In the western world, where simple carbohydrates are both abundant and cheap, blood sugar and its control have never been more relevant talking points. When looking at metabolic disease and many chronic diseases afflicting Americans, blood sugar control or the lack thereof is the main culprit. Yes, we’re talking about diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and many others. The data is clear; when Americans increased their consumption of simple carbohydrates, metabolic diseases rates also increased.
When talking about blood sugar, it’s more than just the sugar molecules coursing through your bloodstream; it’s also the hormones that are released because of and in response to elevated blood sugar. One of the most widely talked about blood sugar hormones is insulin, a hormone released by an organ called the pancreas that enables us to transfer the sugar in our blood into our cells.
When we eat massive amounts of simple carbohydrates, there comes a time in which our cells become less sensitive to insulin, so our pancreas tries to kick out more insulin in an attempt to get the sugar out of the bloodstream. When our cells stop responding to insulin and our blood sugar remains high, this is called insulin-resistant type 2 diabetes.
Now, if you have a blood sugar measuring machine at home (aka glucometer), you may end up taking your blood an hour after eating a carbohydrate-rich meal and find that your blood sugar says it’s over 126. This may be ok as it takes time for the insulin in your body to move the sugar from your blood into your cells, even in metabolically heavy individuals. The sustained high blood glucose levels are a problem and cause damage to other organs.
Why Sustained Blood Sugar Is a Problem
Consistently elevated blood sugar is a problem for multiple reasons. For one, high blood sugar thickens the blood placing added stress on blood vessels. Secondly, sugar suppresses the immune system, and large amounts of sugar in the blood promote inflammation. Under continuous inflammatory stress, a large demand is placed on the body as a cascade of cytokines, and other signals can damage tissues, DNA, and more.
The combination of thickened blood and inflammation is one of the reasons why the cardiovascular system can be affected in those with diabetes. Your heart is a pump pushing blood through the vast amount of both large and small blood vessels. Therefore, when high levels of sugar thicken the blood, this strains the heart’s ability to effectively pump blood into small vessels such as those in the kidneys and eyes.
Sustained high blood sugar is particularly damaging to our kidneys. This is true because our kidneys are one of the filters of the body that allow us to get rid of various byproducts of metabolism. Think of the kidneys as cheesecloth. What would happen if you were to pour a large amount of sand quickly through a cheesecloth? The cheesecloth would disintegrate or at least become more porous. In those with untreated diabetes or individuals who have sustained high blood sugar, the kidneys are often an organ system that takes a beating.
Regulating Your Blood Sugar
The best thing you can do is avoid having blood sugar problems altogether by moderating the number of carbohydrates you’re eating and regularly monitoring your blood sugar readings. This can be done through a home glucometer and regular blood panels from your general practitioner. If you’re starting to develop blood sugar regulation issues, then you need to get on top of the problem quickly by decreasing the number of simple carbohydrates in your diet.
Supplementation can be beneficial for those starting to experience blood sugar problems as many of the nutrients and botanicals used in blood sugar supplements ensure that your body is optimally utilizing and processing carbohydrates. Some botanicals even increase the sensitivity of your cells to insulin so that your body can get the sugar out of your bloodstream more quickly. Some of the most effective herbs and vitamins for blood sugar balance include:
- Cinnamon bark
- Banaba leaf
- Gymnema sylvestre
- Vitamin C
Of course, you should always be evaluated by a licensed healthcare professional if you believe you have a blood sugar regulation problem.
Dr. Kasey Nichols,
Co-Chief Medical Officer of Naguna Labs