A person’s blood sugar levels are a very important indicator of overall health. As average blood sugar levels climb, the risk of diabetes, atherosclerosis and heart disease and other health problems goes up.
What is blood sugar? It starts with what you eat. Your body breaks down the foods you eat into 3 different nutrients:
- Glucose, a simple sugar which comes from carbohydrate-based foods
- Amino acids which come from the protein you consume
- Fatty acids, which come from the fats that you eat.
Blood sugar is simply the measurement of the amount of sugar in your blood at any one time. It is usually measured as “fasting blood sugar” by a test in which your blood is analyzed after not eating for 8-12 hours.
There are other tests that measure glucose in the blood, such as a glucose tolerance test, which measures what happens to the sugar in your blood over the next 5 hours after you drink a large amount of sugar water.
Your Body and Sugar
Normally, your blood glucose levels rise after you eat. When your blood sugar goes up, your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin to regulate the amount of sugar in your blood. Insulin moves the sugar from the bloodstream into the cells where it can be used for fuel.
Normally, the human body keeps blood sugar in a very narrow range for good health. This is because constantly high blood glucose levels can damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels. Over time, these constantly high blood sugar levels can cause a condition known as insulin resistance.
Think about what happens when you get sugar water on your hands. As it dries, it becomes very sticky, right? Sugar in your blood does the same thing. High levels of sugar in your blood begin to stick to the proteins and cells in your bloodstream, and this stickiness causes damage to your body systems. A test called the HBA1c (Hemoglobin A1c) measures the amount of sugar stickiness in your blood and is actually a better measure of blood sugar levels over time.
Mainstream medicine says that fasting blood sugar measurements should follow this reference chart:
- Normal blood sugar: between 70- 100 mg/dl
- Pre -Diabetic : between 101- 126 mg /dl
- Diagnosis of Diabetes: more than 126 mg/dl
Keeping your blood sugar low means lowering your intake of carbohydrates. When you eat fewer carbs, your body is able to keep the levels of sugar in the blood within a normal range.
One fact to remember: At any one time, a normal body has only ONE teaspoon of sugar circulating in the blood. When you drink a 12-ounce full-sugar soda or eat a plate of pasta, you are dumping extra TWELVE-FIFTEEN teaspoons of sugar into your bloodstream in a very short time. Over time, all this extra sugar does a great deal of damage.
Here’s a more comprehensive blood sugar level chart for your use.
Natural Ways to Help Lower Blood Sugar
The following substances have been shown in some studies (and in my own experience) to lower blood sugar levels naturally. There are always counter studies however, so do your own research before taking any supplement, especially if you have diabetes.
- Biotin (a B vitamin)
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
- Vitamin D (See this discussion)
- Chromium GTF
- Coconut Oil
In addition, just 20 minutes of resistance exercise has a major effect on blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.
In some cases, a low carb diet can elevate fasting blood sugar. In general, the numbers above are a good measure to follow, but some people who eat a very low carb diet may sometimes have elevated fasting blood glucose levels even though they don’t many carbs. I believe this is because of what Peter over at the Hyperlipid blog calls physiological insulin resistance. Basically this means that when one eats a very low carb diet, the muscles burn fat for fuel, and this leaves more blood sugar in the bloodstream. This is not a dangerous condition, and the same person will show a much lower HBA1c level (below 5). For this reason, I believe the HBA1c test to be a better indicator of blood sugar health.