Less Sugar, Better Health

Blood Sugar Regulation is important to optimal health and well-being because it affects all aspects of our physiology. It is involved in energy production, tissue integrity, hormone balance as well as brain health; including mood, memory and cognitive function. Blood Sugar regulation also plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy immune system. As the world is dealing with the COVID 19 pandemic, supporting and maintaining a healthy immune system is a priority for a lot of us.

On average, Americans consume 150 pounds of sugar a year. That’s a lot of sugar! It’s everywhere. Sugar is a major ingredient in most processed  and refined foods. It’s in bread, soft drinks, fruit juices, breakfast cereals, yogurt, ketchup, salad dressing and even cigarettes. Sugar has many names which makes it challenging to identify. Some of these names include corn syrup, rice syrup, agave, barley malt, maltodextrin, dextrose, and sucrose. You can find a more complete list can here. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/56-different-names-for-sugar

https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/nhp/documents/sugar.pdf

The body likes to keep blood sugar(glucose) levels at 70 – 90 mg/dl. High intake of sugar can send your blood glucose levels on a roller coaster ride with extreme ups and downs. When we eat large amounts of sugar and refined foods, our blood glucose levels spike, and insulin is released by the pancreas to bring levels back down. Blood glucose levels can then fall below ideal, in which case the central nervous system signals the adrenal glands to release epinephrine and cortisol to raise levels back up. If and when we consume more bad carb foods, the blood glucose levels again spike and the cycle repeats itself all over again. When blood glucose levels are constantly elevated after eating, large amounts of insulin are continuously being released as well. Over time our cells begin to ignore the presence of insulin and become resistant, which is known  as insulin resistance. The adrenals also become taxed with the constant demand to secrete cortisol and epinephrine.

When we eat more sugar than our body can use, it is stored  in the liver, skeletal muscles and ultimately as fat in adipose tissue. Obesity and chronic inflammation results from over consumption of simple sugars. Higher inflammatory markers are commonly found along with the increase of inflammatory messengers known as cytokines. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/91/1/280S/4597143?searchresult=1

Sugar consumption is also is a major contributor to conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, cancer and immune dysfunction. A diet predominately consisting of processed foods and refined sugars lacks vital nutrients that our cells need to function optimally. This leads to nutrient deficiencies and a weakened immune system. Sugar also wreaks havoc on digestive health and the protective microbiome. It’s a contributor to intestinal permeability, commonly referred to leaky gut. You can read more about my explanation of leaky gut here. http://hopefoundwellness.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-leaky-gut/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20573797

Anyone stressed right now? Under stressful conditions, elevated levels of cortisol into are released into our systems, thereby raising blood glucose levels.  Stress blocks your body from releasing insulin and that leads to glucose to accumulate. Chronic stress and high sugar diet are not a good combination! 

https://www.diabetes.co.uk/stress-and-blood-glucose-levels.html

Fortunately, there are dietary and lifestyle recommendations that help regulate blood sugar and improve your health. We will look at a few helpful recommendations. Eating a balanced plate that includes quality proteins, fats and lots of low carb veggies will keep blood glucose levels stable. A nutrient dense, whole foods diet will fuel your body and supply vital healing nutrients. Make sure to include plenty of:

  • high quality grass-fed meats, pastured poultry, wild caught seafood
  • organic, local, seasonal produce 
  • healthy fats like olive oil, ghee, avocados, nut, seeds and coconut oil
  • aim to eat a plate that consists 50% of low carb veggies, 25% quality meat as protein and 25% starchy veggies such a half a sweat potato, and 2 tablespoons of good fats such as olive oil,  grass fed butter/ghee, or coconut oil.
  • Avoid drinking sugary drinks, refined sugars and flour. Check out these tips concerning sugar detox. https://drhyman.com/blog/2014/03/06/top-10-big-ideas-detox-sugar/

Managing stress is essential to regulate blood sugar levels. Common forms of stress include work, relationships, death of a loved one, and loss of a job. Other causes of stress that may be subtle include diet, chronic illness, lack of self-care, fears and environmental toxins. Prioritizing the need to identify, manage and reduce stress is essential to improving your health. 

Getting a good night rest is a must! Chris Kresser says in his book The Paleo code“ improving the quality, duration, and timing of sleep is one of the single most powerful interventions you can make to improve your health.” Sleep reduces stress, improves blood sugar regulation, as well as allows your body to heal and detoxify. Tips to getting good sleep include:

  • Have a set, consistent schedule of going to bed and getting up, allowing for adequate rest; ideally without the need for an alarm clock to wake up.
  • Make sure the bedroom environment is dark, cool and comfortable. Black out curtains are a great way to ensure proper darkness. Make certain to charge your phone in another room.
  • Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bed time, especially high carb, sugary snacks. A handful of almonds would be a better choice if you feel the need.
  • Avoid using electronics 2 hours before bed time due to the blue light stimulation that will disrupt your circadian rhythm.
  • Avoid caffeine after 12:00 pm.

Appropriate movement has many benefits of course but it is a great way to help manage stress, lower blood glucose levels and improve quality of sleep. Appropriate is the key word here. Excessive exercise can be harmful to your health similarly to a sedentary lifestyle. Excessive exercise can lead to dysregulated cortisol, increased risked for immune related illness and digestive conditions. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3587394/

Don’t let lack of time be a deterrent to getting movement in. Moving throughout the day still has great benefits. If you are pressed for time do 10-15 minutes in the morning, take a 10-15-minute walk at lunch and add another 10-15-minute workout in the evening. If you spend a lot of time at a desk, make certain to get up and move/stretch every hour, it will make a big impact on your health and stress level. Here are some ideas to get moving at different intensity levels

  • Low Intensity
  • Walking
  • Stretching
  • Restorative Yoga

  • Medium Intensity
  • Swimming
  • Pilates
  • Dancing
  • Jogging
  • High Intensity
  • Running
  • Cycling
  • HIIT
  • Hot Yoga

After reading this post, I hope you have a better understanding of the role that blood sugar regulation has on our health, the negative effects of high sugar foods, as well as the role that stress plays in blood glucose dysregulation. I also want you to be empowered with the knowledge that you can take actionable steps to improve and balance your blood glucose levels and overall health. Diet, sleep and movement are great areas to focus on, so you can live a life with vitality and health. 

Resources: 

Trescott. M, Alt. A, (2016) The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook. Rodale. New York City, NY.

Kresser. C, (2013) The Paleo Cure. Little Brown Spark. New York City, NY.

Sanfilippo, D. (2012). Practical Paleo. Victory Belt. Las Vegas, NA.

https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/45-alarming-statistics-on-americans-sugar-consumption-and-the-effects-of-sugar-on-americans-health/

Tips to Staying Healthy in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

My planned post was about the foundational blood sugar regulation, but instead, I want to talk about what is on all of our minds right now. We are truly living in crazy times! Our lives have been disrupted by this novel Sars-Cov-2 virus and there is a lot of concern and anxiety about the COVID 19 illness that it causes. I want to be of service and my intent in this post is to give some helpful ways that we can support our immune systems and better our over-all health. There is no better time like the present to focus on our health and well-being! Just as a reminder, I am not a doctor. If you are feeling unwell, please contact your physician or call a COVID 19 hotline near you. As a holistic, functional nutritionist, I would like to focus on dietary and lifestyle recommendations that can help us support our health.

  • Whole foods are the best way to lower inflammation and strengthen your bodies on a cellular level. Avoid ultra-processed foods that are full of refined flours and sugars. 
  • Eating colorful, fresh fruits and veggies will give you vital nutrients that your body needs. Organic and seasonal is even better. The good news is that fresh produce has not been lacking recently! Farmers markets and co-ops are great places to find fresh local produce. Apples, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, butternut squash, turnips, cabbage, onions,  and garlic will last a long time on the counter.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18855727

  • Consuming quality proteins such as grass- fed beef, pasture raised poultry and eggs along with wild caught seafood. It has been difficult to find meat at times, but I have seen plenty of eggs and packaged sustainably wild caught salmon, tuna, and sardines on the shelves.  Wild planet and Safe Catch are great safe options. A quality beef jerky is a good, shelf stable option. Quality meats are still available through local ranchers and farmers if you can’t find it at the store.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17403271

  • Eating good fats like nuts, avocados, flax oil, olive oil, coconut oil, ghee and grass fed – butter, tallow, and duck fat for essential fatty acids. They will supply the omega 3, 6, and 9’s that our bodies need to help with inflammation and immune regulatory function. Some fats are more shelf stable than others. Make sure you store nuts, flax oil and butter in the fridge.
  • Consuming foods that contain high in cysteine and glycine are important for glutathione production which is helps with for lung protection and offers defense against infection. These foods include quality whey, spinach, pastured poultry, low-toxic seafood, legumes. Consider supplementation with glutathione and NAC. If you have Hoshimoto’s try to eat most of your spinach cooked to avoid suppressing your thyroid.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3048347/

  • Eating 2-3 Brazil nuts per day for selenium. Shrimp, sardines and salmon are also high in selenium.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4288282/

  • Include Vitamin A and D rich foods such as responsibility-raised animal foods, especially liver, egg yolks, and fish eggs. Plant sources are orange, red, and yellow veggies. Get outside and make some vitamin D!  Your abdomen produces the most vitamin D by the way.

https://www.reaearchgate.net/…/14402480_Vitamin_A_retinoids

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3308600/

  • Zinc rich foods such as oysters, grass fed meat, almonds are helpful for immune function

https://www.researchgate.net/…/47794995_Zn_Inhibits_Coronav

  • Vitamin C rich foods such as papaya, kiwi, red bell peppers, acerola cherries  and more exotic fruits like camu camu and amalaki may decrease the inflammation associated with COVID- 19

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/305624280_Vitamin_C_inhibits_the_activation_of_the_NLRP3_inflammasome_by_scavengin g_mitochondrial_ROS

  • Increase in melatonin may be helpful, so try to get some good sleep. Foods that contain melatonin include tart cherries and pistachios. Some postulate that children are not being affected due to their much higher levels of melatonin.
  • Luteolin inhibits viral activity via furin inhibition. Luteolin is high in juniper berries, dried oregano, celery seed, celery and radicchio.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0166354216306635?fbclid=lwAR3HiuF9sbhkZPGK9o60-E2FaR9JpQCOsqFOmAgUppnG1xLF39h_Pt2Yps

  • Tannins in black tea  and Chinese Puer tea may inhibit viral replication of SARS -CoV-2. An organic decaf black tea will still be beneficial. Proper hydration is important for your over all health. A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of clean filtered water.  For example, someone who weighs 150 lbs. will want to drink a minimum of 75 ounces of water a day. A pinch of sea salt or a drop or two of trace minerals will help with the absorb and uptake of water. Be cautious of the intake of diuretics such a caffeinated drinks, alcohol and fruit juices. 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1142193/?fbclid=lwAR1nEXWI25kezt95A1E0jZCAK23vflAm84AF0TofvqMCE2cXN0EncTbyM0U

  • Since about 70 percent of our immunity is in our gut, supporting the gut is important. Eating fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and grass-fed yogurt. Bone broth is gut healing and a good source of glycine, a precursor to glutathione. Consider supplementation with a good quality spore probiotic and beneficial yeast S. Boulardii.  

Lifestyle recommendations are important to strengthen  and support your system along with helping to stop the spread of the COVID- 19 illness. Managing stress is essential to our mental, emotional and physical health. Movement, Sleep, Prayer, Meditation and Mindfulness help with stress management.

  • Movement- Exercise increases the production of nitric oxide which provides antiviral protection and sweating aids in detox. FYI- Beets and spinach are rich in nitric oxide. Going for a walk offers fresh air and exposure to sunshine. Since gyms are closed and we physically distancing ourselves, virtual workouts a great way to keep moving. There are a lot of free virtual workouts available right now. I have posted some of these resources on my Facebook page. Make certain to be gentle with yourself, listen to your body and don’t over do it. Personally, I enjoy walking, yoga and have added barre workouts to get a good sweat in. These are all low impact forms of movement and easier on my joints.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2803113

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/articles?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0031688

  • Adequate Sleep- Healing and detoxification happens while we sleep and as I stated earlier melatonin may be important in the fight against the viral infection. Make sure you practice good sleep hygiene habits like at sticking to a set bed time, maintain a cool dark room, and avoiding blue light from electronics  and sugar intake at least 2 hours before bed time. As well, avoiding caffeine after 2pm is a helpful to a good night’s sleep.
  • Prayer and Meditation relieves stress, helping our spiritual ,emotional and physical well-being. Giving our concerns and anxieties over to God, takes a heavy burden from our shoulders. Breath work and meditation are useful tools in managing stress levels. Often, I focus on a favorite bible verse or pray while I’m doing yoga stretches.
  • Mindfulness is essentially a practice of being present in the moment. Mindful eating, where you are focused on your meal with gratitude, connecting with your loved ones with out distraction form electronics is a great way to practice mindfulness. As well, just refocusing your attention from the current situation to being present with your family, enjoying the time that you have been given to enjoy the moment is a great way to be mindful. Our family has been playing games and trying to have fun as much as possible.

There are specific recommendations that can help to flatten the curve of the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

  • Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds taking care to scrub all surfaces of your hands. Sing happy birthday twice through as you scrub.
  • Don’t touch your mouth, eyes, or nose
  • Disinfect commonly used surfaces such as door knobs, keys, counters, remotes, computers and cell phones often.

https://examine.com/topics/coronavirus/

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html

  • Physical Distancing of 6-10 feet from others. However, staying socially connected is still vital so stay connected virtually! Call, text, skype, zoom, and google hangout with your loved ones! Laughter strengthens immunity

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2686627/

  • Stay close to home if possible. Trips to the market, pharmacy or your healthcare provider are exceptions.
  • If you have symptoms, please stay quarantined for 14-21 days. Cough and sneeze into a tissue or elbow. Where a mask if you have one available. Isolate yourself away from family as best you can. If symptoms become severe, immediately call your health care provider for guidance on how to best proceed.
  • There have been concerns about using ibuprofen and scientists are currently studying the possible risks of these medication worsening symptoms of COVID 19. My recommendation would be to avoid Ibuprofen and other NSAIDS at this time and consult your physician. If needed, Tylenol would be the safest. Tylenol does binds Glutathione so make sure to compensate with consuming glutathione promoting foods that I have mentioned.
  • Be mindful of the more susceptible populations such as the fragile, immunocompromised, elderly and those who have chronic illnesses. Consider and tend to their needs while keeping your distance.

Let me know if there is anything I can do for you. I am happy to visit and discuss your concerns. Hopefully you found this information informative and educational. Together we will get through these stressful times! I am choosing not to live in fear and am striving to trust God through this! 

I would like to thank my colleagues at Nutritional Therapy Association for compiling resources and the latest research. Stay safe and healthy!