Saturday, 17 September 2011

Lowering blood sugar

Those concerned with weight loss, diabetes and heart disease have found that blood sugar levels are one of the keys to making positive changes. Specialists such as Dr Richard Bernstein and Dr William Davis recommend lower levels than typical Department of Health guidelines (indicated here).

Bernstein, Davis and others recommend eliminating sugars from the diet and starches (easily converted to sugars). Fats and proteins, as well as non starchy vegetables and berry fruits are helpful in maintaining blood glucose at optimum levels.

Blood sugar can also be affected by drugs, raising, lowering or causing swings in levels. The list includes caffeine, which can contribute to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), so coffee, tea (including green tea) and chocolate may cause a spike. If caffeine is consumed with sugars or starch the blood sugar spike can be followed by a dramatic drop to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This may be dangerous for diabetics on insulin.

Each person responds differently to food and may tolerate more carbohydrate/fat/protein than others without raising and maintaining blood sugar above the recommended levels. Dairy products can raise blood sugars and increase weight, for example. Some people struggle to limit food intake and reduce their appetite, in spite of curbing addiction to sugars and carbs.

Dr Gundry recommends increasing levels of raw vegetables in the diet to increase the feeling of fullness, which encourages us to stop eating. The diet includes high levels of fibre to help regulate how the body processes food and maintains an even blood sugar level.

These are healthy blood sugar targets recommended by Jenny Ruhl:

Fasting under 83 mg/dl or 4.6 mmol/L

1 hour after food under 120 mg/dl or 6.6 mmol/L

2 hour after food under 100 mg/dl or 5.5 mmol/L

Bernstein and Davis advise people to aim for lower levels, but this may be difficult to achieve, particularly when losing weight.

Some people struggle to bring blood sugar down, even when following these guidelines and may risk long term health effects from excess glycated haemoglobin. One challenge is coping with signs that the body is adjusting to a lower background level of sugar and getting through symptoms that seem to be hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) but are not:

'The symptoms you feel during a false hypo may include a pounding pulse, shakiness, a raised blood pressure and other symptoms very similar to those of a panic attack.'

One simple food seems to produce startling reductions in blood sugar, without first spiking or taking blood glucose down to dangerous levels. Chia seed comes from a plant, which is part of the mint family, native to Central and South America. The seed can be soaked in coconut milk to make a porridge or sprinkled on any food.

According to Dr Wayne Coates, who wrote 'Chia: Rediscovering a Forgotten Crop of the Aztecs' chia is 16% protein, 31% fat, 44% carbohydrate of which 38% is fibre. Most of its fat is omega-3 fatty acids including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

The high fibre content of chia, both soluble and insoluble, induces a feeling of satiety, which seems to last for some time, without converting to sugar and spiking blood glucose levels. On the contrary, blood sugar levels may drop to mid 4 or 3 mmol/L (85, 75 or 65 mg/dl).

Jenny Ruhl states: 'Doctors do not consider true hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) to begin until under 3.9 mmol/L (70mg/dl). It does not become dangerous until it reaches levels like 2.5 mmol/L (45 mg/dl).'

Dr Coates has collected research on his website, following the work he undertook at the University of Arizona. He gives sensible advice on choosing your seed for best results.

Some organisations are trying to patent strains of white chia seed, to make some money out of a simple, safe food that has many health benefits. Doctors are unlikely to recommend adding chia to the diet and may continue to prescribe medication to control blood sugar and blood pressure. Obese people might find chia helpful in controlling appetite and losing weight steadily without drugs or surgery.

The internet provides a medium for sharing information and research, so that individuals can choose a diet and lifestyle approach to avoiding surgery and unnecessary drugs. The Wiki Patient won't conform.

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