How much do blood sugar levels affect our physical and mental health?
And most importantly, what we can do about it?
Most of us know what we need to do to improve our health. We also know what our biggest problems are, with an increasing obesity rate, eating too much fast food, and an increasing number of people with conditions like diabetes and relying on using medication without giving attention to what is the root cause. Even if you ask elementary school kids they instinctively know that we should not drink soda or eat fast food every day. If you are lucky, your doctor will suggest that too.
I have always felt that food is medicine, and that we should treat our body well to live a longer and better quality life. But it’s not always easy to say “no” to tasty food. But what if you can now actually see in real time what is going on inside your body? Would that help you make changes, or even consider changing something in your lifestyle?
I recently did an experiment with a pretty new technology called CGM, or continuous glucose monitoring. It allows you to see your exact blood sugar levels, and fluctuations, 24 hours a day. A tiny needle goes in your skin and you just cover it with a bandage, it does not hurt at all and you actually don’t even notice it. It then stays there (for a couple of weeks, or however long you want it) and you scan it every few hours with your phone to see all the details.
It measures your glucose (sugar) levels in the interstitial fluid and you are able to see what causes fluctuations, how long the spikes are, and how fast your blood sugar normalizes again after a meal, a drink, medication, coffee, exercise, meditation, any other activity. You can easily compare what types of food and exercise cause the best responses and which ones are not so beneficial for your body. It’s a great tool, especially if you have already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or any metabolic disorders. You can share and use the information with your physician and together make the correct decisions so that you can really personalize your treatment.
I wish that everyone would have the opportunity to try CGM. Here are some of the things that I learned that I hope will be beneficial for you to know next time you eat or do exercise.
First, I made a list of what I wanted to try and experiment to see which foods, what time of day, and which combination would affect me in which way. I also tested high intensity vs low intensity exercise as well. Keep in mind that everyone is different, so of course you may not have the same reaction that I did.
w I noticed that when I eat one or two hours before bed, especially any food that contains carbohydrates (even fruit) my blood sugar would spike during my sleep and actually disturb my sleep quality. The highest blood sugar spikes that I saw with fruit were with watermelon and mango.
w I don’t usually eat more than two or three meals a day, but I experimented with six to seven small meals, including snacks, and quickly realized that the fluctuating blood sugar levels were making me cranky and giving mood swings throughout the day. My husband did not like it either!
w I found that ancient grain, low gluten sourdough bread had almost no effect at all on my blood sugar. When I swapped the low gluten to regular organic flour sourdough bread, even when I cooked both myself in the same way, I saw huge blood sugar spikes.
w I found that honey, meat, and sweet potatoes had almost no effect on my blood sugar.
w I learned that high intensity exercise increases my blood sugar, which makes sense as exercise gives stress to the body. And low intensity exercise lowers blood sugar. Also, after a low intensity workout I didn’t feel hungry either.
Some critical points that I learned would be to make sure to try not to consume any food, but especially carbohydrates, 1-2 hours before bed time. Eat your treats early in the day! And don’t eat smaller, more frequent meals, instead stick to at most two to three meals each day. I’d also recommend getting some experience with time restricted eating. Also, before a low intensity workout it’s better to not consume any food, but before high intensity exercise maybe a single spoon of honey will help improve performance.
Steady blood sugar levels will help improve your health everyday. Your mood, sleep, blood markers, productivity, performance, and healthy aging will all be positively affected. It seems like it might be complicated, although really it is not. You just need to pay attention to what your body is telling you after each meal, and try to give more attention to yourself.
I hope some of my findings may help you.
Ayda Ersoy, nutritionist (Dip.C.N., Dip.S.N.), master trainer (CPT ACE, NCSF, CanfitPro), registered yoga teacher, founder, Health Angel Nutrition, Fitness and Wellness, founder, SMS (Stability, Mobility Strength) Intuitive Training System.