Federated Health Charities’ mission is to improve the health and quality of life of all Ontarians by supporting 21 different health charities providing critical services to those experiencing, or affected by, illness. We believe education and prevention are key parts of supporting the health of our communities, so our weekly Health Hint series strives to provide tangible and easy to implement hints and tips on how to maintain your health, prevent disease, and enjoy increased quality of life. Check out our latest Health Hint on blood sugar. We hope you find it helpful. If you would like to join our efforts to support the health of Ontario, please consider a donation to Federated Health Charities.
What is Blood Sugar
Blood sugar refers to the level of glucose in your blood stream. Any time you eat or drink, your body engages in a process by which it breaks the food or drink down into glucose, which is then absorbed through your intestines into your bloodstream. This increase of glucose in the bloodstream causes your blood sugar levels to increase. The different functions of the body are in constant communication and this situation is no exception. The increased levels of blood sugar send messages to your pancreas, which is responsible for production of insulin. These messages are telling the pancreas to release insulin to help balance the increased levels of blood sugar. Insulin’s role is to allow the glucose to enter your cells, from the bloodstream, thus lowering the blood sugar levels in your bloodstream. The pancreas continues to release insulin levels until blood sugar levels return to normal levels and then it stops. The body then repeats this process several times throughout the day, any time you eat or drink something else. If you have balanced blood sugar you largely don’t even realize this process is happening.
Importance of Balancing Blood Sugar Levels
Because the above process happens without us even realizing it, blood sugar levels are something many of us have never given much thought to. But, if your blood sugar levels become unbalanced (either too high or too low) it can impact many different areas of your health, decrease quality of life, and put you at risk for different illnesses.
What Causes Blood Sugar Imbalances?
There are several factors that can contribute to imbalanced blood sugar levels, but a primary one is diet. A diet high in sugars and refined carbohydrates has a significant impact on blood sugar as these foods cause blood sugar levels to spike. Combine this with a diet that is low in fiber, which aids in balancing out high intake of carbs and sugars, and you will begin to see imbalances in blood sugar over time. Diet is not the only thing that leads to imbalances though. Other risk factors include a lack of physical activity, chronic stress levels, git health problems, chronic inflammation, or even genetics.
Impact of Chronically Elevated Blood Sugars
When you are consistently experiencing high levels of glucose in the bloodstream, say by a high sugar and refined carb diet, your body responds by increasing its insulin production to try and balance them out. Where things can go wrong though is that the body can get a little overzealous and end up creating too much insulin to try and manage this constant stream of glucose. This results in too high of levels of insulin circulating within your blood stream. The result of this is rapid drops in blood sugar a while after you eat due to all this insulin in your system. You might know these as “blood sugar crashes”, but the proper name for this is hypoglycemia.
Signs of Hypoglycemia
Regular blood sugar crashes can lead to a host of issues and should not be ignored. Some signs that you may be experiencing a crash could include rapid onset of fatigue, low energy, headache, sweating, shakiness, lightheadedness, nausea, brain fog, irritability, mood changes, anxiety and many more.
How to Balance Your Blood Sugars
The good news is, balancing your blood sugars is something that you have a lot of control over. Small, daily choices, over time can lead to significant changes in your blood sugar and insulin levels.
Some strategies include:
- Follow a consistent eating schedule and avoid skipping meals
- Focus on a balanced, lower glycemic diet
- Limit refined carbohydrates, choosing instead whole grain, fiber rich carb sources
- Limit sugar, where possible
- When you do consume carbs, be sure to pair them with a protein and healthy fat source
- Get in daily, enjoyable movement
- Implement stress management techniques
- Replace high-sugar drinks, such as juice, soda, or alcoholic cocktails with lower sugar options such as water, tea, black coffee or low sugar alcohol options
- Discuss blood-sugar management options with your doctor.
We hope you enjoyed our latest Health Hint!