ROLE OF GLUCOSE AND INSULIN IS OFTEN MISUNDERSTOOD.
All the cells in our body and especially the brain need a constant supply of glucose, oxygen and specific micronutrients in order to function normally. A lack of glucose can make us feel tired, irritable, hungry, angry, dizzy, short of breath, nauseous, feverish and very confused. These are warning signals that are relayed from various parts of the body to the brain to report glucose depletion at a cellular level. Despite the fact that you may already have plenty of sugar in your bloodstream, insulin is required to transport that glucose into the cells so it can be used as fuel. When insulin that is already present is unable to achieve this, a condition is known as the breakdown of insulin sensitivity occurs. Most people think of type 2 or NIDD (non-insulin dependent diabetes) as only a high blood sugar reading, but it is as a result of cellular glucose depletion, and this is the reason why blood sugar levels creep up. Your cells are starving. Instinctively you feel hungry; downright lousy and crave something sweet. Then the second set of symptoms regarding insulin insensitivity will manifest; those of high blood sugar that affect the vision or being constantly thirsty and urinating a lot. Of the many diabetics that I talk to, I find that they usually complain of symptoms from both of these categories and this is because cellular glucose depletion and high blood sugar levels can happen simultaneously.
The action of insulin is twofold:
1) To facilitate the entry of glucose into cells. Symptoms of initial insulin malfunction are: feeling tired, irritable, hungry, angry, and dizzy, short of breath, nauseous, feverish or very confused and as every diabetic fears, falling into a coma when the brain shuts down. But, they can also be symptoms of genuine low blood sugar because too much insulin has responded to the increased intake of sugar and taken it away, just as smartly. To make matters worse, some of these symptoms are often misinterpreted as personality or attention deficit disorders.
Often, but not usually, there is a genuine lack of blood glucose and where there is not an initial insulin malfunction (a problem with transporting glucose into the cell) this condition will be alleviated by eating. Most people need to eat frequent, but small meals or snacks containing adequate protein, a slow-releasing form of carbohydrate and some essential omega 3 fatty acids, every two hours to prevent a rapid rise or fall in blood sugar. So, just to repeat: if you eat something to raise blood sugar levels and still experience some of these symptoms, then you need to attend to your insulin sensitivity. Here you will find that taking cinnamon works miracles! Take a knife-tip with each meal or snack. Keep a small container of cinnamon with you and note how much better you begin to feel. Every morning supplement with vitamin B5, known as Calcium D-pantethonate. This vitamin also facilitates the conversion of sugar, fat and protein into cellular glucose. Also take a slow-releasing multivitamin with adequate zinc and chrome every day. Taking adequate amounts of omega 3 essential fatty acids is very important.
2) the secondary function of insulin is to bind the leftover glucose molecules present in the bloodstream into triglycerides. Symptoms of malfunction are: blurred vision or the constant thirst and urination syndrome known as polyuria, whereby blood concentrations of glucose are reduced by increasing bloos fluid levels and then “washing” out excess glucose in the urine. We tend to ignore the urgent call from the cells for food and oxygen in our scramble to lower the blood sugar reading. We thus have a twofold breakdown of insulin function. This will help to explain why type 2 diabetics have a problem with their weight: merely binding the excess glucose into triglycerides increases blood levels of LDL cholesterol – a fatty substance that is stored around the waist, hips and thighs! Lowering blood sugar does not stop the body’s cry for fuel at a cellular level. Why do you think you are constantly tired and hungry, even when you eat enough “energy” foods?
We need to control the intake, uptake, storage and release of glucose if we wish to avoid blood sugar disorders such as hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Fortunately many foods can help us to control this situation. Providing you know more about these foods and when to eat them, blood sugar control should not be difficult. There are natural supplements that can help to lower blood sugar. Taking MSM (methylsulphonylmethane) with vitamin C at mealtimes can drop blood sugar by a few notches, should levels creep up too far. Insulin requires: chrome, vanadium and zinc in order to perform, so attend to these supplements. Remember that sugar blocks these nutrients, as well as the vitamin B that you take. People who eat lots of fresh green beans with a meal will find they have excellent insulin-like properties. So much so, that the French have made tablets out of them!
SUGAR CRAVINGS AND CHEATING
Simple starches and sugars are always going to cause problems for you as food was never designed to be eaten as pure sugar with no fibre, proteins, essential fatty acids and vitamins. This is why we have been making excessive demands on the pancreas, by eating too many simple sugars and drinking sweetened cool drinks. Even fruit juices like apple and grape juice contain simple sugars and no fibre, so it is preferable to eat the whole fruit, chewing it well. Your pancreas should not have to cope with big gushes of pure sugar, no matter what excuses you have about feeling weak. This weakness and craving for sweet things can be avoided. It is an addiction and has to be confronted as such. Low blood sugar is an indication of a lack of micronutrients that can be replaced by eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, low fat meats and cheeses, walnuts, essential fatty acids and whole grain foods. Eat little and often and in so doing you will condition your body into always feeling satisfied. It also helps you to keep slim.
Females need to eat as often as every two hours and males at least every four hours to maintain steady blood sugar levels. It is the type of food that you nibble and the quantities that are important. Choose snacks and little meals from your list of permitted foods and enjoy them. Keep nutritious snacks at hand when away from home to avoid going near your regular eating places where there are too many temptations. Remember that there is no virtue in going without food for hours on end as you will be upsetting this new regimen. Skipping meals and running on adrenaline and relying on stimulants like tea, coffee and alcohol to keep you going is not ever going to benefit you. There are plenty of substitutes.
KNOWING WHEN TO EAT FOODS THAT LOWER BLOOD SUGAR
There are specific foods that lower blood sugar. . These foods are: raw carrots, onions or pickled onions, cucumbers or gherkins, lettuce, herb teas, Swedish bitters, unsweetened tonic water, spices like: cinnamon, bay leaves, turmeric, rosemary, etc.
They can be taken at times when you are having the odd small treat that you know may cause your blood sugar to peak a little. If you have a meal consisting of only these foods, you may experience a hypoglycemic attack. Become aware of these natural hypoglycemic agents and combine them with foods that will provide a steady flow of glucose at the same time, eg: protein or whole grained foods with salads, or pickled onions with cheese and biscuits. Did you know that Ancient Egyptians used to cure diabetes with onions? Just 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon per day can treble the effect of insulin. Use these substances to your advantage. Remember that a large sugary snack also lowers blood sugar, but in a backhanded way as it first sets off a surge of insulin which, in turn, drops the level too low in pre- diabetics. In insulin dependent diabetics, a large sugar intake requires more insulin. If the insulin dose is too strong, hypoglycemia is caused. Such a yo-yo effect is not desirable and people should not be tempted to overdose with insulin to allow for such foolish sweet indulgences. Blood sugar only drops too low if it cannot be given back to the body from the reserves in the liver. We must attend to the mechanisms that help to release your own glucose again so you can avoid gaining weight.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU FEEL YOUR BLOOD SUGAR DROPPING
Feeling weak, faint, shaky, irritable, confused and craving sugar? Hypoglycemia is drawing near. If you are used to reviving yourself with a quick shot of glucose, it helps for a short while but it is better to eat something substantial at the same time to avoid the ups and downs of unstable blood sugar. Eating a few raisins is a healthier alternative, adding some iron as well. It’s a good idea to keep walnuts and raisins in your bag for a pick me up. More adventurous people can use the Adelle Davis method of raising your own blood sugar without glucose: buy potassium chloride powder or tablets at the chemist. They are called KLOREFF tablets and cost about R1 each. Dissolve one in half a glass of water and drink it to counteract a hypoglycemic attack. This pleasant tasting drink works within minutes and prevents the reactive insulin surge that taking glucose or eating sweets may cause.
HOW TO PREVENT BLOOD SUGAR LOWS
Eating little, well and often is the golden rule. Attending to micronutrient deficiencies with a qualified practitioner will also help to supply vitamins and minerals you may be craving in foods like chocolate or sweet things. Always start the day with a good breakfast, even if you keep a box of fortified cereal or sugar free muesli at work. Don’t drink fruit juices; rather eat whole apples and bananas, chewing them well. If you crave something sweet, try dates as they don’t seem to affect blood sugar as negatively as other sweet things do. Cut out all other sugars and use only stevia or xylitol if you need to sweeten something and avoid aspartame and cyclamates. It is better to quit the sweet addiction altogether and make your life less complicated. If you still feel surges of insulin eating up your blood sugar, remember that oils and fats will block the insulin receptors of cells. This immobilizes insulin. Good news if you have low blood sugar and bad news if you have high blood sugar. Diabetics know they have to cut down on fats, but we all still need essential fatty acids in the form of omega 3: cod liver & flaxseed oil and use unsaturated oils for cooking & salads eg: olive, rice bran or grapeseed oil very sparingly.