How to Maintain a Normal Blood Sugar Range
When I was in my first year of practice I remember a very clear realization flashed throughout my brain, “I seriously can’t believe I didn’t learn about this in school.” Maintaining a normal blood sugar range I discovered was the key to many of my patients healing.
Even those without diabetes or pre-diabetic tendencies benefited dramatically from foods that lower blood sugar. I originally learned that the foods that lower blood sugar included a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate with the implication if not outright statement that one needed to consume animal protein and animal fat to make health blood sugar levels happen.
Insomnia, who would think, often responded to achieving health blood sugar levels. Turns out a lot of people wake up in the middle of the night simply because they are not eating foods that lower blood sugar and are eating foods that destabilize or raise blood sugar, or even worse are skipping meals entirely. After resolving a few dozen cases of insomnia I got the message, after decades of skipping breakfast and sleeping poorly, eat breakfast and sleep through the night, or have a bedtime snack and sleep through the night. In those early years of practice the benefits of maintaining a normal blood sugar range became a “go to” treatment for all my new patients.
Foods that Lower Blood Sugar
Of course there were other clinical benefits of avoiding high blood sugar levels, including weight loss, increased energy, elimination of irritability and brain fog type symptoms. And as one of my teachers said, “we are practicing dietary endocrinology” meaning we can manipulate our hormone system, including hormones like insulin, glucagon and cortisol, merely by eating a given meal.
At this point twenty years after I first began my practice, high blood sugar related health problems are so common it’s frightening. Almost 10% of Americans ARE diabetic now, that’s about 30 million people, there’s another 90 million or so, roughly, who are pre-diabetic, meaning it’s just a matter of time for them. In another 10-15 years it’s going to be the majority of our population that has lost all semblance of healthy blood sugar levels.
So, what are normal blood sugar levels exactly and what are the foods that lower blood sugar? Healthy blood sugar levels should be under 100 mg/dl, fasting, that means first thing in the morning before you’ve eaten anything for that day ideally your blood sugar will be around 70-80 mg/dl. After a meal healthy blood sugar levels can go up to 140 mg/dl. High blood sugar levels is a sign you are diabetic and if you have a fasting level over 126 mg/dl or if after a sugary drink your high blood sugar levels top out over 200 mg/dl you’re considered to be diabetic.
The process that leads to the breakdown of normal blood sugar regulation starts with our body’s resistance to insulin. There is new research presented at a conference I attended last year by Dr. Joseph Pizzorno, one of the most brilliant clinicians and researchers in natural medicine, that shows a very strong link between environmental toxin levels and diabetes. The data from his yet to be published work showed that the risk of developing diabetes was more strongly tied to toxin levels than cigarette smoking is tied to lung cancer. Meaning if you believe smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer, there is even stronger evidence to show toxins are a risk factor for diabetes.
Treatment Starts with Food
Toxins from the environment, heavy metals and many chemicals disrupt normal insulin activity and leave the person vulnerable to high blood sugar levels. Mitochondria are crushed and normal metabolic function is lost as a result of the oxidative stress generated by the toxins. Of course fat in muscle cells also releases toxins that interfere with insulin cell receptor activity. So we have both internal and external forces acting on this delicately balanced system.
In terms of treatment to restore normal and healthy blood sugar levels I focus on all the various aspects of function medicine treatment programs starting with food. Whereas in my first 20 years of practice I focused on animal food based solutions for foods that lower blood sugar and even forced many vegetarians to start eating meat, thinking that was the only or best solution, now with all the research available to us currently it’s crystal clear that a pure plant based or majority plant based diet can create what are normal blood sugar levels in both pre-diabetics and those with full blown diabetes. Do I think meat is evil or to be avoided by everyone, no. But I do see a current trend towards the over consumption of animal products which I think we should address. The foods that best lower blood sugar are plant based. Vegetables, fruit, even beans and potatoes and grains, many of which we associate with generating blood sugar problems due to their high glycemic index can, if incorporated properly into the diet, be the foods that actually lower blood sugar.
“How Not to Die”
This goes counter to much of what I was taught in functional medicine, meaning that grains, potatoes and fruit can destabilize blood sugar. It turns out there is a large body of research now showing that for a variety of reasons adopting a healthy diet can not only prevent, but also reverse diabetes. After sixteen days of eating a plant based diet, Anderson and Ward found that half the Type 2 diabetics were able to get off of insulin even having suffered from diabetes for decades. Link to research study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/495550
For a very detailed review of the literature in this area please read Dr. Michael Greger work. He reviews the research in this area extensively in his new book, “How Not to Die”. There are now studies clearly showing high fiber diets and those high in fruits and vegetables can reverse diabetes and allow patients to stop medications and get back to a normal life. Excessive amounts of animal fat and animal protein will lead to high blood sugar levels in those susceptible individuals.