Balancing Moods Through Blood Sugar Management
Most people believe blood sugar affects only the brain when, in reality, it affects the entire body inclusive of how someone feels emotionally and physically. The body works very hard to maintain balanced blood sugar via the use of the insulin hormone. Insulin has been given a bad rep in recent years due to its link to high blood sugar content but, before we are quick to judge, let’s consider what really happens inside your body.
After eating a meal your digestion kicks into gear, some foods will break down easily, entering your bloodstream quickly while other foods take longer. Easily digestible foods, like carbohydrates, generally enter your bloodstream quickly causing a spike within 1-2 hours and then decline. More complex foods, like fats and protein, have a longer digestion time and typically do not break down into sugar entering your bloodstream, so they don’t cause a blood sugar spike after a meal. These reactions are normal and, in response, your body releases insulin to help transport the sugar molecules to the cells for energy.
Problems start to arise when you eat many foods high in carbohydrates that cause your blood sugar levels to spike. In response to the quick rise in blood sugar, insulin is then pushed into the bloodstream for transportation leading to a drastic drop in blood sugar levels. Cycling through sugar spikes and drops can lead to cravings, energy drops, and mood swings.
An imbalance in blood sugar levels is the most common underlying cause for mental health issues that include anxiety, irritability, and depression, along with psychological disturbances. It’s important to ensure the stability of ones blood sugar as the brain requires a constant source of glucose. There are many signs and symptoms of imbalanced blood sugar that range from feeling ‘hangry,’ fatigue, nausea, brain fog, sleep disturbances, weight gain and inflammation in the body. Understanding and addressing these symptoms is key to understanding your body’s needs to manage blood sugar and avoiding the route of medications that may not be needed.
Over time, allowing an imbalance in blood sugar to become a daily occurrence can lead to type 2 diabetes and other health problems. Medications, mood, stress, and diet all play a part in blood sugar management. Here are some ways to manage your blood sugar levels.
Stay Hydrated Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help keep blood sugar levels stable. Hydration also allows your kidneys to flush out excess blood sugar through urination. Stick to water and herbal teas, and infusions. Avoid sweetened drinks that will raise your blood sugar, drive weight gain and increase the risk of diabetes.
Choose foods with a low glycemic index (GI) and low glycemic load (GL)The glycemic index of a food indicates how fast the food can raise blood glucose in comparison to pure sugar. The glycemic load of a food is determined by its GI x the amount of carbohydrate available in a food. The GL indicates how fast blood glucose will rise in proportion to the carbohydrate content and its GI. Eating low GI and low GL foods are shown to reduce long term blood sugar levels in diabetics, and this goes hand in hand with limiting the number of carbs consumed overall. Include more foods like wild-caught seafood, pastured or grass-fed meat, pasture raised eggs, oats, beans, legumes, sweet potato, non-starchy vegetables, and most fruits.
Load up on Healthy Fats & Protein Consume healthy protein and healthy fats with each meal. Adding protein, healthy fats and fiber will lower the glycemic load of a meal to help balance blood sugar levels. Healthy fats include virgin olive oil, flax oil, avocados, omega-3 from wild-caught fish (e.g. wild salmon, sardines, mackerel; also protein sources). Examples of healthy protein include chicken, fish (wild caught), tempeh, legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Avoid Trans Fats Trans fats have also been linked to interfering with insulin sensitivity, therefore avoiding all trans fats is important in blood sugar management. Trans fats are found in hydrogenated oils, such as margarine and vegetable oils. Trans fats are also found in a lot of processed foods that use vegetable oils as an ingredient. Trans fats also cause free radical damage which leads to insulin resistance and low insulin secretion. Unhealthy saturated fat should also be avoided, but consuming healthy saturated fats, such as coconut oil and avocados, will help to balance blood sugar levels and also promote satiety.
Reduce carbohydrate intake Our body breaks carbs down into sugar and then insulin moves those sugars into our cells. When you are eating too many carbs too often, this process will fail and raise our blood glucose levels. The rate of carb breakdown can be reduced by combining these foods with healthy fats and protein, as this will increase digestion time and absorption time. The best carbs are higher in fiber (like brown rice/quinoa) or a variety of vegetables.
Increase fiber intake
Fiber slows down carb digestion and sugar absorption causing a steady rise in blood sugar levels. High fiber diets can help manage type-1 diabetes by improving blood sugar control and reducing blood sugar lows. Try eating foods high in fiber like vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and low gi fruits like berries are the perfect option.
Other high fiber foods include: avocados, pears, raspberries, blackberries, acorn squash, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, quinoa, and psyllium husk.
It is also important to note that meal times play a big role in blood sugar management, too. Sticking to regular meals at regular meal times daily and avoiding skipping meals will help to regulate your body and blood sugar levels.
Balanced meals :
- ¾ non-starchy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, zucchini, kale, collards, bok choy, green beans, brussels sprouts, spinach)
- 1/8th – protein (e.g. fish, chicken, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, protein powder)
- 1/8th – starchy vegetables (e.g. sweet potato, beans, brown rice)
- + 1 tbsp healthy oils (e.g. virgin olive oil, flax oil, organic butter, coconut oil)
Exercising regularly will help you lose weight and increase your insulin sensitivity. Increased insulin sensitivity means your cells are able to use the available sugars in your bloodstream. This also helps your muscles use blood sugar for energy and muscle contraction. Exercise can range from any form of movement like weight lifting, running, walking, jogging, biking, dancing, hiking, swimming, rollerblading, yoga, Pilates, etc.… as long as you are moving, you are exercising!
Stress Management is very important when trying to control your blood sugar levels. Hormones, such as glucagon and cortisol, are secreted during times of stress causing blood sugar levels to rise. Exercise, meditation, yoga, tech breaks and relaxation can significantly reduce stress and help to lower blood sugar levels.
Sleep Everyone needs quality sleep most nights because poor sleeping habits affect our blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity which can increase appetite and promote weight gain. Sleep deprivation decreases the release of growth hormones and increases cortisol levels which both play a very important role in blood sugar control. Aiming for a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep to allow the body to rest and recover. Shoot for 10-6 or 11-7
Berberine – Berberine is an alkaloid compound that effects similar to those of metformin (a standard drug given to diabetic patients to improve insulin action). Berberine reduces insulin resistance and normalizes lipid profiles.
How to use: As a supplement, divided into 3x/day doses to keep its levels stable in the body. The recommended dose is 500 mg per dose for a total of 1,500 mg per day.
Gymnema Sylvestre – promotes glucose utilization in the cells which lowers blood glucose. Prevents the liver from releasing more glucose into the bloodstream while lowering cholesterol and triglycerides.
How to use: As a tincture, 1 ml (28 drops), 1-2 times daily with a small amount of water.
Cinnamon – positive effect on glycemic control. Improves insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control.
How to use: Opt for the organic source of cinnamon known as ‘Ceylon.’ It can be incorporated into baking, smoothies, or in tonics or teas as a powder. It can also be diffused for gentle inhalations with a diffuser.
Ginger – soothes stomach and aids in digestion. It normalizes blood sugar levels, has an anti-hyperglycemic effect, lowers cholesterol, and soothes the digestive tract helping cope with acid reflux which is often accompanied by diabetes.
How to use: As ginger is versatile it can be added into cooking as powder, grounded for teas, juiced or infused into favorite drinks.
Turmeric – antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, help manage more stable blood sugar levels. Boosts immunity and prevents infections.
How to use: It can be added into cooking, soups or stews, along with tablet supplementation. The recommended dosage for mood balancing is 500 mg twice daily.
Fenugreek – helps lower blood sugar by slowing down the process of digestion and the absorption of carbohydrates in the small intestine.
How to use: Can be added into cooking for various recipes, as well as capsule supplementation at 2 capsules of 500 mg 1-3x per day.
Chromium Picolinate – Insulin uptake into cells is blocked without adequate levels of chromium. Many studies have demonstrated that supplemental chromium picolinate facilitates glucose entry into cells.
How to take: Taken through capsule supplementation, chromium dosage varies between gender and age ranges. Recommendation for Teen girls (14-18) is 24 micrograms, Teen boys (14-18) is 35 micrograms, Adults women (19-50) is 25 micrograms and adult men (19-50) is 35 micrograms daily.
Vitamin C – It appears that people with poor blood sugar management tend to be deficient in vitamin C because the transport of vitamin C into cells is enhanced by insulin action - Incorporating sources of vitamin C daily can help lower/regulate blood sugar levels along with lower LDL cholesterol levels.
How to take: Vitamin C is found in many food sources such as kiwis, bell peppers, leafy green veggies, broccoli & strawberries to name a few. Supplementation through capsules/power(mixed into water). Recommended daily dose for adults - male: 90 mg & female 75 mg.
Vitamin E – 400 – 800 IU of vitamin E improves insulin action and vitamin E also acts as an antioxidant protecting against cell membrane damage.
How to take: Food sources such as avocados, almonds, spinach, olive oil & sweet potatoes. It can be applied topically over the skin and taken via capsule supplementation. For men & woman 19+years the recommended daily is 22.5 IU.
Zinc – Zinc is a mineral required to make insulin. Many people are at risk of being deficient in zinc as few people get enough through their diet alone.
How to take: 30 mg of zinc recommended to be taken daily.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Omega-3 fatty acids improve insulin sensitivity, help to lower triglycerides and blood pressure.
How to take: The recommended daily intake of EPA+DHA is approximately 1,000mg.