Join special guest contributor and Holistic Diabetes expert Michelle Waithe, BaSc., RHN as she shares 3 key factors that may be ruining your efforts to gain blood sugar balance – and none of them are food related!
by Michelle Waithe BaSc., RHN
It All Begins at Diabetes Diagnosis
If you are living with diabetes you were most likely advised at some point to change your diet in an attempt to control or balance your blood sugar levels.
While this should be the foundation of any diabetes protocol, there are other pieces to the puzzle that may make it difficult or even impossible to control your diabetes and balance blood sugar – despite your best efforts in adopting a healthier diet.
Let’s speak about diet for a minute, as this is extremely important for a natural approach to diabetes. Incorporating a clean, whole food based, low glycemic diet is the first step on the road to balanced blood sugar. A diet to balance blood sugar should include plenty of fresh, whole foods free from refined sugars, excessive carbohydrates, and processed ingredients.
The problem is that most people stop there and often get frustrated when a change in diet does not produce the desired results. Failing to control blood sugar levels even with a drastic change in diet leads to frustration, sending you right back into the pattern of old habits.
Yet, before you lose hope, it’s important to think beyond food when it comes to regaining blood sugar control and managing your diabetes.
Here is a list of 3 things that may be sabotaging your blood sugar levels – independent of food and diet.
Blood Sugar Balance Challenge 1: Overly Strenuous Exercise
This may be surprising for you to hear me say that exercise could be sabotaging your blood sugar control but the fact is that strenuous exercise can actually increase rather than decrease blood sugar levels!
People with diabetes, especially type 2, are often advised that exercise will lower blood sugar levels. While this is true, if the exercise is done correctly, the wrong type of exercise can actually have the opposite effect. Exercise that is too strenuous will stimulate the body to release stored forms of glucose from the liver in an attempt to meet the increased energy demands heavy exercise puts on the body. Jumping into a strenuous exercise routine, often out of fear from a diagnosis of diabetes, will actually make it harder to balance your blood sugar levels.
So how will you know which is the right type of exercise for you?
The key is to measure your blood sugar right before and after exercise. If your blood sugar levels go up after exercise, then you know that activity was too strenuous for you. If your blood sugar levels stay the same or are lowered after exercise, then you’ve found a good exercise for you to engage in for better blood sugar control.
In general, lower impact aerobic-type exercise is better for lowering blood sugar while intense weight training or very high impact activities tend to raise blood sugar.
As your fitness level improves, you will be able to engage in more strenuous types of exercise without an increase in blood sugar levels. The key is to always check your blood sugar levels before and after exercise to determine what is right for you.
Blood Sugar Balance Challenge 2: Uncontrolled Stress
We all know that stress is not great for our health, but if you have diabetes stress deserves extra attention.
I have seen many clients adopt a near perfect blood sugar balancing diet, yet they remained unable to control blood sugar levels due to the impact of stress in their lives. I too have experienced this on a personal level.
Living with type 1 diabetes most of my life, I have finally come to realize that stress has more of an impact on my own blood sugar control than food does – a realization that was truly shocking to me.
The fact is that when the body is in a state of acute or chronic stress, it sends a signal that we need more energy to cope with that stress. As a result, the liver mobilizes stored forms of glucose into the blood stream for use as energy. If we do not have the appropriate amount of insulin or fully functioning insulin receptors on our cells to allow the sugar inside to be utilized as energy, it will be left to remain in the bloodstream – steadily increasing blood sugar levels.
Reducing and coping effectively with stress is as important in a holistic diabetes protocol as proper diet and exercise.
One simple way you can lower the body’s response to stress immediately is by implementing deep breathing. Any time you are feeling stressed, simply stop and take a 5-10 deep breaths. You can do this anywhere to instantly lower your stress response.
Blood Sugar Balance Challenge 3: Lack of Sleep
Lack of proper sleep can have a similarly negative effect on blood sugar balance as improper exercise and poorly managed stress. When you do not get enough sleep, the body remains in a simulated stress mode where it simply cannot keep up with the energy demands you have placed on it.
Again, the body will mobilize stored forms of glucose to try and meet energy demands to ‘keep up‘ with daily activities. If you have diabetes, pay attention to the difference in blood sugar control the day after a poor night’s sleep and you will most likely notice that even having eaten the same foods, blood sugar levels are much more difficult to control. The bottom line is that getting a good night’s sleep is a key to blood sugar balance.
Stress, Excessive Exercise and Poor Sleep – The Perfect Storm for Blood Sugar Control
Consider a typical scenario of how stress, excessive exercise and poor sleep come together to sabotage your efforts at controlling blood sugar levels:
You have just found out you have diabetes, which will most certainly elicit a considerable amount of stress. Your doctor then advises you to change your diet and exercise more. In an effort to make a positive change you decide to engage in an intense exercise routine – figuring you need to make a big impact quickly.
Because you already have a very busy lifestyle, you decide that the best time to exercise will be in the morning. In order to get an early start, you get up two hours earlier than normal, sacrificing more sleep from the deficit you already have in this area. You remain committed, until you show up at your next doctors appointment – only to find out your blood sugar control is worse than at the previous visit. Sound familiar?
This is a scenario I have lived myself and seen far too often with my clients.
I urge you to break this cycle of disappointment, and implement a better understanding of the bodily processes that affect blood sugar, independent of diet. After doing so, you’ll have a much better chance of managing diabetes from a holistic perspective. With this little bit of knowledge, you can make the necessary lifestyle adjustments to avoid these common traps those attempting to manage diabetes often fall into.
Michelle Waithe BaSc., RHN is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist specializing in managing and reversing diabetes naturally. Having lived most of her life with type 1 diabetes and working for many years coaching clients Michelle has both personal and professional experience in holistic approaches to diabetes care. For more information about Michelle or to contact Michelle directly visit her website www.naturallyhealdiabetes.com.
Explore our latest Diabetic-Friendly Diabetes Awareness Month Recipes:
For those looking to explore some deliciously healthy diabetic-friendly recipes, don’t miss our featured ‘Diabetes Awareness Month’ recipes available at the links below:
-Your friends at Nature’s Emporium