We are in a blood sugar regulation crisis. According to the CDC, 90-95% of people with diabetes in the United States have Type 2 diabetes. This dysregulation is triggered by diet, lifestyle, or underlying metabolic dysfunction and has been tied to the development of chronic inflammation and degenerative disease we see today.
What is the problem with High Blood Sugar (Hyperglycemia)?
As blood sugar rises, red blood cells become more susceptible to glycation, leading to elevations in HA1C.
What is HA1C? Glycation occurs when sugar bonds to a fat or protein and is a normal part of our metabolism. In this case, imagine a red blood cell with little antennas (called glycoproteins) sticking out of it. As the cell travels through the bloodstream, these antennas attach to sugar that passes by. After the glucose enters the cell, it can combine with the hemoglobin inside. If there is too much sugar, the rate of glycation increases.
With excessive glycation, “altered” proteins are not able to function effectively. These Advanced Glycogen End Products (AGEs) contribute to inflammation and degenerative conditions similar to those associated with the aging process. In addition, AGES have been shown to damage nerves, blood vessels, kidneys, etc., commonly seen in those with diabetes.
As if that is not enough, high systemic sugar/insulin causes inflammation which can favor disease and carcinogenic activities. Conversely, inflammation disrupts mitochondrial function which leads to loss of energy. This slow down sets the stage for insulin resistance and contributes to loss of dopamine regulation–which further reduces our drive to exercise and diet. Not a good cycle to be in.
How does the body normally regulate blood sugar?
When you eat a meal, it gets converted into glucose. When glucose is detected in the bloodstream, a hormone called insulin is signaled to create openings in the cell membrane to bring the sugar inside. From there, it is converted by the mitochondria into something called ATP which is the “energy currency” of the body.
If a meal is well balanced, meaning that it contains the appropriate amount of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and fat, it causes a slow release of sugar and a modest release of insulin. If the meal is too high in carbohydrates, blood sugar spikes causes too much insulin to be released. This tends to drop the blood sugar level well below the pre-meal value signaling the need for more glucose.
Sugar is also released when the body experiences any type of perceived threat to enable you to “fend off the attacker” or run away.
In either case, when blood sugar cannot be used by the body, it is stored as fat to for future use. It is only when high sugar levels become your “normal” that health gets affected.
What causes high blood sugar?
Diet and Lifestyle
One of the most frequent causes of blood sugar issues is simply our diet. This includes meals too high in sugars, starches and grains or meals that do not contain enough fat, fiber or protein to normalize an insulin response. Overeating and lack of physical exercise are also common causes.
Sweeteners also play a role. Fructose (fruit sugar) at relatively small amounts of daily consumption (25 grams or more). disrupts the “lock and key” mechanism between insulin and its receptor site. Artificial sweeteners may also cause an insulin release without a corresponding rise in blood sugar levels.
Deficiencies in good fats or vitamin/minerals can compromise the health of the cell membrane. Unhealthy cell membranes cannot effectively transfer nutrients like sugar into the cell. Additionally, the wrong types of fats may be an issue. Good fatty acids have two hydrogen molecules that attach to the outside of the cell. Bad fats (trans) that come from fried foods, hydrogenated oils, margarine, microwaved foods, etc. have only one molecule on the outside. Insulin cannot attach to this causing glucose to build up outside the cell rather than getting inside.
Any type of chronic stress can lead to increased blood sugar levels.
Our bodies are designed to keep us alive at all costs, so if you experience stress, the body responds by doing all the things it needs to do to run away from the source. Unfortunately, it doesn’t differentiate between the different sources and responds the same way whether it is physically, emotional, or spiritual. One of the mechanisms is to release cortisol to signal the release or manufacture of sugars to get energy to the muscles so they can physically handle the “opponent”. But if it isn’t physically burned off, blood levels stay too high.
Chemical and Pathogenic Load
Both chemicals and pathogens have been found to disrupt glucose metabolism and insulin signaling pathways. This can overwhelm our immune, detoxification, and endocrine systems as well.
With impaired chemical resilience and clearance, our toxic body burden increases. Chemicals may include but are not limited to: air pollutants, pesticides, carpet glues, cigarette smoke, shower curtain chemicals, polyvinyl chloride, cosmetics, plastics, water from PVC pipes, non-stick cookware, dry cleaning solvents, fire retardants, etc.
Pathogens impair the immune system making diabetics more susceptible to infections. These patients have lowered immune function and are more likely to develop skin and soft tissues, genitourinary, gastrointestinal, and respiratory infections.
Pathogens have been found to effect blood sugar by:
- Disrupting insulin signaling leading to insulin resistance
- Cross-reacting with islet cells and destroy the pancreas ability to excrete insulin
- Promoting inflammatory cytokine responses which increases glycation (AGES)
- Increasing strain on our immune system
- Activating Fenton reactions leading to increased iron storage and systemic inflammation and oxidative stress. This reaction has been proven to really impact overall systemic health.
Our internal terrain or microbiome also plays a huge role in blood sugar regulation.
Decreases in fiber intake, food sensitivities, SAD diet, alcohol, etc. can cause the gut to become permeable. This allows “bad” bacteria to flourish and generate inflammation while also having a direct impact on pancreatic function. High fat diets and fried foods in those with gallbladder problems also contribute to this dysbiotic state.
For detailed information please checkout our articles on gut issues such as leaky gut.
Research also indicates stress activates something called NFK-b activation. NFK-b is a protein that is normally kept under control, but if elevated, cause inflammation and a host of other issues.
What are symptoms of Hyperglycemia?
Symptoms are dependent on how severe the blood sugar dysregulation is but can include:
- Fatigue after meals
- Sweet cravings after meals
- Difficulty losing weight
- Impaired brain function after meals
- Chronic inflammation
- Pain throughout the day
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty with exercise, but significant improvements in energy if you do
- Slow healing
- Blood pressure issues
- Hormone issues
- Cuts or sores take a long time to heal or don’t heal well at all
- Frequent infections (urinary tract, yeast infections, )
- Tingling in hands/feet
- High Hip to waist ratio.
You might also note high sugar influences on our skin. Physicals signs often include:
- Dark discoloration in body folds and crease typically armpits, groin and neck
- Skin lesions
- Yellowish deposit of cholesterol underneath the skin usually around the eyelids
Do you know the steps toward Diabetes?
Normal fasting blood sugar is between 85-99mg/dL. Usually we note chronic issues with low blood sugar prior to high blood sugar levels. You can learn more about low blood sugar here.
Step 1: Insulin Resistance
When your body detects glucose in your bloodstream after a meal, insulin is released to signal the cells to bring in the sugar so it can be made into energy. Metabolic stress also releases stored sugar to meet increased need.
The problem occurs when blood sugar is too high/too often, the cell membranes change to avoid bringing in excess sugar. This causes the cells to become “resistant” to the effects of insulin, hence the name.
Folks will normally report fatigue and sugar cravings after large meals since sugar to fat conversation requires lots of energy.
Blood patterns include:
- Fasting Glucose between 99-126mg/dl.
- Possible elevated triglycerides
- Fasting insulin greater than 5.
Step 2: Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic Syndrome begins as the body stores excess sugar as fat and systemic inflammation and oxidative stress begins to develop.
Folks often note:
- Fatigue or sugar cravings after meals
- Weight gain especially around the midsection
- Difficulty losing weight
- Sugar craving continue throughout the day
- Swelling and inflammation throughout the body often leading to pain
With Metabolic Syndrome, associated oxidative stress and inflammation can lead to conditions such as PCOS, cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, diabetes, cancer, and more.
Blood marker patterns may include:
- Blood glucose between 99-126mg/dl.
- Increased lipid markers often show elevated levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL with decreased levels of HDL.
- HA1C levels greater than 5.6
- Possible increase in inflammatory markers such as CRP, SED, ferritin, etc
Step 3: Diabetes
Diabetes is a complicated metabolic dysfunction than can progress into serious health issues—as increased oxidative stress creates complications in circulation and kidney function.
In addition to symptoms of metabolic syndrome, folks may start to note swelling, inflammation, pain and the following…
- Feet tingling, numbness, burning, nerve pain
- Light sensitivity, blurred/fluctuating vision, impaired color vision, and visual loss
- Frequent urination, increased hypertension, foamy urination
- Mood swings, cognitive decline, inability to plan/organize, memory loss, inability to follow directions, dementia
- Stroke, TIA, Peripheral Arterial Disease
Patterns are the same as those with Metabolic Syndrome except sugar and oxidative stress levels increase.
- Fasting glucose is greater than 126 mg/dl
- Increased HA1c above 6.5 per the CDC 2019. Note: this value keeps increasing as the average population starts to have blood sugar issues and a new “normal” is established.
How do you test for blood sugar issues?
Functional Blood Chemistry offers data as to how our body is functioning. Blood fasting glucose and an enzyme called LDH are considered “24 hour” markers for general indication of blood sugar levels. Fasting insulin can also be used as a general marker of blood sugar utilization. To determine overall pancreatic involvement, a Glycomark test is recommended,
Many practitioners utilize Ha1C or glycated insulin as an indication of longer-term blood sugar levels and indications of oxidative stress. Lipid levels should be monitored. Inflammatory markers such as CRP, SED, homocysteine, ferritin, uric acid, etc. should be monitored.
How can you help prevent blood sugar?
It is important to control blood sugar and inflammation through diet. The consumption of regular meals and snacks consisting of proteins, vegetables, fiber, and fats help slow down sugar release. Be aware that even healthful foods like cooked carrots, cereals, potatoes, bread, and grains can have a higher glycemic index than table sugar.
For others, a ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting might be necessary.
Fats should come from fish, raw nuts and olives, avocado, coconut, grass fed animal fats, etc. Some folks have a difficulty breaking down fats effectively and others are unable to convert omega 3 sources into EPA/DHA due to genetic issues and may need to be supported.
- Junk food, sugars or sweets
- Fruit juice
- Fruits without proteins and fats
- High-carbohydrate foods (breads, pasta, rice, etc.)
- Vegetables that grow above the ground
- Healthy fats
- Moderate amounts of protein
Please also consider minimally processing and cooking to avoid the creation of AGEs.
You might consider increasing daily movement and exercise. Exercise should be gentle for those with systemic inflammation as to not create more oxidative stress. The great thing about exercise is that it also builds mitochondria which helps regulate insulin levels and reduce stress. As you heal, you can slowly increase intensity and duration slowly over time to meet your new metabolic needs.
Exercising the brain and vagus nerve may also help support blood sugar regulation.
- Address underlying dysfunction including adrenals, thyroid, gut, immune function, etc.
- Limit chemical exposure and address any pathogenic load
- Increase anti-inflammatories and antioxidants to resolve any ongoing inflammation and reduce oxidative stress.
- Improve the gut microbiome and gut integrity.
There are supplements that support blood sugar regulation, but since there are so many reasons for dysfunction, we will only outline a few major players. Number one choice, fiber. A mixed soluble/insoluble form will help with both digestion and reduce blood sugar levels.
A good multivitamin has been shown to help with insulin signaling while supporting detoxification at the same time. Gymnema sylvestre has also been shown to help regulate insulin.
There are supplements that support blood sugar regulation as well. ALA has been shown to help with regulation while supporting detoxification at the same time, Cinnamon has been shown to aid in preventing Insulin Resistance as well as the minerals selenium, vanadium, magnesium, and chromium.