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How Knowing Your Blood Sugar Can Prevent Diabetes

How Knowing Your Blood Sugar Can Prevent Diabetes

Pre-diabetes is a condition where an individual's blood glucose levels run higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetic. Even if not a full-blown condition, pre-diabetes can still lead to a host of health conditions including heart disease and stroke, and, of course, Type 2 Diabetes, the most common form of diabetes.

There are currently 96 million adult Americans diagnosed with prediabetes. Of those 96 million, more than 8 out of 10 do not even know they have it. With 1 in 3 adults having diabetes, there is an epidemic boiling under the surface of our society (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2021.)

Pre-diabetes is a condition where an individual's blood glucose levels run higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetic. Even if not a full-blown condition, pre-diabetes can still lead to a host of health conditions including heart disease and stroke, and, of course, Type 2 Diabetes, the most common form of diabetes.  

I often have clients come through my door who have no idea they are pre-diabetic even though they may exhibit some of the classic symptoms. I will often refer them to their primary care for further testing only to learn that, indeed, their blood sugar is running higher than normal.

Knowing your blood sugar values early on can be a great asset to understanding and preventing your risks of pre-diabetes or eventual Type 2 Diabetes. In this blog, I will educate you how to know if you are on your way to metabolic dysregulation and a few nutrition and lifestyle tips to help right the course.  

So what are symptoms of blood sugar imbalance I look for in my clients? Symptoms for blood sugar imbalance can include fatigue, brain fog, blurred vision, shakiness, feeling “hangry,” anxiety, and sweating. Other signs include weight gain, frequent urination, and hunger cravings. That classic 3pm afternoon slump? It isn’t “normal”! These are all signs of glucose impairment that more often than not come from poor dietary choices.  

Your blood sugar levels naturally fluctuate throughout the day based on the foods you eat and the lifestyle you lead. Blood sugar, technically known as glucose, is the main sugar that is found in the blood. The bloodstream carries this sugar to all the cells in the body in order to supply the body with the energy it needs.

Our blood sugar is tightly regulated in our body in order to ensure optimal body function. This regulation is accomplished through the orchestration of a multitude of organs including the pancreas, brain, liver, and intestine as well as muscle and adipose tissue. A network of hormones and neuropeptides released from these organs are able to help regulate blood sugar within a tight range of 72-106mg/dl(4-6 mmol/dl),a range the body is happiest with (Roder et al., 2016).

So how can you learn more about your own blood sugar balance? In order to make changes, I notice the number one thing with my client’s success is to have access to their own data. It empowers individuals to take charge of their own health with feedback that is specific to them.

Knowing your blood sugar is helpful if you have a way to track it. Luckily, today there are many doctors who may willingly prescribe a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) for patients who have a family history of diabetes and who would like to use them preventively. For others, who may not have the ability to get a prescription, but who are interested in monitoring their data regardless, there are many direct-to-consumer companies offering CGMs for a certain price.  

The purpose of a CGM in the health and wellness space is to get ahead of diabetes and other metabolic diseases and use the data as a tool to change nutrition and lifestyle habits which may be leading you towards metabolic disorders.

Knowledge is power and having access to a tool like a CGM has empowered many of my clients. That being said, it is not a requirement and often not feasible for everyone to get one of these gadgets. For this reason, I share my top tips with clients on how they can improve their metabolic health with simple nutrition and lifestyle changes. Such changes may be as impactful as any medical intervention when implemented early enough (Hu, 2011).

One of the main changes I make working with clients who may be showing signs of blood sugar dysregulation is cleaning up their diet. Whether they choose to be vegan, pescatarian or an omnivore, I educate on moving away from processed foods toward whole nutrient dense foods that deliver a dense vitamin and mineral punch in smaller quantities.  

From there we focus on making sure protein is present in every meal. Eating a balanced diet that includes vegetable rich carbohydrates, good quality fats and protein. Protein specifically has shown to have little impact on blood sugar levels (when consumed in moderate amounts) and may in fact help stabilize your glucose levels (Campbell & Rains, 2015.) Plus, since protein takes longer to digest, my clients often find they are not hungry between meals.

Once protein has been prioritized, we focus on diversity of plant foods ranging from leafy greens to colorful low glycemic fruits and vegetables. We also include healthy fats most often found in the Mediterranean diet which include olives and olive oil, nuts and seeds as well as some butter if tolerated. Avocados and coconut fats are also a great option if part of your cultural diet.  

While food remains foundational in my work with clients on regulating blood sugar, we also address other lifestyle factors which include sleep, exercise, stress, and genetic factors.  

As I mentioned, knowledge is power. Individuals with a family history of diabetes or who are currently at risk for pre-diabetes, include those who are overweight, exercise fewer than 3 times per week, women who experience gestational diabetes and/or whose race or ethnicity may increase their risk such as African Americans, Hispanic, American Indians, Pacific Islanders and some Asian Americans (CDC, 2021) may want to stay ahead of the game and get educated on this condition.

Also, anyone experiencing the above symptoms of fatigue or brain fog and who are generally looking to improve their quality of life should consider educating themselves on where their blood sugar stands. Either speaking with your physician or investing in a CGM are great ways to become proactive about your health.  Most importantly, transitioning your diet and lifestyle to one that optimizes metabolic health is one of the fastest ways to reduce your risk of succumbing to these conditions.  

If any of this resonates with you, please subscribe to my newsletter or book a free 15-minute discovery call to see how you might be guided to optimizing your metabolic health.  

RESEARCH

Campbell, A. P., & Rains, T. M. (2015). Dietary protein is important in the practical management of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. The Journal of nutrition, 145(1), 164S-169S.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). About prediabetes & type 2 diabetes. National Diabetes Prevention Program. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/about-prediabetes.html

Franz, M. J. (1997). Protein: metabolism and effect on blood glucose levels. The diabetes educator, 23(6), 643-651.

Hu, F. B. (2011). Globalization of diabetes: the role of diet, lifestyle, and genes. Diabetes care, 34(6), 1249-1257.

Röder, P. V., Wu, B., Liu, Y., & Han, W. (2016). Pancreatic regulation of glucose homeostasis. Experimental & molecular medicine, 48(3), e219-e219.

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