Eat This: Blood Sugar Balance

There’s an unseen roller coaster that many of us are on each and every day. Some, ok most, of us are on the world’s one, and you know that what comes up will always come down. What am I really talking about? Blood sugar. If you haven’t heard the blood sugar balance, hypoglycemia, or hyperglycemia, you’re not alone. What you can likely identify with though is feeling moody; happy enough one moment, then low or even downright crabby the next. Your energy can look the same, maybe you have acne, hormonal imbalances like PMS, or worse, PCOS, the shortened term for polycystic ovarian syndrome, along with infertility. Then later in life, worsening menopause symptoms of anxiety, crazy hot flashes, dryness and weight gain. What about wrinkles? Do you have any of those or other signs of ageing? I sure do! The more serious health concerns of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver diseases that we talked about in episode 73 are all associated with blood sugar spikes and unbalance. Have you experienced that no matter how much sleep you get, you don’t wake up feeling rested, and you need to eat every 90 minutes throughout the day and are drawn to sweet foods? Added to that, when your energy is unsteady throughout the day, you feel tired after meals and reach for a coffee or sweet thing to get through the morning, afternoon or the whole bloody day. Can you relate to a lack of willpower when it comes to staying on track with any healthy eating habit, and find yourself saying at the start of the day vowing that you’re not going to eat the cookie, brownie, bread, or whatever your go-to is, only to find it somehow in your mouth, and you don’t know how it got there. And lastly, the less talked about symptoms that need to be shouted from the rooftops is the correlation between blood sugar balance and mental health issues of depression, anxiety, palpitations, and panic attacks. That could be a new one for you, it’s one that is sinking in deeper for me. 

I recently read a stat that said we now eat about a pound of sugar every day; the far-reaching and disastrous effect on every aspect of your health really needs to be understood. That’s not only ending up with diabetes and all that can bring, but how you feel day to day, so today on EAT THIS with Lianne, your blood sugar balance, what it is, why you need to know, and three ways you can start to really get control of yours. 

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Let’s first set the scene on blood sugar balance. Blood sugar, or glucose that comes from mainly carbohydrates, is the main sugar found in the blood. The body gets glucose from the carbohydrates that we eat and fuels our organs, muscles and nervous system. The absorption, storage and production of glucose are regulated constantly by complex processes involving the small intestine, liver and pancreas. When you eat carbohydrate-rich food, to keep the bloodstream’s glucose levels in check, the pancreas secretes the hormone insulin and sends excess glucose to the liver as glycogen. When the body needs more sugar in the blood, the pancreas then secretes another hormone called glucagon and signals the liver to turn the glycogen back into glucose and release it into the bloodstream. Insulin and glucagon work together to keep glucose balanced. 

What do you eat for breakfast? I’m hopeful, as you’re listening to this that you’re not a bowl of cornflakes, special K or any kind of cereal or toast and jam for breakfast kind of person. I certainly grew up with going to the cereal cupboard, choosing what I wanted, like Wheatabix or Shreddies, pouring it in my cereal bowl and promptly sprinkling white sugar on top, making a crust of sugar before or after I poured on the milk. It depended on the day as to which came first. Looking back, I know I had a yeast issue growing up, which is fueled by sugar, and I remember craving sugar or sweet treats daily. My mom had four wood canisters on the corner of the counter – one with flour, one with sugar, one with coffee beans and one with teabags. I can remember jumping up on the counter and taking a spoonful of sugar at times just cause it tasted good. I don’t remember my behaviour up to the moment of hitting the sugar canister, or how I was shortly after or about 90 minutes later. I was called a shit disturber on many occasions, so it’s quite possible that there was a correlation between my sugar addiction and how I made it through the day. With my genetic tendency towards diabetes, the ever-growing understanding of insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes and even dementia are on my radar. While I’m talking about sugar here, any carbohydrate or starch-based food is really what impacts your blood sugar balance; white bread, a muffin or gummy bears, they all actually have the same effect, which somehow doesn’t seem right, does it? So that fast-boxed pasta that you have as a backup when you need something quick, the crackers that you love, the boxed, bagged, or food that has a barcode is likely one that you’re going for, even if you think that it’s healthy, and I’m here to say that it’s not. Can you believe that oatmeal, heralded as a great breakfast, can increase your blood sugar so much that you’re contributing to wrinkles and heart disease while you think you’re making a healthy choice? There’s a stark difference between the flavoured quick-cook oats, flavoured or not, and steel-cut oats, for instance. For some, even sweet potato causes a glucose spike, although it sure looks like it’s a high-fibre food. Drinking a glass of juice versus an actual piece of fruit can be an unknown culprit of spiking glucose levels, although eating grapes alone can do it too. I recognize that figuring out what can cause a glucose spike can feel overwhelming, and without a new gadget called a glucose monitor – well, that’s not new for anyone with diabetes, but for anyone without that diagnosis, it’s not so new. Some practitioners use them on their patients, and one company that I know of so far, called Levels, sell a techy patch and app on your phone, so you can really understand what spikes your levels versus any food that might not. We can’t get it here in Canada yet, but I’m investigating a workaround to try it out and learn more about myself. 

So let’s talk about three ways you can change your blood sugar trajectory at your next meal, and I’d love to hear how you feel after doing them for at least a week. 

First, let’s look at the order in which you eat your meal. The worst case scenario is like when you go to a restaurant and they bring a basket of bread to the table and you’re so hungry that you dive right in. You might even think if you fill up on bread first, you won’t need to eat as much dinner. Well, that pure carb or starch is going to bring a glucose spike and depending on what you order and eat next, it could continue. So when you look at what you’re going to have for breakfast let’s say and now the oatmeal that you were having is out the window, let’s see what you can do. First, you want to have any kind of whole fruit or vegetable first. Veggie for breakfast? Sure. What if that is some greens, quickly wilted or not? With an egg and avocado, which is a double whammy, in a positive way, because it contains fat too. Then next is protein or fat. So let’s say that you do want to keep having your oatmeal for breakfast, first, it has to be steel cut. Next add whole fruits, coconut oil, almond butter or nuts, chia and hemp seeds to it. It all slows down the release of that carbohydrate. Ditch the maple syrup, honey or sugar. Let’s say you’re having dinner, eat the veggies first again, like broccoli, and if you’re having a pasta dish, then eat more of the sauce first, then the pasta itself. The starchy, sweet or proecessed food needs to be eaten at the latter part of the meal. 

Eating the elements of this meal in a particular order, you can reduce the glucose spike of the meal by 75%. So this means less aging, less inflammation, less weight gain, and fewer cravings. 

Next, have some kind of vinegar 20 – 30 minutes before you eat. You may have heard that lemon can do the trick here, but it doesn’t seem as powerful as vinegar. Any kind of vinegar, most commonly apple cider vinegar. Put one tablespoon into a large glass of water and drink. Dentists might suggest using a straw as regular consumption can affect the enamel on your teeth. What happens is that the acetic acid or vinegar hits your stomach, which can slow down what the enzyme called alpha-amylase does. Alpha-amylase is responsible for the breakdown of the starch or sugary food you just ate, and the acetic acid or vinegar makes that enzyme work slower and slow the delivery of glucose into your bloodstream. It also signals to your muscles to get ready to store the glycogen, which is a better storage place than your liver or stored as fat. Amazingly, the oncoming  ​​glucose spike can be reduced by up to 30%. And this matters because then you don’t have the high, and then the glucose crash. That can lessen cravings, the energy or mood rollercoaster you’re on, and steady yourself despite what is on your plate. 

The third hack is to use your muscles for at least 10 minutes after you eat. Your muscles are your best friend when it comes to reducing glucose spikes. Going for a walk is super easy to do after a meal and it helps metabolism as well as blood sugar levels. If that’s out, then crank the tunes and dance for 10 minutes, do the dishes with vigour and do a few squats and calf raises while at the sink. 

While you’re not going to feel like doing an exercise class, a HIIT or High-Intensity Interval training workout improves both fasting glucose and insulin sensitivity in as little as two weeks. Gentle aerobic exercise and HIIT lead to better metabolic flexibility and glucose control. 

An overall general rule of thumb is to NOT eat carbs alone. I know the chocolate is calling your name, but instead of a whole bar, have a small square and 10 almonds. Or if you need a cookie, have some greek yogurt piece of cheese and of course your vinegar first. It’ll slow down the draw to the cookie in the first place. 

Everyone’s spike level will differ as there are a bunch of other factors like your microbiome or good versus bad bacteria level in your gut and how much sleep you get a night, your stress levels and for women, your menstrual cycle. When it comes to your microbiome, the more good bacteria, the better in terms of taming glucose spikes and if you’re thinking that you’ll just have a sugar alternative or artificial sweetener, know that there’s new research suggesting that they could mess up your microbiome.  You can get rid of your sweet tooth, I promise. 

Now I haven’t talked so much about insulin resistance here but know that it’s intertwined with all that I’ve talked about. I did go over diabetes and insulin resistance in episode 134, so in a way, this is a how-to after that episode. I am working on getting an expert on to talk this through more, and share tests, levels and the finer details that a doctor, functional medicine doctor or naturopath would look at. Know that this affects all aspects of health and even the development of arthritis and sore joints because glucose spikes increase inflammation in a broad sense, but there’s a lot going. As you know if you’ve been around listening for a while, inflammation is at the root of heart disease, so let’s get that diet in check as soon as possible.

Let’s do a quick round-up of foods to look out for and apply what I’ve suggested here and see how you feel:

  1. Any refined grains; white flour, white bread, corn anything and white rice, are considered ultra-processed food. Read the label of whatever you’re about to eat and if it has wheat flouor in it, it’s likely to cause a spike. Whole grains like corn kernels, whole wheat, and brown rice contain three key parts––the bran, germ, and endosperm, and that fibre that is still a part of the grain is what will lessen it. Special note to sourdough bread – for some it can cause less of a spike than yeast-risen bread.  
  2. Processed seed oils, like soybean oil, canola oil, corn or vegetable oil are among the most common sources of fat in packaged foods, and they’re the worst oils for metabolic health. They contain large amounts of linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that prompts fat cells to store more fat, increasing the risk of obesity and insulin resistance.
  3. Sugar, fructose, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup or any of the 50 ways of saying it contains sugar, is a no-go. Look for short ingredient lists that have whole seeds, nuts, and ingredients you recognize is far better than a long list. If a food contains added sugars, refined seed oils, wheat flour, or high levels of sodium, put it back on the shelf.
  4. Supplements for better glucose balance include B vitamins so over on SproutRight.com, you’ll find Liposome B Complex liquid. Take This by Lianne’s Sunshine D3+K2 that you could be taking it already for immunity and respiratory health is essential, if you’re not, get on it. Magnesium and vitamin C, zinc, and selenium are all essential minerals. So the Magnesium bis-glycinate, and Alka C can go in your cart, along with Bio A Curcumin that ranks up there too, so you’ll find that on sproutright.com too.
  5. Get your food right, try out the order of eating your meal, take that 1 tablespoon of vinegar in a large glass of water 20 minutes before a meal, and use a straw, and exercise, dance or do a few push ups or hold a plank after your meal to use those muscles.

Know that this is the tip of the glucose and blood sugar iceberg, but this gives you some real practical tips to get you going.  

Has this helped? I want to know. Pop a comment in the social media posts that go out, send an email through liannephillipson.com or sproutright.com, rate and subscribe so others know it’s worth a listen.

2 Comments

  1. Looking forward to hearing an *interpretation* of your CGM results. (And your workaround for Levels!) l was fortunate to participate in a randomized controlled study that provided a CGM but l don’t know enough about the details to evaluate my results.

    • Great that you could try out a CGM! It’s a learning process and I’m looking for an expert to help me to interpret my results too! Stay tuned for more as it’ll be a popular episode once I get the right person!

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