Manage Your Blood Sugar for Good Health
Manage Your Blood Sugar to Improve Health
Do you have diabetes? Suffer from hypoglycemia or low blood sugar? Chances are you need to manage your blood sugar levels to make sure you don't suffer peaks or valleys during the course of your day.
If blood sugar gets too high, you'll feel especially tired, thirsty and even hungry. Go too low and you will be irritable and shaky, and may even suffer a headache. And these are just the manageable symptoms of blood sugar swings. More serious complications could include passing out, seizures and in rare cases, death.
I have been a Type 1 diabetic since 2002, and can tell you that even small changes in your blood sugar levels can have a big impact on your day. Get off course and you may be ready to throw in the towel before lunch!
Students and professionals can suffer poor grades or performance evaluations if blood sugar levels are askew before a test or presentation. In addition, if you are trying to make fitness gains, it could be difficult to achieve your goals if you do not properly manage your blood glucose before your next challenge.
When Should You See Your Doctor for a Blood Sugar Test?
- You are suffering from extreme, unexplained fatigue
- You have suddenly lost weight without trying
- Your appetite has changed and you are constantly hungry
- You are thirsty all the time and frequently have to go to the bathroom
- Your eyesight is suddenly blurry
- You find it hard to wake up in the morning
- You break out in a sweat and your hands shake for no obvious reason
- You feel light-headed or faint for no obvious reason
Why Be Concerned About Blood Sugar Levels?
When you digest carbohydrates, the energy from the food is broken down into blood sugar. In response, your body pumps out the hormone insulin, which "unlocks" the cells so that the energy from your food can be used by your muscles. People who have diabetes lack sufficient insulin (or in the case of Type 1 diabetics, completely lack insulin) to remove sugar from the blood. Dangerously high levels build up in your system and your muscles don't get the energy they need. That's why people with uncontrolled diabetes get so hungry. In the meantime, your body is trying to flush out the excess blood glucose, straining the kidneys and resulting in frequent urination.
On the other hand, people with hypoglycemia don't have enough blood sugar in their system. Either their body is putting out too much insulin, or other digestive issues could be wreaking havoc internally. Some people simply cannot wait too long between meals before their blood glucose dips and they become irritable, confused or even faint.
Medications and medical conditions often play a role, as well. If the liver is "distracted" from its role in helping to regulate blood sugar levels because it is working hard to clear your system of alcohol or drugs, your body will not function as it should.
Prevent Blood Sugar Swings
Level Out Blood Sugar Spikes
Regardless of whether you have a form of diabetes (Type 1, Type 2 or gestational diabetes), hypoglycemia, or merely want to better manage your energy levels during the day, these tips will help you get the most out of your nutrition to keep you energized all day.
The key to consistent blood sugar levels is to combine protein, fat and complex carbohydrates at every meal. A good balance is the key to superior health
Protein, healthy fats and fiber will help you stay full and satisfied longer than processed foods that contained refined sugar. And, you need carbohydrates for energy. Instead of a quick energy spike when you eat a cookie or bag of potato chips, which is followed by a crash an hour later, choose whole wheat bread and peanut butter, or a sliced apple with cheese.
Think you have to swear off bread or pasta if you have diabetes? Not so! But white bread is not much better than a slice of cake when it comes to blood sugar. Add some fiber with whole wheat pasta and 100% whole grain bread instead.
Learn Proper Serving Sizes to Manage Your Blood Sugar
Even if you are eating an ideal balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats, you may still suffer the effects of high or low blood sugar if you do not consider proper serving sizes. Many Americans vastly underestimate the amount of food they eat at a restaurant, and even at home.
Unless you are eating single-serving size frozen dinners with the grams of carbohydrate printed on the side of the box (and determined in a food laboratory), you will need to be able to estimate carbs in your own cooking and when you go out to eat. Diabetics, in particular, need to match medication/insulin to the amount of carbohydrates they eat at every meal and snack.
It may help for you to keep a food journal for at least 2 weeks - be honest! Write down everything you eat and drink, including plain water and black tea or coffee (caffeine can impact blood sugar levels too). Review your notes with a dietitian, and make adjustments accordingly.
Exercise Every Day for Better Blood Sugar Levels
Each of us - diabetic or not - can benefit from regular exercise. If your doctor says you are healthy enough to exercise, do so! Even a short 20 minute walk each day will help you build muscle and burn extra blood sugar. Over time, your body will adjust to your routine and you may likely see your blood glucose swings evening out.
When I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2002, I thought I'd never reach my dream of running a marathon. But even intense, long-term exercise is possible for the most severely diabetic patients. Again, discuss your exercise and fitness goals with your doctor to learn about potential side effects of intensive exercise, and how to avoid low blood sugar dips during and subsequent to workouts.
Foods to Avoid if You Have Concerns About Blood Sugar
These foods should be avoided if you want to better manage your blood sugar for good health. On rare occasions, you might indulge in a small treat, but the following should be moved off your regular menu:
- French fries
- White bread
- White rice
- Potato chips
- Premium ice cream
- Most breakfast cereals
- Most processed foods (high in sodium and containing hidden sugars)
Foods to Choose for Healthy Blood Sugar
In general, the following foods are diabetes-friendly and can be incorporated into a blood sugar diet:
- Fresh, whole fruits
- Fresh vegetables (raw, steamed, boiled)
- Greek yogurt
- Plain, unsweetened yogurt - stir in fresh fruit
- Skim milk
- Low-fat cheese
- Egg whites
- 100% whole grain bread and pasta
- Brown rice
- Whole beans and other legumes
- Lean meats fish and other seafood
- Small amounts (1-2 oz.) of dark chocolate
- Green tea
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