acceleration).
Insulin and glucose are shuttled to the cells and the liver and levels steadily decline (releasing the gas pedal).
Blood Sugars Defined
Glucose: Carbohydrates, such as a sugar or starch, are broken down into a simple sugar called glucose. Glucose "blood sugar" is in our blood stream.
Insulin: Hormone excreted from the beta cells of the pancreas in response to a rise in blood glucose. Insulin holds the hand of glucose, then knocks on the door of our cells and liver, and shouts "hey, open up, I've got glucose for you". Glucose and insulin pop into the cell and provide energy to that cell.
Insulin Sensitivity: A measure of how sensitive the the insulin receptors are to the knock of insulin. If the knock of insulin is constant and loud, the insulin receptors won't open the door (insulin resistance). If the knock is occasional and the cells need energy, the insulin receptors will readily open the door (insulin sensitive).
Scene 1 : Balanced Blood Sugar
2. Blood glucose levels rise -- salivary and pancreatic amylase, and the small intestinal brush border break down carbohydrates into glucose, which passes into our bloodstream.
3. Beta cells of pancreas release insulin -- in response to glucose in the blood, the pancreas secretes a proportional amount of insulin into the blood.
4. Insulin shuttles glucose into body cells and the liver to be used for energy later -- if the insulin receptors are sensitive (they're not bombarded by constant knocking, or constant glucose), the cell readily accepts the insulin and glucose.
5. Insulin levels decline, blood glucose levels decline, homeostasis is reached - our body likes coming back to homeostasis -- it's where it feels comfortable.
Now, let's look at a state of dysglycemia, wherein our blood sugar rises too high, then falls too low, then again rises too high, because it fell too low. There's not much homeostasis here.
Scene 2 : Blood Sugar Roller Coaster Ride
1. Consumption of refined (or too much) carbohydrate.
2. Blood glucose levels rise -- often quickly, if from a refined source.
3. Beta cells of pancreas release a large dose insulin in response to the quick, large dose of glucose -- prolonged insulin resistance/high glucose levels can result in beta cell failure.
4. Decreased insulin receptor sensitivity due to chronically high glucose and insulin levels -- cells are starved for fuel despite excess carbohydrate.
5. Insulin continues to circulate and cause oxidative reactions outside the cells. Blood glucose levels remain high, then convert to fat in liver. Cells are starved for fuel and hypoglycemia symptoms can occur. The overproduction of insulin promptly sweeps the glucose out of the blood stream, and at the same time, causes glucose levels to plummet to too low of levels, causing blood sugar cravings.
Over time, over-consumption of carbohydrate and constantly high glucose and insulin levels decrease insulin receptor sensitivity. The cells no longer hear the insulin. Yet, the cells are starved for fuel. This is insulin resistance.
Overfed, but undernourished.
6 Steps to Balance Blood Sugar
1. Eat 3 meals throughout the day, and a snack or two, if needed
Balance blood sugar by not getting too hungry or too full.
2. Include protein and fat with carbohydrates
Fat slows absorption of glucose, which prevents those blood sugar highs and lows. Eat fat at each meal– like lard, tallow, coconut oil and coconut milk. Eat protein at each meal — grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish.
3. Look at the label
Sugar and artificial sweeteners are everywhere!
4. Get sleep
Lack of sleep increases cortisol, inflammation and sets us up for cravings the wrong foods. Cortisol also stimulates the release of glucose into our bloodstream, raising both glucose and insulin levels. Use things like blue-light blocking glasses and turn off your electronics 2 hours before bed!
5. Manage stress
Again, chronic stress increases cortisol which keeps blood glucose and insulin levels raised.
Interval or cardiovascular exercise on most days can increase insulin sensitivity
Rebuilding Insulin Sensitivity with Food
Regulating blood sugar sensitizes our cells to the signal of insulin and give our cells the fuel it needs. To drive in the luxury car of well-regulated blood sugar, eat quality fats and protein at most meals, decrease stress and incorporate movement each day.