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Understanding the impact of high blood glucose levels on your health and wellbeing

Let's take a walk back in time. Our ancestors lived and ate very differently to how we do today. They foraged, hunted and fished for their food. They were active and on the move for a considerable part of their waking hours. When the sun went down, they would rest. They lived in alignment with their natural body clock, their circadian rhythm.

Let’s fast track to modern day life and things are rather different. We rush around in "fight and flight" mode most of the week. We often miss out on quality sleep, either because we can't get to / stay asleep, or we're up late trying to cram more in. We then eat convenient, processed foods out of plastic packets and containers, still on the go, barely noticing what we're consuming. And what is in these packaged, processed meals and snacks? These foods are typically full of refined sugars, fake-fats and chemicals (artificial flavours, colourings and preservatives). There's not much sigh of anything fresh and nutritious.

Maybe we're not all eating out of packets every meal time. But let's be honest, it's pretty common in our modern diets to consume way too many sugars and refined starches for the (also commonplace) sedentary lifestyle. It's considered pretty standard to reach for sugar and caffeine fixes for a boost to get through the day, then unwind with a glass (or three) of one's fave tipple to get to sleep at night. Even if your weight is within a "healthy" range, you're not doing your overall health any favours if you're not considering the quality and content of the calories you're consuming.

In reality, the way we live and eat is not serving our health and well-being. We may have seen huge advancements in medicine that can keep us alive for longer, but the hard facts show that cancer rates are increasing and we have a diabesity epidemic on our hands all around the world. It’s not just more adults becoming pre-diabetic and type 2 diabetic, the rates of childhood diabetes are also increasing. Even if your blood glucose levels are not in the pre/diabetic range (and to be clear, 4 million people in the UK are diagnosed with diabetes and a further 500,000 are estimated to be living with the condition without even knowing it), you can still experience a wide range of undesirable symptoms when your diet consists of too many refined sugars and starches. 

So why is that?

When we consume grains and sugars that have been refined, all the fibre has been removed. This means that there’s nothing to slow the release of the sugars into your blood stream once consumed. Your pancreas then needs to produce and release a big hit of insulin to bring your blood glucose levels back into a healthy range. That’s assuming you pancreas is working efficiently, can make the amount of insulin needed and that your insulin is having the desired effect. 

Some of us (me at 27 years of age), discover our insulin isn’t working, or being produced in the quantities we need. So, we need to reduce the amount of carbs and sugars we are consuming, change the way we are consuming them and most likely, make some lifestyle adjustments too (more on strategies in a future blog) to ensure our blood glucose levels don’t spike and remain dangerously high.

For those that don’t yet have a problem with insulin production, the roller coaster ride of extreme peaks and troughs that you’re creating for your blood glucose levels by eating refined starches, is still likely to be causing you some challenges. If you experience mood swings, energy dips, food cravings, hormone imbalances, poor concentration and brain fog, weight gain or struggling to lose weight, you would most likely benefit from making changes to reduce extreme fluctuations of your glucose (and therefore also insulin) levels. 

I should also point out that the refined versions of starches that you’re eating no longer have the nutrients in them that once made them healthy. All the vitamins and minerals are lost to the refining process. So whilst grains like wheat and rice should be packed with B vitamins (to help you produce energy and lots of other functions) and minerals such as chromium (to aid glucose control) these are no longer present. White versions of bread, pasta and rice are simply empty calories and causing glucose spikes.

The main point that I want you to take on board from this blog is that type 2 diabetes is not only something that happens to other people. If you abuse your body enough by ignoring its basic human needs (to eat healthy nutritious meals, sleep well and manage stress), I promise you from first hand experience, diabetes can happen to anyone, at any age. I was 27 years when I discovered my blood sugar levels were in the diabetic range. More and more people around the world are experiencing the same health challenges, with new cases getting younger and younger. 

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had that wake up call when I did - I have relatives who had their first heart attack in their 40s and I honestly think the changes I've made since my late 20s have saved my life. Thankfully, I was already passionate about nutrition and very curious about complimentary therapies. So I was capable, equipped and motivated to reverse my diagnosis quickly without taking medications. Which brings me on to the other key point I want to highlight in this blog - you absolutely can make changes to your diet and lifestyle that will bring your glucose levels back into a healthy range, get you back to your ideal weight, with consistent energy and focus, reducing the risk of long-term chronic disease.

Watch out for my next blog and webinar where I'll be sharing all my top tips on balancing blood sugar levels in a safe and easy to implement way.

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