There’s no question about it: balancing blood sugar is critical for many aspects of your health—hormone balance, fertility, quality sleep, body composition goals, and more. Whether you’re diabetic or not, excessive, repeated blood sugar spikes and crashes aren’t fun for anyone. In the short-term, they make us feel tired, irritable, and hungry. In the long-run, unstable blood sugar can overwhelm your body’s normal, healthy responses (hello, inflammation, weight gain, and a slew of chronic diseases). But without a continuous glucose monitor, how can you tell if your blood sugar is out of whack? More on that, below. Today, we’re discussing the importance of blood sugar and how to achieve glucose balance.
WHAT IS BLOOD SUGAR?
Let’s start here. Without knowing exactly what it means, you’ve probably heard of the term. Balancing blood sugar is key—it plays a role in energy, feelings, cognitive function, and more. In fact, you may already be familiar with spikes and dips in blood sugar. Hello, hanger! That said, few recognize its affects on a daily basis. In this article, you’ll learn easy tips to master your blood sugar.
BLOOD SUGAR = THE AMOUNT OF SUGAR (OR GLUCOSE) IN YOUR BLOOD AT ANY GIVEN TIME.
Sugar, or glucose, is the body’s main source of energy. The term “blood sugar” refers to the amount of energy (sugar) present in our bloodstream at one set time. Sugar is produced when we break down any form of carbohydrate. Be it an orange, slice of cake, or piece of toast, that carb is absorbed into our bloodstream. Immediately or eventually, carbohydrates are used as a source of energy.
The goal: stable blood sugar
Throughout the day, our blood sugar levels fluctuate. They rise (as soon as we wake, after meals, during exercise, in moments of stress, etc.) and fall. These fluctuations are normal. In fact, we expect a steady rise in glucose after our snacks and meals. However, we want to minimize really high spikes and equally low dips. In part, because these sugar spikes and crashes don’t make us feel our best. Over time, as mentioned, they can lead to unwanted health conditions. In essence, a healthy blood sugar response is one where we have glucose balance after eating. On the other hand, an unhealthy blood sugar response is characterized by a rapid spike in blood sugar followed by a dip below baseline levels—known as a blood sugar crash.
WHAT ARE NORMAL BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS?
A normal blood sugar range will vary. For someone who hasn’t eaten or drank anything besides water (also known as the “fasted state”), normal blood sugar is below 100 mg/dL. Anything at or above 100 mg/dL is considered borderline high, and a fasting blood sugar of 126 mg/dL or higher is often indicative of diabetes. In a non-fasted state, blood sugar should be between 70-130 mg/dL, and should fall below 140 mg/dL two hours after eating a meal. You can learn about your specific blood sugar response, here.
How can I tell if my blood sugar is out of whack?
A big tell-tale sign is noticing a blood sugar crash—usually 1-2 hours after eating a meal high in carbohydrates (without adequate protein and healthy fats!). This happens when your blood glucose rises too high too fast, and your insulin overcompensates. You may feel sweaty, shaky, light-headed, or experience brain fog. Another sign is strong carbohydrate cravings, especially in the afternoon or evening. Typically, it’s a sign you haven’t properly fueled your body throughout the day—especially for breakfast.
Consequences of glucose imbalance
Constantly riding the blood sugar rollercoaster can make you moody, tired, and craving carbs. Repeated often enough, these peaks and dips can result in a cascade of inflammatory responses—insulin resistance, hormonal imbalance, weight gain, and unnecessary stress on the body. Furthermore, research shows that huge variability in blood sugar responses is also associated with gut bacteria imbalance.
for glucose balance, should you go low-carb?
This is one of the hottest debates in the nutrition world. Some believe that low-carbohydrate diets are key to balancing blood sugar, reversing insulin resistance, and weight loss. My two-cents? This is completely bio-individual. For the most, low-carb isn’t the answer. Rather, it’s about quality over quantity. I particularly don’t recommend it for women of reproductive age. Eating too few carbs puts stress on the adrenals and lowers sex hormone production. When you aren’t eating enough carbs, you’re like irritable, anxious, not sleeping well, and don’t have a menstrual cycle. Ultimately, carb tolerance is different for everyone. The only way to know is to play around and experiment with what works best for you. You can find your sweet spot by wearing a continuous glucose monitor!
how to achieve glucose balance
Below are four steps to help you achieve stable blood sugar, improve your insulin sensitivity, and either reverse or prevent diabetes.
1. Focus on a balanced, lower glycemic diet
What—and how much—you eat is an extremely important factor in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Rather than cut carbs, choose more whole food forms of carbohydrates instead of super processed or refined ones. Choose whole grains like steel-cut or rolled oats, brown rice, quinoa, etc. Enjoy beans, legumes and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash. Furthermore, load up on omega-3 fats—salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, and soybeans—as well as high-quality protein. At every meal, you want to prioritize protein, healthy fats, non-starchy carbs (broccoli, eggplant, summer squash, bell peppers, etc.) and slow-digesting carbs (oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes, etc.). Lastly, eat meals at regular intervals (for most, that’s every 3-4 hours). Here’s a meal plan to get started!
2. Manage stress
Stress elevates cortisol—one of our body’s main stress hormones. This can increase blood sugar and insulin levels. Cortisol also increases secretion of leptin, a hormone that plays a role in appetite control. Leptin secretion can reduce satiety and make you feel more hungry. Find ways to lower your daily stress via meditation and setting proper boundaries.
3. Move Your Body
All exercise is beneficial for overall health and managing blood sugar levels. However, a moderately vigorous effort—such as brisk walking, running, cycling, or strength training—for at least 30-40 minutes (3-5 times a week) can significantly benefit insulin regulation and blood sugar levels. Don’t underestimate the power of a moderate, post-meal walk!
4. Use supplements, strategically
Taking high-quality supplements can help increase insulin sensitivity and decrease blood sugar levels. As always, consult a qualified health care practitioner before starting any new supplements—especially if you are taking medications. Consider these supplements to help support your better blood sugar regimen:
- Multivitamin (use code ‘EDIE20’ for 20%-off!)—supports any nutritional deficiencies
- Pre/probiotic (use code ‘EDIE20’ for 20%-off!)—supports gut health
- Vitamin D (use code ‘EDIE20’ for 20%-off!)—supports immune and hormonal health
- Fish oil—helps decrease inflammation
- Magnesium—helps manage insulin and carbohydrate metabolism
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider.