When it comes to metabolic health or fat loss, blood sugar regulation is often a topic that's sidelined in favour of calorie counting, gym routines, or the latest diet trend. However, the balance of your blood sugar affects almost every aspect of your health and well-being. Blood sugar, or glucose, is the primary source of energy for our body's cells. But like many things in life, balance is key. Too much or too little glucose can be harmful, so our bodies have developed an intricate system to keep glucose levels within a narrow range. This system of regulation involves a delicate interplay of hormones, organs, and feedback mechanisms that respond dynamically to the body's ever-changing needs.
Here's a closer look at why maintaining this balance is crucial for holistic health:
Mood and Mental Health
Imbalanced blood sugar can lead to mood swings, irritability, and even depressive symptoms. The brain is highly sensitive to glucose levels; thus, maintaining a steady supply can support optimal brain function and mood stability.
When blood sugar levels surge, the pancreas releases insulin to help shuttle glucose into cells. Over time, constant surges can lead to insulin resistance, where the cells no longer respond effectively to insulin's cues. This hormonal dysregulation can then ripple out, affecting other hormones such as cortisol, the stress hormone, and even reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone.
Consistently high blood sugar and the consequent insulin resistance can lead to metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Balancing your blood sugar can help optimize your metabolism, keeping it humming smoothly and reducing the risk of these disorders.
Ever felt that mid-afternoon slump after a sugary lunch? That's the crash that follows a sugar high. Balanced blood sugar provides consistent energy throughout the day, helping you avoid those highs and lows that can leave you feeling fatigued.
High blood sugar levels, especially at night, can disrupt your sleep patterns. Stable blood sugar can aid in deep, restorative sleep which is crucial for cognitive function, immune health, and overall vitality.
When your blood sugar is stable, your body can more effectively burn fat for energy. On the other hand, frequent spikes can lead to fat storage, making weight management a challenge.
Constant sugar spikes can suppress immune function, making the body more susceptible to infections. A balanced blood sugar can support a robust immune response.
Our top 5 tips for reducing blood sugar:
1. Dress your carbs!
Incorporate lean protein sources and/or healthy fats with every meal to reduce blood sugar spikes. These macronutrients help stabilize blood sugar levels by slowing the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. E.g piece of fruit with a nut butter or piece of toast with avocado and salmon.
2. Regular Exercise
Physical activity helps improve insulin sensitivity, allowing your body to use glucose more effectively. Aim for a mix of aerobic, strength training, and flexibility exercises.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
Drinking one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in some water a few minutes before meals especially breakfast or before eating something sweet, flattens the ensuing glucose spike by 8-30%. Easy hack!
4. Practice Portion Control
Even when eating foods with a low GI, portion control is important. Chew your food thoroughly and take a break before a second helping to let your hunger cues catch up. Eating large portions can still lead to significant increases in blood sugar levels.
5. Maitake Mushroom
There are many supplements out there that promise to balance blood sugar levels. In animal studies Maitake has been shown to significantly decrease circulating concentrations of glucose and insulin in as little as 4 days. Some of the reasons functional mushrooms (especially Maitake) may assist blood sugar are due to the following components :
Beta-glucans: Functional mushrooms contain compounds called beta-glucans, which are types of soluble dietary fibre. Beta-glucans can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates in the digestive system, leading to more stable blood sugar levels after meals. They may also improve insulin sensitivity.
Polysaccharides: Various polysaccharides, including polysaccharide peptides, can be found in functional mushrooms and these have been known to have hypoglycaemic effects. These compounds can help regulate blood sugar by improving insulin secretion and reducing insulin resistance.
Antioxidants: Can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are associated with insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism. By reducing these factors, functional mushrooms may indirectly support better blood sugar control.
Regulation of gut microbiota: Emerging research suggests that functional mushrooms may positively influence the composition and diversity of the gut microbiota. A balanced and diverse gut microbiota is important for proper nutrient absorption and metabolism, including the regulation of blood sugar.
Adaptogenic properties: Some functional mushrooms are considered adaptogens, which means they may help the body adapt to stress, including the stress associated with high blood sugar levels. By helping the body cope with stress, these mushrooms may indirectly contribute to better blood sugar regulation.
Maitake and other functional mushrooms serve as a promising option alongside dietary and lifestyle suggestions as above. Always check with your doctor when adding in new supplements.
Having healthy blood sugar and insulin levels might seem like it’s not relevant to you but it really is a foundational aspect of holistic health. Prioritising this balance can lead to improved energy, mood, and overall well-being.