Lower your stress, lower your blood sugar
When it comes to stress, your body has a very intelligent system that helps you react to situations quickly. This system has been crucial for our survival but in our modern world, there can be an ongoing strain on this process.
When you are constantly overwhelmed with work, scheduling or information overload, your body will react in the same way as if you were protecting yourself from danger. Exposure to stress, no matter the source, activates something called your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis or HPA axis. (What a mouthful!) When your brain interprets a threat it will tell your nervous system to release adrenaline and cortisol from your adrenal glands.
Over time, this can cause anxious thoughts, low energy, poor sleep, poor concentration and increases in blood sugar while lowering the activity of insulin. When you take actions to lower your stress levels on a regular basis, you may be able to have a positive outcome in supporting your blood sugar, not to mention energy and mental health. This is why it is so important to practice daily stress-reducing activities.
Two major sources of stress are your internal and external stressors.
Your internal stressors include things like nutrient deficiencies, pathway build up, or dysfunctions in the cell and genetic SNPs (SNPs – pronounced snips – are single nucleotide polymorphisms and in short, are the most common type of genetic variation).
Your external stressors include things such as perceived stress, (how you interpret situations) over exercising, skipping meals or not consuming enough food, too much food, pollution, environmental exposures, and your lifestyle habits.
Now that you know the sources, here are three things you can do about it.
Eat a whole-food, nutrient-dense diet to meet potential nutrient deficiencies. This looks like eating a rainbow of colorful produce and high-quality protein, eating at regularly scheduled meals, eating until 80% full or until the first signs of feeling full and lowering your sugar intake. It can also be helpful here to include a multivitamin for additional support.
Find your favorite method to handle stress! Some examples include doing low impact exercise, laughing, deep breathing, speaking to someone and writing down your thoughts.
Consciously pay attention to your daily habits and daily environment, then assess what changes need to be made. This can look like using an air and water filter, swapping plastics for glass food containers, using cooking methods to lower Advanced Glycation End Products or AGEs, referring to the Environmental Working Group for personal hygiene products, and eating organic produce or at least the dirty dozen.
Use bitter foods for lower post-meal blood sugar spikes
Bitter foods are a powerful and natural way to support your digestion abilities. When eaten with a meal, these foods can support the release of certain hormones in the GI tract, stimulate motility to move food along your intestinal tract and release certain enzymes that can help your body better use your food, especially carbohydrates. This is a simple trick to help with lowering post meal spikes. Some examples: arugula, dill, kale, coffee, and turmeric.
Try front loading calories
One trick when timing your meals to support healthy blood sugar levels is to front load your calories. What does this mean? Eat like the old saying implies—eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen, and dinner like a pauper. Lighter meals in the evenings can help with sleep while higher protein meals in the earlier part of the day can lower the amount of food you eat in the afternoon and support healthy blood sugar levels throughout the day.