Where do you fall on the blood sugar spectrum?
Did you know that poor blood sugar regulation can lead to weight gain, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, cancer, dementia, ovarian disease…the list goes on and on!
Blood sugar is not only about diabetes; there is a whole spectrum of blood sugar disorders. Why is blood sugar regulation so important to your health?
If you look to the FMHP you will see that blood sugar is above Detoxification and below Stress/ Inflammation. There is a very good reason I have placed it there; you might even call it physio-logical.
Let me explain why it is at Level #3. Your liver is your primary organ of Detoxification. In addition to detoxifying your body it stores your blood sugar in the form of glycogen. When you need a boost in blood sugar, the liver releases its stores of glycogen and your blood sugar comes up. This is why I have put Detoxification/liver at level #2 of the pyramid.
I have also placed it below level #4 Stress/Inflammation. This is because your adrenal glands are at level #4 and they too can raise your blood sugar. Your adrenal glands release cortisol and chemicals called catecholamines that raise your blood sugar.
A healthy liver makes it much easier for your body to maintain optimum blood sugar levels between meals; but we don’t want to place the burden of blood sugar regulation on your stress glands (adrenal glands). When your adrenal glands are called upon to raise your blood sugar, this acts like a stress response. In our daily lives, we have enough stressors; we don’t need to add low blood sugar to the mix.
So what are the two extremes of poor blood sugar regulation?
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
Low blood sugar is a common problem and occurs often if your liver is not healthy or if your adrenal glands are fatigued. When your blood sugar drops too low it puts a lot of stress on your brain. Your brain uses 20% of all the energy your body makes; it requires more energy/blood sugar than any other organ in your body. It is also the first organ to suffer when blood sugar drops.
Symptoms of low blood sugar:
- Brain fog
- Irritability / “hangry”
Your food choices (diet) will have a significant impact on your ability to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. In general, high sugar / high carbohydrate meals will
cause blood sugar to rise and then crash resulting in low blood sugar. Meals higher in protein, fat and healthy carbohydrates provide a steady stream of fuel for your brain and body. As you can see from the symptoms listed above, the main organ that suffers from low blood sugar is your brain. Better diet choices can help you get off the blood sugar rollercoaster
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)
High blood sugar is at the other end of the blood sugar spectrum. This occurs in stages ranging from insulin resistance to diabetes. This involves another chemical called insulin. Insulin is produced by your pancreas. Insulin unlocks your cells and permits blood sugar to enter the cell. A common problem today is insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when your cells begin to ignore insulin; they do not permit blood sugar to enter. Your body’s natural response is to produce even more insulin; trying to get the sugar into the cells. This works for a while but then the cells of your body ignore insulin even more; if this goes on too long you can develop diabetes.
- Weight gain
- Liver disease
- Ovary disease (PCOS)
- High cholesterol and triglycerides
- Heart disease
High blood sugar can also affect your brain; Alzheimer’s disease has been referred to as “Type 3 diabetes.” The brain becomes “insulin resistant” and is not able to perform its normal functions. You can be in a state of insulin resistance and not yet have high blood sugar; this is why appropriate blood testing is essential…you want to identify blood sugar problems BEFORE diabetes occurs. This is where the assistance of a functional medicine doctor can be helpful. They can order tests that tell you where you are at on the blood sugar and insulin spectrum…BEFORE major problems occur. High sugar anywhere is the body, including the brain leads to damage. Let’s see what happens to the body when insulin resistance progresses to diabetes.
Diabetes can occur when your cells are ignoring insulin to the extreme or when your pancreas begins to fail in it’s production of insulin…it burns itself out. In either case your blood sugar is high and stays high too much of the time. Most you are familiar with diabetes but here are few of the problems that occur when blood sugar is high for too long:
- Eye damage
- Kidney damage
- Skin diseases
- Nerve damage / pain and numbness
- Foot and leg damage (may require amputation)
- Heart disease
- Brain disease including Alzheimer’s disease
- Hearing loss
- Digestive system problems
- Sexual dysfunction
Diabetes doubles the risk of pancreas, liver and endometrial cancer. It also increases the risk of breast and bladder cancer up to 50%.
As you can see, poor blood sugar regulation can lead to many health problems and affect various levels of the FMHP (functional medicine health pyramid). This is why I have placed it at #3 on the pyramid.
Many health issues will not improve if you have blood sugar problems. In our functional medicine office, we routinely test fasting blood sugar, your blood sugar average over the past 2-3 months called an HbA1c and fasting insulin. This gives us a good snapshot of where you are at with your blood sugar and insulin levels. If you have diabetes, additional tests provide even more information about your blood sugar regulation.
In my next article I will be covering Stress and Inflammation which I have placed at Level #4 of the FMHP.
I hope you have found value in this information.
I wish you health, happiness and a better quality of life!
If you would like more information about functional medicine and integrative medicine or Dr. Sexton go to www.napervilleintegratedwellness.com
Do your own research, inform yourself and ask lots of questions. When collecting information, you MUST consider the source. There is no shortage of false, misleading, outdated, profit-driven and utterly biased information in healthcare today; even from the most respected sources and organizations.
This approach to healthcare is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate, or prevent any disease. Why? The FDA enforces its position that these words can only be used with drugs. This approach does not use drugs.