Keeping your blood sugar levels balanced is essential to provide the energy your cells need to function. It's also crucial if you want to avoid pre and type 2 diabetes and for sustained energy, concentration, performance and prevention of other chronic diseases.
Eating lots of sugary foods and simple carbohydrates (cake, biscuits, white bread, pasta, rice, fries, pizza etc.) floods your body with glucose, but the fast kind that rapidly breaks down and swiftly absorbs into your bloodstream. The more consistently you eat in this way, the more sugar circulates in your blood.
You need insulin to control blood sugar levels. Glucose is the body's primary source of fuel. Every time you eat, you release a hormone called insulin via your pancreas, which signals to your cells to absorb the glucose from your blood and use it for energy. If there's too much, it stores it for later use in your liver as glycogen, and also in your fat cells.
The problem is, the more you eat sugar and carb-laden foods, the more you flood your bloodstream with glucose. Consistently raised blood sugar levels leads to insulin resistance, a precursor to pre-diabetes and diabetes. Insulin resistance is when your cells start ignoring the signal from your insulin, and the excess glucose starts backing up in your liver, fat cells and blood. Not good!
For some of us, regularly skipping meals can also make blood sugar levels dip, causing energy loss and a host of other symptoms. You may find you develop cravings for sweet, carby foods as your body needs rapid replenishment – more on this below.
11 signs you're struggling with blood sugar imbalance
1) Brain fog, lack of concentration and unable to focus
2) Low energy, energy highs and lows or sluggishness
3) You suffer from regular mood swings
4) Feeling less able to cope with anxiety and stress
5) You regularly feel irritable, angry or snappy when you are hungry – ‘hanger’ pangs.
6) You feel like a different person after eating; more uplifted and tolerant
7) Hormone imbalance including PCOS
8) Weight gain and obesity
9) Sugar cravings
10) Poor sleep or insomnia
11) You frequently feel thirsty and pee quite a lot
How to keep your blood sugar balanced
When your blood sugar goes into disarray, either through poor diet or skipping meals, you get excessive blood sugar fluctuations.
So, when your blood sugar dips, you can start to get ‘hangry’ or irritable, snappy and angry with sudden hunger pangs.
Your energy can also slump, and you begin to crave sugar-laden and carby foods as your body needs energy fast, and these will provide the most rapid energy supply.
These foods swiftly release glucose into your bloodstream, which quickly gets broken down and used up by your energetically depleted body. So, once again, you’re left craving more of those processed sugary and simple carbohydrate foods, and a vicious cycle ensues.
To combat this, you need to get into the habit of consistently eating foods that encourage a slower sugar release. You also need to be aware of how regularly you are eating – some of us find that we need to eat more frequently than others, so we don’t get ‘hangry’.
If you think you are struggling, the general rule of thumb is to stick to three healthy meals a day, and if necessary, have a couple of small, balanced snacks between meals.
Here are some handy tips and tricks
1) If you want to turn this around, avoid sugary drinks and foods – even if you’re craving them (do your best). Also, avoid caffeine, including energy drinks and tea and coffee.
Beware of hidden sugars and always read the ingredients (this includes sauces like ketchup, mayonnaise and salad dressings). Get savvy about all the different names for sugar – there are many – common ones are fructose, sucrose, dextrose, syrup, cane juice and agave nectar.
Make your meals from scratch when possible so that you know exactly what is in them and look into healthier sugar alternatives like honey, dates, maple syrup and stevia.
Avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin and sucralose at all costs, they still negatively affect blood sugar, can cause obesity and are damaging to gut health.
2) Eat plenty of vegetables, in as many different colours as you can every day and eat them with at least two main meals a day. These are a fantastic source of nutrients to feed your body and provide it with energy. They are packed full of fibre to slow the sugar release of your food, keeping your blood sugar at consistent levels.
3) Eat healthy fats with every meal. Think olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts, seeds and oily fish.
4) Eat the right kinds of carbs to provide your body with the energy it needs but with a slower glucose release.
Choose complex carbs which are less processed, and higher in fibre and nutrients than simple carbohydrates.
Instead of white bread and pasta, go for wholemeal ones. Brown rice is preferable to white rice. Oatcakes, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, oats, beans and legumes are great choices.
Choose these for every meal, and you will find not only do you feel more energised but you’ll also feel fuller for longer.
If you want to eat potatoes, have them with the skin on as this slows down the sugar release and increases the nutritional benefits.
You might want to mix it up and go for sweet potatoes sometimes instead. Opt for foods with a lower glycemic index which has a more balancing blood sugar effect.
5) Proteins slow down the sugar release from food. Always ensure you eat healthy protein with every meal and snack.
We need roughly 1g of pure protein per kg of bodyweight so if you weigh 60kg (approximately 9.44 stone) then you’ll need 60g of protein per day – more if you are pregnant or regularly exercise.
You’d be surprised how many foods contain protein, and if you eat a diverse range, you should get all the protein you need in a day, not to mention all the valuable nutrients they provide.
Great sources of plant protein include beans and legumes including lentils, peas, nuts, seeds (hemp are especially high) also chia, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame etc., quinoa, spelt grains and porridge oats.
Some of the best high-protein vegetables are mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, sweetcorn, peas, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and artichokes.
Other good-quality healthy proteins are fish, lean meat, eggs and dairy. When consuming any animal foods, eating organic, grass-fed and free-range is best.
If you would like to try a protein supplement, Maximum Vibrance is incredibly comprehensive and a real powerhouse. The ingredients are all hand-sourced and tested for nutritional analysis and to guarantee the product meets the promised high standards.
Maximum Vibrance a multi-mineral and vitamin, contains nutrient-dense plant foods, antioxidants, enzymes and immune-boosting power. Plus 25 billion probiotics to help maintain gut health.
This is a great way to pack in some nutrients and meet your protein requirements if you’re concerned you’re not getting enough.
6) Always have a supply of healthy snacks to hand for when your energy dips between meals. Make sure they contain protein – ideally, they should also contain complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.
You won’t need a vast amount as snacks like this are very satisfying and highly nutritious, so you’ll be feeding your body exactly what it needs to stay energised and keep your blood sugar steady.
If you have a piece of fruit like an apple, pear or banana, have a small handful of nuts or seeds with it.
Bananas are better eaten less ripe as their sugar increases the older they get. Spread some celery or apple wedges with nut butter, eat crudites or oatcakes and a little houmous, have a hard-boiled egg, or a couple of tablespoons of full-fat plain yogurt with berries and seeds.
7) Drink plenty of water – not only does it keep you hydrated and healthy, but it may also help to control blood sugar.
8) If you are regularly stressed or anxious, it’s crucial to find effective ways to manage it.
When you suffer from chronic stress, hormones like cortisol and adrenalin remain consistently higher than they should.
Over time, this can have a worrying impact, causing raised glucose levels in the blood. For ways to de-stress, click here.
9) Lack of sleep can also raise blood sugar as your body starts to use insulin less efficiently. For some top tips on how to get a good night’s sleep, click here.
Berberine may help to balance blood sugar
Berberine is a natural alkaloid extracted from various plants used in traditional Chinese medicine. Several studies support the potential use of berberine to treat type 2 diabetes. It can reduce glucose production in the liver and can have the same blood sugar lowering effect as metformin – a drug commonly used to treat diabetes.
There are several health benefits associated with berberine, including for weight loss and polycystic ovarian syndrome. You can read more here.
If you would like to try a berberine supplement, Planet Source’s Berberine provides 1200mg of berberine HCL per serving, and each container gives a one-month supply. The supplement is vegan and free from corn, sugar, salt, wheat, soy, gluten and artificial ingredients.
If you struggle with any of the symptoms listed in this article, it could be that you have blood sugar imbalance and are at increased risk of insulin resistance, pre and type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
If you follow the dietary and lifestyle suggestions listed here, you should start to feel much healthier, more energised and balanced.
You may find that any hormonal issues, sleep problems and stubborn weight gain will significantly improve and your moods should start to level out. You’re also less likely to experience brain fog and will find it easier to focus.
If you have consistently increased thirst, are urinating more frequently, feeling fatigued, losing weight, experiencing blurred vision, are repeatedly getting thrush, and cuts or wounds are taking longer to heal, you could have type-2 diabetes. Visit your GP to get tested as soon as possible.
This article is by Rebecca Rychlik-Cunning, a Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.
Eating sugary foods and simple carbs floods the body with glucose, the fast kind that rapidly absorbs into your bloodstream.