Blood Sugar Regulation
When someone discusses this topic you may think of diabetes. This is so very important that it can affect everything from weight to anxiety. The media is trying to get caught up on this information, but still we discuss calories. Calories are such small portion of why we gain weight. Thermodynamics in the body is more complex than calories in calories out. You have been lied to. I have tried to discuss this in the past, but I will attempt to delineate in a more informative and complete fashion. I would also like to define blood sugar. For all intents and purposes when I use the term sugar I am referring to glucose unless otherwise specified. (Table sugar is sucrose which is a mixture of both glucose and fructose).
Blood sugar defined is glucose that is in the blood stream. If you eat a bunch of glucose then your blood sugar goes up. When this happens the hormone insulin is released from our pancreas to bring it down by bringing it into our cells and out of the blood stream.
It is best to look at blood sugar like a roller coaster (or a graph for all the math people). If you look at this graph you can see an optimum range. This is where everything is going great! Your brain is focused and you have the optimal amount of energy. This is also when your hormones are working the most efficiently. This is ideal!
Above the Green
The curve above the green is high blood sugar. This means that we need to really ramp up the insulin to bring that blood sugar down. The reason that we need to do this is because excess sugar in the body is dangerous via oxidative stress. If this goes on for a prolonged period it can do damage to our cells. Have you heard about diabetics losing a leg or losing their sight? Why is that? That is because nerves and the retina don’t need insulin to enter, so when a diabetic is no longer able to create insulin the sugar level is very high. This then damages the nerve causing the patient to not be able to feel a cut on the leg. It also has trouble healing without the nerve. It gets infected and they need to amputate.
This part of the curve also causes inflammation. This is not the inflammation that happens with a swollen twisted ankle. This is the bad stuff that is now finally being talked about in the mainstream media. I won’t get into the specifics here, but here is a great article about it.
High blood sugar has now been linked to Dementia. This state is something that I would like to avoid like the plague, so any method to do so would be more than prudent for me. Studies are also showing that Alzheimer’s may have a link to long standing high blood sugar. In fact, they are starting to call it Type III diabetes. People always ask me about how to lose weight, and knowing these facts and introducing these habits can help with that, I try to have them focus more on preserving their brains. There is nothing more painful than having a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Another thing that happens is that two (actually more but let’s keep it understandable) hormones become circulated; insulin and leptin. When the levels are up for longer periods of time (it actually doesn’t take very long for leptin) your body starts to ignore them. Think of a ticking clock once you enter a room. At first it is a real annoying noise, but after a while we forget it is even there. We have a tendency to ignore constants.
We all know what happens when insulin becomes a problem. Remember that insulin’s role is to bring the blood sugar down. When it no longer works as well we have problems bringing the sugar levels back down. This is called type II diabetes.
What no one tells you is that the same thing happens with leptin. Leptin is a hormone that regulates how full you feel. Have you ever said to yourself, “why did I eat that last roll?” It may be because of leptin resistance. Another thing that we strange thing is that leptin resistance can also accumulate in our joints causing joint pain. This is one of the aspects of high blood sugar that is not discussed enough. This destroys something called will power. Our brains still think that we are hungry even though we have gotten plenty of food for our activity level.
Below the Green
This is the low blood sugar level. This graph states that this is when you get hungry. This is also when your brain starts to high jack you. Your brain is a fickle sort. It has a limited amount of places from which it can get energy. The number one source is glucose (there are ketones and aldehydes that it can also use that come from fats). It will do some crazy things to get energy. In fact, there is a process that it uses to help you find an easy way to bring energy to it. It uses dopamine.
This is a neurotransmitter that has a ton of uses, but one of them is pattern recognition. When you access a quick sugar fix (such as fruit juice, candy, crackers, chips, soda, etc.) it gives you a bit of dopamine to tell you, “hey this stuff can get you out of a jam”. This leads to you unconsciously knowing where all of these sugar fixes are stored, and when you eat them you get reinforcement from your brain that this is a good thing. (THIS IS A BAD THING!). In fact, when the blood sugar is low brain imaging shows that our unconscious brain already fires BEFORE our conscious brain makes a decision. We have all been in that situation. We see a muffin and say to ourselves, “I am not going to eat that.” However, there is that little tickle in the back of your head that says, “oh yes you are…..and you are going to like it.” That means AVOIDANCE OF THIS SITUATION IS THE BEST WAY TO DEAL WITH THIS SITUATION. I will let you know how to do that.
Symptoms of low blood sugar:
Please do not be dismissive of these symptoms! There are people whose lives are being horrible affected by these, and they don’t even know that they are avoidable. Avoidance is the key to treatment.
- Short temper
- Extreme hunger
- Inability to concentrate
- Head fog
- Blurred vision
- Fast heart beat
- Muscle twitching
- Slurred speech
Why would our brain do this!? Here we are trying to lose weight, but our brain is telling us that these terrible things are good for us! In fact your brain basically has close to zero will-power when your blood sugar is too low. ZERO WILL POWER. You can forgive yourself. However, when you read the rest of these blogs you will have the power to avoid this situation. Therefore empowerment!
Your brain is doing this because we have not always had some Doritos in the vending machine waiting for us to give in to its unavoidable temptation. In fact companies use this system to sell you food (link to earlier article). We used to be looking for food all the time before farming. Low blood sugar was common, and dealing with it in a fast way can really help you survive. If you are chasing a rabbit or gathering tubers and your blood sugar gets low, it is an advantage to find some fruit or honey. In order to have your brain recognize this situation in the future it gives you a bit of dopamine to help you remember this pattern in the future. Thank you past brain! This same thing happens today when we eat something like Gushers or drink a soda. As a side note, this is the same system that fires when a human consumes drugs or alcohol.
Check out our next blog in two weeks when we talk about how you can resolve this problem!