Blood sugar seems to be something we pay attention to only when we are diagnosed with Diabetes or we're told my our doctors that we have issues related to blood sugar. Even then, we might not be sure exactly how to do anything about it. The reality is, we all have a blood sugar managing system in our bodies, and there are lots of signs and symptoms we often ignore or don't realize are associated with blood sugar when we experience them. What we want to do instead, is pay attention to our blood sugar on a regular basis, so we can help to prevent any issues that can stem from it later on. Here's some questions to start asking yourself:
1. DO I GET FREQUENT MIGRAINES OR HEADACHES?
Blood sugar is always going up and coming down throughout the day. This is a natural process, and it's one of the things that triggers our bodies to give us that "I'm hungry now" cue. However, for most of us(unknowingly) our blood sugar levels are spiking way too high throughout the day, and when that happens, it eventually has to come crashing down. This process is NOT normal. When this happens, it's an indication that our blood sugar levels(due to foods we're consuming) are way too high, and in an effort to regulate things, the body releases tons and tons of insulin(more than what's normal) in order to bring it back down. But because it comes down so quickly, it creates an environment for symptoms of a "sugar crash" to occur: dizziness, nausea, moodiness, low energy, feeling extreme tiredness, and in a lot of cases, a migraine or headache. If you suffer from migraines on a regular basis, start by paying attention to how often they're happen, what your last meal was(was it very high in carbohydrates perhaps?), and what other symptoms are accompanied with it(nausea, lack of appetite, exhaustion, lack of focus, moodiness, etc).
2. DO MY ENERGY LEVELS SEEM TO SUDDENLY DROP THROUGHOUT THE DAY? DO I HAVE DIFFICULTY CONCENTRATING OR HAVE LACK OF FOCUS OFTEN?
The sugar that goes into our bloodstream and then eventually into our cells is meant to give us energy. But the problem is(especially in a standard North American diet) we often are consuming way too much sugar in proportion to other nutrients(such as proteins, fats and fibre). Again, blood sugar is supposed to go up and come back down all throughout the day, but when we consume a lot of foods that all breakdown into sugar at one time, blood sugar goes WAY UP and then comes WAY DOWN really quickly. That "crash" creates a sudden drop in energy, as opposed to a natural slow curve. If this is something you experience frequently, start by looking at your meals. Are most of the foods on your plate ones that quickly breakdown into sugar(ie.white breads/pastas/rice, fruit or fruit juices, cereal, etc?). How much protein is in your meals to help even out the proportion? How much healthy fat sources? How about leafy greens? Making sure that your meals contain all of these components is a good starting point for preventing that energy crash feeling.
3. DO I OFTEN CRAVE SWEET THINGS OR CHOCOLATE?
A lot of us will jokingly(or seriously) say "I am a chocoholic" or "I can't live without sweets"! But what most of us have never experienced is the difference between enjoying a piece of chocolate or even a piece of cake, and liking the taste of it, versus that feeling of wanting to chop your left arm off in order to get a piece of chocolate. We're told that "some people just naturally have a sweet tooth, and some people don't". But that's not entirely true. If you think about the process of blood sugar, it happens so that our bodies can have energy to be able to do what we need to do day to day. But when our blood sugar is constantly crashing way too low(due to the high carbohydrate content of the foods we're consuming), we start to notice that our cravings are more for sweet things. This is actually a mechanism that kicks in when our bodies are in a state of high stress:
4. DO I OFTEN FEEL ANXIOUS, SEEMINGLY FOR NO REASON? OR EXPERIENCE STATES OF DEPRESSION AND LOW MOOD FREQUENTLY?
I always say this to my clients: the body is like a barrel. Each day, it's taking on and filling up with all the different stresses we experience: family relationships, kids, loud noises, traffic, work deadlines, paying bills, etc. On top of all that, if our blood sugar is also spiking up and down all throughout the day, that is another stressor and another reason why cortisol is released in the body. When we look at the body like a barrel, we see that it eventually gets filled up with all the stresses, and that it will likely overflow at some point. That "overflow" is some of the symptoms that seem to come out of nowhere, like anxiety, depression, moodiness, feelings of frustration, etc. Because the body is just overwhelmed by all the different forms of stress. Of course, some of the things in our barrels aren't things we can change or get rid of. But there are some things we can do something about, and one of those is managing our blood sugar. By adding in nutrients that help to keep our blood sugar balanced and on a slow curve, it's almost like lightening the load of the barrel. And there may be other ways you can lighten the load for yourself too. Start by taking a look at what's in your barrel, and what maybe doesn't need to be taking up so much space in there.
Not to mention, there is also what happens during the "crash" phase when our blood sugar is way too high, and then comes down way too fast. Typically, during those times, we feel "hangry", anxious, low energy, depressed, frustrated, etc. Now imagine having this feeling multiple times a day due to blood sugar imbalances? It might start to feel like you're anxious all the time, or that your mood goes up and down for no reason, but a lot of times it's all happening around the same times as our blood sugar goes up and down.
5. [FOR FEMALES] DO I HAVE IRREGULAR PERIODS, OR DID MY DOCTOR DIAGNOSE ME WITH A CONDITION STEMMING FROM A HORMONAL IMBALANCE(EG. PCOS, ENDOMETRIOSIS, ETC)?
It's not often that we think of blood sugar imbalance having anything to do with our hormones, but there is actually a connection. Without getting too into the science of it all, blood sugar ups and downs force the body to release more hormones than it needs to(insulin and cortisol being the two big ones). When the body is constantly using its resources to produce these hormones, it doesn't leave much energy or nutrient components to produce other hormones in the proper proportions. Not to mention, when the body is in a state of stress(even when that stress comes from blood sugar imbalance), it creates inflammation, and an environment that triggers certain hormones to be over-released and other hormones to be under-released. That imbalance often affects the regularity of our menstrual cycle. A good starting point is just simply being aware of this connection, and being mindful of how our blood sugar might be impacting our hormonal balance.