Blood glucose spikes. These are completely natural occurrences after food (and other things such as stress) which set in motion cascade of hormones that use the energy needed and store the energy that isn’t (among other things).
Top Tips to Lower Blood Glucose
16-Nov 2020, by Bronwyn MacRitchie
So what's the problem?
However, what is NOT natural is how often and how high our blood glucose spikes in response to high processed carbohydrate meals throughout the day, not to mention the elevated stress of modern living. The height and frequency of these spikes is so unnatural in fact that they are a primary driving force of many diseases on the rise today.
What does this cause?
They lead first to insulin resistance and chronic inflammation, and then to type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, PCOS, Alzheimer’s, erectile dysfunction, tipping certain auto immune disorders, certain types of cancer, the list goes on! Not to mention they speed up our aging process, shortening telomere length and damaging the cellular structure of our skin.
In short, this is NOT something we want to ignore if we care about our health, and anything we can do to minimize the intensity and frequency of these spikes is definitely something we should be incorporating!
Remember all human bodies are different!
Of course, the best way to truly know how our OWN blood glucose is behaving is to test it! You can do this with a home test kit, widely available in pharmacies. You can take your daily fasting glucose in the morning (try to always measure at the same time, before food).
Then you can spend some time testing before, 30 minutes after, 1 hour after and 2 hours after a typical meal you might eat. It is very telling to watch how high your glucose rises in response to particular foods and how long it takes to come down. Remembering that each of us will have our OWN response, no two human bodies are exactly the same.
Enter the CGM
While this process may leave you with some sore fingers after a few days, the newer player on the scene is the Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). This is a small device that you attach to the back of your arm, which feeds a continuous glucose reading back to an application where you can watch the reading in real time. This can be an incredibly enlightening experience, and you might be surprised (like Lauren and Matt our ingfit ambassadors) at what spikes your blood glucose the most! Doing something like this allows you to truly begin eating according to your own body’s responses and requirements. You never have to listen to someone tell you which foods have the most blood glucose impact again, as you will know YOUR body’s truth.
Wearing a CGM also brings home the truth about stress and blood glucose to many people who wear them… They may not have eaten anything in hours, encounter a stressful situation and watch the reading spike in response! It’s quite something to have solid data from your own body telling you that finding ways to reduce stress is not a luxury but a physical necessity for our cellular health.
No matter what you find though, there are many ways to combat the intensity and frequency of these spikes… so here are my top 5 tips.
1. Eat foods that cause LESS of an glucose spike
This means stay away from processed carbs. Keto is a great starting point, take your carbs super low, low enough to get into ketosis (this can also be measured), and stay in that state for a while. Give your body a break from the constant barrage of glucose it has endured for your entire life… this doesn’t mean you have to stay keto forever. Remember, protein and fat cause significantly lower glucose responses on the whole than carbs do.
Most people once healed will settle into a happy low carb balance where they manage to keep their blood glucose as steady as possible using all the other hacks they have learned, and continuing to avoid the most damaging carbs.
These are generally the highly processed foods, most bread, baked goods, juices, packaged snacks, ‘healthy’ cereals, most of the things in boxes on supermarket shelves… however we are lucky that we live in a time when healthy alternatives to these foods have been developed and are available.
We strongly advise sticking to real whole food as far as possible, but if craving strikes, a keto brownie (with ingfit approved ingredients, please be careful, many things are labelled keto now and are NOT healthy at all) is going to do WORLD’S less damage than the one packed to the brim with sugar and white flour in the regular bakery. In fact… test it for yourself!
2. MOVE your Body!
These bodies were made to MOVE! Not to sit for extended periods! Walking is EXTREMELY effective at lowering blood glucose, especially after a meal! So effective in fact that mainstream medicine recognizes it… When you go for an oral glucose tolerance test you are not allowed to walk at all while they measure your response to the glucose!
Try to get a good 10 minute walk in after every meal, remember you don’t actually have to leave your house or office to do this (think mid-summer in Dubai), you can work out a little route through your house if needed or along the corridors in an apartment block! Increasing the amount you move throughout the day is exceptionally effective at lowering blood glucose and reducing overall inflammation.
We highly recommend downloading and using the free app Fitze here in the UAE, as you earn coins for your steps and can redeem them for lots of great rewards! They also run frequent challenges which are extremely motivating when you might otherwise not have gotten up to take that extra walk!
Berberine is a compound found in a variety of plants including Indian and European Barberry, goldthread, goldenseal Oregon grape, phellodendrom and tree turmeric. It has a long history of use in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, and more recently western medicine has confirmed its effectiveness for many applications. Some of the most potent of these are its ability to lower blood glucose, HBA1C, improve insulin sensitivity and even improve the HOMA-IR score by up to 50%.
It also shows a positive impact on lipid profiles, lowering triglycerides and increasing HDL in some studies, but more research is needed.
We recommend Thorne Berberine 500, as the brand is frequently tested for potency, ensuring that the supplement does in fact deliver what it states on the bottle.
*Note, this is a potent supplement, and if you are already diabetic or pre-diabetic and managing your blood glucose with a medication, please speak to your doctor before incorporating it, as it could induce hypoglycemia.
Chromium is a less widely known supplement for lowering blood glucose. However, unlike berberine, chromium is a naturally occurring element which CAN be found in foods such as eggs, nuts, red meat and broccoli.
Chromium’s role in effective carbohydrate metabolism has been documented since the 1950s, however it’s estimated that most Americans only get around 50% of the conservative recommended daily intake. For this reason, and because many of us trying to control our blood glucose may have impaired carbohydrate metabolism from years of damage, supplementing with chromium picolinate can be an effective support strategy for keeping blood glucose levels stable and starting to reduce spikes.
We recommend Thorne Chromium Picolinate, again for the exceptional standards of the brand. When choosing supplements going for the cheapest on the market is never wise, as you will more than likely not be absorbing very much of the low grade ingredients and be wasting your money anyway.
The relationship between underlying stress and blood glucose is REAL. In fact, there is even an evolutionary reason for the spikes stress causes. In times when predators and various other threats to our existence were daily worries for us humans, the fight or flight response that kicked in in response to seeing something that may chase or kill us required us to have ample energy at the ready to initiate a high speed getaway plan or fight with enough strength to stay alive! So ,along with the adrenaline and cortisol released to give us the impulse to respond, the body also ensures enough available energy in the form of glucose is at hand in the blood stream to power the survival strategy – you WILL be able to fight or flee.
However, the problem is that in today’s world you don’t really need that extra energy to deal with the things you brain is still perceiving as tigers… The driver tailgating you, an inconsiderate boss, or struggling to pay the bills. So we don’t end up burning through the extra glucose our awesome bodies provide, which our ancestors would have needed and used. It sits in our blood stream until our system calms down and is able to remove it. By which time another stressor, a deadline you had forgotten about, a colleague losing their job, may have arisen starting the process all over again.
Stress management is not a luxury, if we are serious about managing our blood glucose, and thus our overall health, it’s a necessity. Yoga, mindfulness and meditation are three excellent ways to help manage your stress and better equip yourself to recognize it and stop it in its tracks when it arises. Even 10 minutes daily can make a MARKED difference on your blood glucose levels, not to mention other health markers.
There are some incredible apps on Android and iOS which can guide you through a practice at home. Check out Calm, Head Space and Insight Timer as a start.