This article is dedicated to all of you that struggle with your weight and emotional links to food. In this latest article on weight loss, I hope to give you some clues on how your diet or a weak adrenal gland can affect your moods and blood sugars. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
This is the seventh article on weight loss methods learned from the French and Italians. Haven’t read the other articles? Here they are: French and Italian Diet Methods on Time, Culture, The Plan, Fitness, Sugar Addiction, Discipline. Take a look and come back to read this article on blood sugar balance.
In this seventh important part, I wanted to help you recognize a vital part of how your diet or a low-functioning adrenal gland can affect your blood sugar, what the side effects are and how to plan your eating to keep a balanced glycemic (a steady sugar) load. An unbalanced blood sugar will affect your moods, your food cravings, and cause you to experience unpleasant physical symptoms. Your roller-coaster body’s blood sugar will not help you lose weight. It can even hinder your progress on keeping your weight stable.
How To Stay On Track With Your Blood Sugar: Lessons Learned from a French and Italian Eating Plan
Italians, French and other cultures are not immune from blood sugar abnormalities. Like other Western cultures, these two populations have their share of diabetes, pre-diabetes, excessive blood sugar and symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). However, there are a few cultural habits in both the French and Italian population that we can incorporate in our weight loss eating plan to keep our blood sugars balanced.
- Eating a Mediterranean Diet helps with blood sugar balance
- Having regular physical activity. In Italy and France, the urban planning of the country: fewer cars, more use of public transportation, walking and biking ‘forces’ the population to move their bodies
- Planning regular portioned meals at regular intervals at regular times: the strict French eating discipline is key in this area
- Enjoying fresh foods with emphasis on cooking homemade meals: just the French joie de vivre and Italians dolce vita of meal pleasure
What is a Blood Sugar Imbalance?
When your blood sugars are in control, an objective blood test will show the following (taken from Wikipedia):
A body’s homeostatic mechanism, when operating normally, restores the blood sugar level to a narrow range of about 4.4 to 6.1 mmol/L (79.2 to 110 mg/dL) (as measured by a fasting blood glucose test).
The normal blood glucose level (tested while fasting) for non-diabetics, should be between 70 and 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). The mean normal blood glucose level in humans is about 5.5 mM (5.5 mmol/L or 100 mg/dL, i.e. milligrams/deciliter);however, this level fluctuates throughout the day. Blood sugar levels for those without diabetes and who are not fasting should be below 125 mg/dL.
How do you know if you have a blood sugar problem?
A doctor can order a blood test to see if you test normally for fasting blood glucose levels, but sometimes the blood test doesn’t show a light blood sugar problem because your blood glucose level varies throughout the day. You may test just within the normal limits for fasting blood sugars when in reality, you have spikes and dips in your blood sugars during the day.
Here are some more clues to see if you have an unbalanced blood sugar:
Symptoms of Blood Sugar Imbalance With Spikes and Dips
Ask yourself if you experience any of these symptoms that may show an imbalanced blood sugar:
- You feel jittery or shaky between meals
- You feel irritable if you miss a meal
- You crave sweet foods or sweet treats during the day
- You often feel tired and by eating you feel better
- You feel anxious, easily upset and nervous
- You sometimes have a blurred vision
- You get light headed when you miss meals
- You find you have ‘brain fog’ that disappears after eating
The main question to ask yourself: does your eating only satiate hunger? If you have one or more of the symptoms of blood sugar imbalance above, does eating help you to feel better, clear your brain fog or increase your energy level?
If it does, you may have an unbalanced blood sugar problem.
Here are some ways to keep your sugar in control:
- Do not skip meals
- Eat protein or fat at breakfast or a mid-morning snack. (greek yogurt, butter, cheese, eggs, salmon, seeds, nuts- see my full list below of low glycemic foods)
- Minimize your intake of simple sugars (or avoid them all together) and lower your intake of processed foods that contain hidden sugars (see my article on sugar addiction here).
- Eat some form of protein with every meal.
And the most important tip to remember:
When you are experiencing jittery feelings, brain fog, headache or blurry vision reach for a snack /meal that is high in protein and or healthy fats. Even if you are craving sweets or carbohydrates, do not eat a sweet or food that is processed. This will only exacerbate the vicious cycle of a roller-coaster blood sugar. The best snacks to eat with symptoms of low blood sugar are foods higher in protein and healthy fats. These are listed below.
Diet is not the only factor affecting blood sugar levels
A blood sugar unbalance can also occur independently from your diet. Even those persons eating a low sugar, well-balanced eating plan can have blood sugar problems because their adrenal gland is working improperly. This occurs when the body has problems converting food they eat into glucose.
An adrenal gland can function lower than normal for various reasons such as if a person is in a state of deep fatigue, either because of life stresses or a physical drain from chronic infections or illness. The adrenal gland secretes cortisol hormone and with a weakened system, there is less cortisol produced which affects the body’s ability to convert glycogen (stored glucose) into active blood glucose. With a weakened adrenal organ,diet is not the issue for blood sugar imbalance. It is the lower cortisol hormone causing the problem.
A qualified medical doctor can help you determine if your adrenal function is lower through blood tests. Read these physical symptoms here to see if any relate to you:
Symptoms of Low Adrenal Gland Function:
- You have afternoon headaches
- You have a need to take an afternoon nap because of fatigue
- You crave salt
- You have problems staying asleep
- You find it hard to get moving in the morning
- You get headaches with stress and physical exertion.
There is another physical situation which can affect your blood sugars. This is called Insulin Resistance and is a common problem related to our excessive sugar and caloric Western diet. Note: Chronic insulin resistance is a pre-cursor to diabetes. Currently, in America, 79 million people have pre-diabetes.
Insulin Resistance and Unbalanced Blood Sugars
Insulin resistance is when the glucose cannot enter the body’s cells efficiently, causing a higher or roller-coaster blood sugar. Two reasons that insulin resistance occurs is from lack of exercise and overeating. (Which is why the Italian and French weight loss methods of culturally ‘forced’ physical activity and lower portions with regular meals help with insulin resistance).
Symptoms of Insulin Resistance
- You feel tired after meals
- You have difficulty losing weight
- You have cravings for something sweet after each big meal
- When you eating sweets this does not stop the cravings for more
- You have increased thirst and appetite on a regular basis
What to do about a poorly controlled blood sugar
After reading this article, if you feel your blood sugar may be experiencing too high spikes and too low dips throughout the day, I would recommend the following:
- seek a doctor’s advice to rule out diabetes and pre-diabetes
- try changing your eating to incorporate the Mediterranean type of diet, including eating more leaner sources of protein and healthy fats. (You can skim through the other articles in the series or on the blog for answers on how to do this).
- avoid sugar and processed foods as much as possible.
- if diet is not the reason your blood sugar is unbalanced, look at your health situation closely. Are you wearing out your body? Is your immune system tired? Have you been sick a lot lately? Are you under stress for prolonged periods?
Until you get your blood sugars in good balance, you will find it difficult to stay weight stable and/or to lose weight
This series on weight loss is aimed to give you tools to succeed in your weight goals. In this article I want to help you recognize that some of you have your blood sugars on a roller-coaster ride in your body, and this can only hurt your progress.
While this problem is not easy to recognize and get under control, I wanted to leave you with a list of snacks that are good to eat when you feel the jitters and cravings for a sweet type of food. Sweets are not forbidden, (no nothing is), but a concentrated type of sweet, even a cookie, granola bar or fruit yogurt is best to have on a fuller stomach, and not to be eaten when ravenously hungry. Eating concentrated carbohydrates on an empty stomach leads to high spikes in your blood sugar.
My list of a perfect snacks to calm your blood sugar imbalance (note these snacks have a lower glycemic index):
- A higher fat plain yogurt, like a greek yogurt. Note if you cannot eat this yogurt plain and need to sweeten it naturally, add a very small amount 100% fruit jam, maple syrup or 100% fruit juice.
- A handful of nuts or seeds
- A piece of cheese
- A piece of lean meat
- A hard-boiled egg
- A square of dark (50% or higher) cacao chocolate
Check out this webpage for more ideas and a list of 29 low glycemic delicious snack ideas.
Foods to avoid when you have the blood sugar jitters because they have a high glycemic index
- Granola bars
- Biscuits and cookies
- Processed cereals like corn flakes, frosted flakes, etc.
- Low-fat fruit-flavored yogurt
- Processed chocolate candies, like Kinder, M&Ms and Mars bars
If you would like to have more information on what is a glycemic index, click on this handout on the Glycemic Index.
Do you feel motivated or I don’t know if I can do this? You can! Why wait for tomorrow? Every step counts, as long as you are moving forward. One key to stay motivated is to eliminate those factors that will stop you from your weight loss success, such as keeping your blood sugars stable.
If you are looking for one to one counseling via Skype or telephone, I also counsel private clients. Contact me and I can send you a list of my services.
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