Maintaining stable blood sugar levels is important for everyone’s physical well-being: If you’re healthy, it can protect you from developing Type 2 diabetes, and if you already have diabetes, it can help you slow disease progression and prevent serious complications.
In recognition of Diabetes Awareness Month this November, chronic disease management specialist Tyneza Mitchell, FNP, discusses the ins and outs of blood sugar control, including what causes blood glucose levels to spike and how you can avoid it.
When you’re healthy, your body can maintain control over your blood glucose levels (the amount of sugar that’s circulating in your bloodstream) at any given time.
Through the responsive release of two key hormones, glucagon and insulin, your pancreas ensures you have enough glucose available for use as immediate energy — but not so much that it sends you into a state of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
Specifically, glucagon raises your blood sugar levels when they’re too low, and insulin acts to quickly lower them when they’re too high. Insulin accomplishes this recurrent post-mealtime task by functioning as a “key” that lets blood sugar into cells for instant use.
Essentially, insulin keeps your blood sugar levels stable by enabling your muscle and liver tissues to absorb excess glucose from your blood and convert it into energy — or if you don’t need any fuel, it enables your adipose tissue to convert it to fat cells and store it.
Insulin helps your body balance its metabolic needs in a regulated process that’s crucial to the normal function and health of your whole body, from your brain, kidneys, and liver to your entire vascular system. Unfortunately, regular blood sugar “spikes” can throw your entire system out of whack.
Blood sugar spikes happen when you eat a carbohydrate-rich meal, causing your blood glucose levels to rise sharply — then fall quickly as insulin springs into action. These spikes can leave you feeling lethargic and hungry.
Over time, recurrent blood glucose spikes can cause your body cells to become less responsive to the insulin “key” that tries to transfer excess sugar out of your bloodstream and into your cells for use.
This condition, known as insulin resistance, causes your pancreas to produce more insulin to elicit normal cellular responses. At some point, your pancreas can’t keep up with demand, and your blood sugar levels stay elevated, setting the stage for diabetes.
Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to keep your blood sugar levels stable and reduce your risk of becoming insulin-resistant and developing diabetes. To avoid recurrent blood sugar spikes, we recommend that you:
Limit your consumption of white bread, pasta, rice, and other refined grains. These processed food products are rich in simple carbohydrates, which are readily digested and absorbed into the bloodstream.
Their effect mirrors that of another simple carb you should limit or avoid: The added sugars found in baked goods, candy, desserts, and soda are associated with rapid blood sugar spikes.
Instead, choose complex carbs found in whole-grain products like oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and pasta. They’re packaged with digestion-slowing dietary fiber, a satiating, calorie-free substance that promotes a more gradual, controlled release of sugar into your bloodstream after a meal.
When you’re dehydrated, your body releases vasopressin, a hormone that encourages your kidneys to retain fluid — and stops your body from flushing out excess sugar in your urine. At the same time, this “dehydration hormone” also prompts your liver to release some of its sugar stores into your bloodstream.
That’s why you should drink plenty of water and other sugar-free fluids throughout the day — enough so your urine is usually pale yellow or clear.
Exercise is one of your best defenses against blood sugar spikes and diabetes: When you move your body every day, your body cells become more sensitive to insulin, effectively increasing the likelihood that this essential “energy key” works as it should.
What’s more, exercise actively reduces your blood sugar levels as it prompts your muscles to absorb and use glucose from your bloodstream.
Practicing portion control, managing your stressors, getting enough sleep, and losing excess fat are other ways you can promote stable blood sugar levels and stay healthy. To find out how we can help you prevent diabetes, call today or click online to schedule an appointment at Comprehensive Care Clinic in Spring, Texas, any time.