10 Surprising Facts About Blood Sugars
Many people assume the only people who need to pay attention to their blood sugar are those who have diabetes, hypoglycemia or who are grossly obese. The truth is that everyone should be aware of how blood sugars affect their overall health and wellness. Glucose is one of the body’s primary sources of energy, and is the only fuel the brain can effectively utilize. It is therefore very important for everyone to have a basic knowledge about blood sugars. Insulin resistance is a common syndrome that causes the body’s cells to have difficulty absorbing insulin. The person’s pancreas works fine and secretes plenty of insulin, but the body cannot use it correctly. For more information about insulin and insulin resistance, please read: Surprising Facts About Insulin and Modern Epidemic: Metabolic Syndrome.
The following facts about blood sugars may surprise you:
- Blood sugars impact emotions in huge ways: A blood sugar that is even mildly low or high changes brain chemistry enough to influence emotions. Low or high blood sugars tend to increase irritability, anger and may even cause feelings of paranoia. Two studies done in 2010 found that couples who had the highest degree of aggression and antagonism toward each other also had the lowest blood sugars. The study leaders concluded that maintaining stable blood sugars was a key to a happy marriage. That may be a stretch, but I believe they are on the right track.
- Exercise sometimes raises blood sugars: Most people assume that exercise lowers their blood sugar. Unfortunately, that is not always true. Exercising without eating a meal, or exercising when blood glucose levels are already above 250, may cause the body to release glycogen (a potent form of sugar) from the liver. Why does the body do that? Because it does not feel it has enough energy to fuel the exercise. Exercising without eating an hour or so before a workout sends the body into emergency mode and may result in higher blood sugars. Many Type 1 diabetics (myself included) can vouch that blood sugars may rise to dangerous levels if exercise is engaged in without providing adequate fuel. This is also pertinent to those trying to lose weight, as glycogen causes a healthy pancreas to secrete high levels of insulin, and insulin is a hormone that signals the body to store fat. It is therefore advisable to eat a snack containing a combination of protein, carbohydrates and fat prior to working out. An apple with almond butter is a perfect choice.
- Dehydration raises blood sugar: Those of you who follow me know I recommend that everyone drink half their weight (in pounds) in ounces of water daily. Drinking this much water ensures cells remain hydrated. When dehydration occurs, the sugar in the blood stream becomes concentrated. This causes the pancreas to secrete more insulin. As I explained above, insulin is a fat storage hormone that has negative effects on weight loss or weight maintenance. Drinking water is a simple fix to helping maintain stable blood sugars.
- Intravenous Vitamin C can cause false readings of high blood sugar: IV Vitamin C is commonly used in a variety of nutritional IV therapies. Those with blood sugar imbalances need to be very careful following the administration of a Vitamin C IV, as blood sugar readings will appear high when they actually are not. This can lead to taking excess insulin, thereby causing dangerously low blood glucose levels. If receiving intravenous Vitamin C, work with your practitioner to track glucose readings and determine how to adjust your bolus and sliding scale.
- Hormones other than insulin impact blood sugars: Most women with diabetes know their sugars tend to run high during the week prior to their period. Although this affects women with diabetes most strongly, the effect also occurs in women who do not have diabetes. The hormones released prior to menstruation tend to decrease insulin sensitivity. The end result is higher than normal blood sugars. For best results, cut back on carbohydrates and increase exercise to naturally reverse this effect of PMS.
- High cholesterol is usually caused by high blood sugars, not by fat consumption: People who have high cholesterol levels should always ask their doctor to check their blood insulin level. (See The Top 3 Blood Tests Almost Everyone Should Request for more info.) When the body has excess sugar in the blood stream which it cannot lower due to insulin resistance, the body will – in simple terms – convert the sugar to fat. This conversion tends to cause high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. When people reduce their carbohydrate consumption and improve their insulin sensitivity, cholesterol and triglyceride levels often return to normal fairly quickly.
- A lack of sleep can raise blood sugar levels: According to a study published in the Journal of Diabetes Care, people who get less than 4 hours of sleep a night often have decreased insulin sensitivity and increased blood glucose levels. Again, this effect negatively affects everyone, not just diabetics.
- Hot temperatures affect blood sugar levels: On a very hot day, blood vessels dilate, which can increase the speed of insulin absorption. This can cause lower than normal blood sugars for many people. Other people experience very hot days in the opposite extreme. The stress caused by extremely hot conditions cause their body to excrete glycogen to provide energy to deal with the stress. This raises blood glucose levels and will cause a rise in insulin secretion in those who do not have Type 1 diabetes.
- Coffee raises blood sugars, even if nothing is added to it: The caffeine in coffee causes a spike in blood sugar that may last throughout the day. The caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands, which in turn stimulate the liver to secrete glycogen. (See a trend, here?) The glycogen causes blood sugars and insulin levels to significantly raise. This can have a negative effect on anyone trying to lose weight. For best results, drink organic, Swiss Water Process decaffeinated coffee without added sweeteners or creamers.
- Some foods lower blood sugars: Some foods are known to contain insulin imitators that effectively lower blood sugar. The lowering effect may be minimal depending on the quantity eaten and the person’s personal physiology, but these foods are known to be helpful for weight loss and for blood sugar control. (Please note that these foods should never be substituted for insulin injections.) The following foods are known to contain insulin imitators: avocado, cinnamon, fenugreek, Jerusalem artichokes, bitter melon, and nopal (prickly pear) cactus.
Did any of these surprise you? Which one was the biggest surprise?
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