Monday, September 20, 2010

Sugar! Sugar! Sugar!

Did you know that sugar is essential to your survival?  Your brain runs on sugar; and without it, your brain would cease to function and you would fall into a deep sleep and never wake up.  True story.  

But don't take it to mean that you should go down a box of Krispy Kremes with the excuse that you're just trying to keep your brain alive.  Lucky for you, (or unlucky, if you were wanting an excuse for a Krispy Kreme overload) the body is aaaaaamazing at controlling the level of glucose (sugar) that is constantly flowing through your veins to your vital organs....and your body doesn't require sugar in Krispy Kreme quantities to do so.  With the combined efforts of the liver and pancreas, the body can store and release glucose as needed so that it can enter into the body's cells (via the blood vessels--the body's "highway") and be used as energy.  

As many people may know, the pancreas's inability to release insulin (the hormone that allows sugar to enter the body's cells) results in type 1 diabetes.  Those with this type of diabetes are dependent on insulin injections to survive. Those who live with type 2 diabetes usually have a pancreas that works just fine, but their body's cells have become resistant to insulin usually as a result of a diet chronically high in sugar.  Many people with type 2 diabetes can manage their disease quite well with diet and exercise.  And then there are those of us who don't have diabetes.  As far as we're concerned, our body is processing its sugars just fine so we have nothing to worry about.  Right?

Well, not so.  Did you know that when the body undergoes increased amounts of stress that it can affect the health of vital organs (like the pancreas and liver) that control blood sugar?  I remember learning this truth right away when I first worked as an ICU nurse.  I had many young, healthy, athletic patients who had suffered multiple fractures and injuries from car accidents who had never been diagnosed with diabetes, yet their blood sugars were super high one hour (known as hyperglycemia) and would bottom out the next (hypoglycemia).  They hadn't suddenly developed diabetes; their bodies were just having a hard time regulating their blood sugars after suffering such stress and trauma.  The consequences of high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) over a period of time include blood clots, circulation problems, and poor healing.  The consequences of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) are lightheadedness, dizziness, tiredness, and then eventually nighty-night brain and eventual death.  Yikes.

Well, unfortunately for us, our bodies don't have to experience extreme trauma before our organs begin to have a little trouble processing, storing, and utilizing our sugar.  Because pregnancy is taxing on the body, it isn't highly uncommon for mothers-to-be to experience hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.  Likewise, those with compromised immune systems, bad diets, and poor sleep habits can all be at risk for having unbalanced blood sugar (high or low).  It is my personal belief that many people are walking around having these issues without even knowing about it or knowing that it could someday escalate into full-blown diabetes, and trust me, you don't want diabetes. 

So here are a few "Holly Suggestions" to keeping your pancreas and liver healthy and to give your body an extra boost in controlling that blood sugar:

*Try to limit the simple carbohydrates in your diet (white bread, candy, cake, and, sadly, Krispy Kremes).  Simple sugars absorb into the bloodstream rather quickly giving you a nice sugar rush (and a momentarily-high blood sugar) and burst of energy.  Unfortunately, the energy dies down quickly and your pancreas has to work extra hard to keep the blood sugar stabilized.  Many people who tend to get a little hypoglycemic at times think that they need more simple sugars in their diet to help bring their blood sugar levels up, when in reality, they really need a diet less in simple sugars and consistently higher in the following:

*Get most of your carbs in your diet from whole grains (oatmeal, whole wheat, brown rice) and hearty veggies (sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, broccoli, peas, beans, etc).  These more complex carbohydrates take longer to break down and absorb into the bloodstream.  The result is less stress on the pancreas and liver and a better ability to maintain a steady, healthy blood sugar level. 

*Cook with Coconut Oil.  Oh boy, this is my favorite!  I am obsessed with coconut anything.  I LOVE coconut, and lucky for me, coconut oil helps decrease the stress on the pancreas and is recommended by many chiropractors and naturopaths as a natural blood sugar stabilizer. 

*Cinnamon.  Okay, I don't know all the science behind this one, but it is a well-known blood-sugar stabilizer.  And did you know that cinnamon is a surprisingly delicious addition to savory dinner recipes!?  It's true.  So eat more cinnamon.

*Eat something every 3 hours.  I used to think my husband was ridiculous for always getting on my case about this, but it's true.  Sometimes I can lean on the side of hypoglycemia, but this never seems to happen when I'm making sure that I don't go unearthly-long stretches of time without eating.

*Get good sleep!  I am always getting on my husband's case about this one, only because it is my own personal belief that complete physical health consists of proper diet, proper exercise, and proper sleep.  And I don't believe any one is more important than the other!  7-8 hours every night.  Early to bed and early to rise, people.  You get your best sleep that way and I swear by making a habit of going to bed consistently at the same time every night (if you can help it) and not sleeping in regularly (again, if you can help it).  You'll feel better and your body will be better able to do its job to keep you alive and well and not just in the blood sugar department. :)

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Thank you!

    I shared your blog with a friend- she has it saved as one of her "favorites" to follow.

    Happy night. C