Keeping your blood sugar stable

Have you ever had a naturopath say “you need to keep your blood sugar steady”? There can be lots of reasons for doing this, such as improving energy levels, mental clarity and mood, and reduced cravings for unhealthy food options like refined sugar.

When your blood sugar drops, you can feel tired, foggy in the head, grumpy or anxious, and shaky. Our instinctive solution is to eat, which is perfect, but we tend to opt for fast-sugar (refined sugar) fixes, which just exacerbates the problem. And some people reach for other pick-me-ups like caffeine, cigarettes and drugs.

Why might blood sugar drop in the first place? Usually because you haven’t eaten enough, you’ve gone too long without eating, or your meal choices are making your blood sugar rise too high and too quickly, with a rebounding drop. 

I’ve never really embraced the Glycaemic Index as a dietary approach to managing blood sugar because you could follow this approach to the letter and be eating a truly awful diet! Instead, I have stayed loyal to the whole-foods values I was raised with: when it comes to food choices, if you eat whole foods with the fibre intact, and your diet is varied, your blood sugar will generally be fine. Having said that, a really lovely way to combine both philosophies is to cross-reference low GI with high fibre, and make sure these foods feature as the star player in your main meals.

Legumes are probably one of the best low-GI high-fibre foods, closely followed by leafy greens, two food groups that also tend to be high in protein, calcium and iron. There isn’t any fibre at all in refined sugar and animal foods (all meats, fish, eggs, dairy), which is a sorry state of affairs, because fibre is vital to the health of your bowel flora, which also plays a role balancing blood sugar. Saturated fats impair your insulin sensitivity, making you further prone to blood sugar imbalances, and refined sugar will strip your body of blood-sugar-stabilising nutrients such as the B-vitamins, calcium, chromium, etc.

Something you don’t hear people talk about much in regards to blood sugar balance is making sure we are eating enough! Dieting is an awful, crazy way to damage not just your relationship with food, but your ability to keep your weight and your blood sugar stabile. Hunger will lead to binges! Listen carefully to your body, and it will tell you when it has had enough. Don’t eat so much that you feel ‘stuffed’ or uncomfortable, but make sure you feel satisfied, otherwise you will find yourself craving crappy food later on. Please don’t skip meals, or try to live on air and meal-replacement shakes. If you must insist on replacing real food with liquid food, sip slowly; if you toss it down too quickly you will feel hungry faster, leading to cravings and food obsession.

Some people manage blood sugar by eating six smaller meals a day, rather than three big ones, but this doesn’t work for, or suit, everyone. If you do take a ‘grazing’ approach, don’t treat these meals like snacks. Make sure you are eating quality food full of diversity and fibre, not ‘fast’ food or processed food.

While there are some remedies a naturopath can prescribe to enhance your blood sugar balance, I’m a firm believer in facilitating change via behavioural changes! What might these naturopathic remedies do? They might improve the way your digestive system, endocrine system and/or immune systems function, while also improving your physiological ability to respond to stress in a relatively calm manner.

Blood sugar is a complex, multifaceted balancing act which can be affected by imbalances in many different body systems.

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