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Seductively Sweet & Severely Damaging

Written by

Deborah Freudenmann BHSc

Are you a sweet tooth? Well you aren’t alone.

“At the neurobiological level, the neural substrates of sugar and sweet reward appear to be more robust than those of cocaine”

So what exactly does this seductively sweet drug called “sugar” do to our bodies? There is bountiful evidence which indicates significant roles for both insulin resistance and beta cell dysfunction in the pathogenesis and evolution of type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is often present in your body years before diabetes is diagnosed. This reflects a diminished response to insulin in its key target tissues and has been shown to predict the development of the condition.

Let’s learn how our blood sugar levels are regulated, what uncontrolled blood sugar levels can do to the body, progression of the symptom to disease and what you can do. 

From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) it was stated in 2019 that more than 34 million Americans have diabetes (about 1 in 10), and out of them approximately 90-95% have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is considered a lifestyle disease and is commonly diagnosed in adults. With ever increasing rates of childhood obesity the number of children being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is alarming. The consequences of uncontrolled diabetes (blood sugar levels) can include blindness, kidney failure, increased risk of heart disease, peripheral nerve damage among others. 


Insulin is a very important hormone in your body. It is produced by your pancreas and allows cells to absorb and use glucose. It also assists the glucose in your blood to enter your cells in your muscles, fat, and liver and to be used for energy. When you consume a meal, your blood sugar levels increase. This is where your pancreas releases insulin into your blood to help lower blood glucose levels and keep this level at optimal balance (normal range).

Understanding Blood sugar Dysregulation

In the early stages of inconsistent and unstable blood sugar levels also called pre-diabetes, insulin levels are already elevated. This is because the problem is not with insulin production, but rather a metabolic defect with insulin utilisation. The delicate insulin receptors on cell membranes are less response to the insulin than are the receptors of people without pre-diabetes or diabetes, which means that less glucose is absorbed from the bloodstream and glucose levels slowly rise.
This elevation of glucose upsets the body natural balance, promoting the pancreas to discharge extra amounts of insulin with the desire to normalise glucose levels. This is a biological short-term fix which successfully drives glucose into cells, therefore lowering blood glucose levels, but it also facilitates the progression of disease. Eventually, the fragile insulin receptors become less and less sensitive which is known as insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means that the pancreas must secrete even more insulin to keep clearing the blood off glucose. This short term fix, eventually wears out the pancreases which can no longer keep up the demand. Insulin levels drop far below normal, allowing blood glucose to rise even higher and inflict even more damage. 


Common Lifestyle Factors

Refined carbohydrates result in a sharp rise in blood sugar and an exaggerated insulin response which lowers the blood sugar levels inappropriately giving rise to poor appetite control and cravings. Unfortunately, refined carbohydrates have a large portion in our modern dietary world. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand, are digested slowly with a steady release of glucose into the circulation that will not stimulate an exaggerated insulin response. This is why dietary choices play an enormous role not only in the progression of diabetes but also its prevention, management and reversal.

The next common lifestyle culprit includes stimulants such as caffeine containing drinks like tea, coffee, and various soft drinks which raise blood sugar levels (indirectly). You might be wondering how, especially if you drink your tea or coffee without sugar. However, caffeine facilitates the action of adrenaline which stimulates the liver to release glucose. So, although the stimulant doesn’t directly provide glucose for energy, it promotes its release. This is why stimulants are highly addictive and serve as affective energy boosters. Nonetheless through that action they strip valuable nutrients away from your body and results in long term burn out.

It is well established that a lack of movement or exercise puts you at an increased risk of obesity and developing diabetes. A sedentary lifestyle is alarmingly common considering we spend hours physically inactive mainly sitting! Physical activity supports blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity so your muscles can actually utilise the excess sugar in your body. The earlier you take action and move your body the better off you’ll be.

Another is hormonal imbalances in both sex and stress hormones as these also regulate blood sugar levels. Increased circulation of sex hormones and corticosteroids (stress hormones) antagonise insulin and inhibit the uptake of glucose by the cells. In stress, glucose is spared for the brain and nerves. This is why in chronic states of stress it is common to experience blood sugar imbalances.

Sound familiar?

Most of us are leading busy lives and not getting enough restful sleep or exercise. Out of this reason we fall into a stressed-out, sleep and exercise-deprived state and chances are you turn to caffeine and refined sugar to make it through the day. Am I right?

I mean without a doubt we’ve all been there… craving that cup of coffee with a sneaky brownie (or is that just me….?)

Don’t get me wrong. It’s likely that your morning cup of coffee isn’t the problem; it’s when the resulting blood sugar crash leads to an afternoon espresso or sugar craving—and it happens again and again again… A vicious cycle with sugar which eventually results in insulin resistance, pre-diabetes and lastly diagnosed type 2 diabetes.

What can elevated blood sugar levels do to the body?

What can you do to help stabilise blood sugar levels?

The first and most important step to stabilise your blood sugar levels is by changing your diet to include complex carbohydrates and by removing stimulants and simple sugars. This will ensure that blood sugar levels do not rise and fall inappropriately but maintain a steady concentration.

Tips to support blood sugar regulation

Boosting your nutrition & supporting digestion

Don’t skip your meals, especially breakfast. Instead of skipping meals, rather eat smaller but more frequent meals over the day.
Diet’s rich in complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and therefore the steady rate of glucose absorption will not encourage crazy blood sugar swings. Slower breakdown of complex carbs inhibits an exaggerated and insulin response (or insulin spike) for those with insulin resistance, therefore not resulting in a sudden elevated blood sugar reading.
Small amounts of fat and protein consumed in addition to the complex carbohydrates reduce intestinal motility and slow the transit time in the small intestine. A slower transit time also stabilises blood sugar levels.
Dietary fibre, found in all whole grain, legumes and vegetables has a specific role in regulating blood sugar levels. Fibre is bulky and therefore it delays entry of food into the small intestine and hence slows digestion and absorption. 

Improve nutritional deficiencies and supplement

Magnesium and potassium dominate the energy cycle so choose foods rich in these minerals (especially vegetables); avoid the use of salt and limit the amount of diary which tend to negatively influence magnesium and potassium levels. Tea, coffee, alcohol and refined products (sweets, cakes, chocolates…) actively deplete the magnesium and potassium status. B vitamins are essential for glucose metabolism, particularly B1 and B6 so ensure whole foods in diet. Zinc is important for the production of insulin and for maintaining fasting blood sugar levels.
Chromium is important in the binding of insulin to the cell receptor and the subsequent uptake of glucose. Other important nutrients: lipoic acid, biotin, Co-Q10, omega 3 fatty acids (EPA/DHA), N-acetylcysteine, vitamin C, silymarin, cinnamon, vitamin D

Reduce environmental toxins, support detoxification & balance hormones

Zinc, vitamin B6 and magnesium synergistically work together to support hormones synthesis and specifically the production of progesterone. Magnesium also impacts the detoxification of estrogen metabolites in the liver and bowels – thus a deficiency can contribute to circulating estrogen levels. Including cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli (or supplemental with DIM) can help support healthy estrogen metabolism.
Want to know how to reduce your exposure to toxins? Read the BLOG HERE
Additionally, incorporating beetroot into the diet. Beetroot’s are full of betaine, which is needed for methylation to take place. Beets are also packed with vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium, calcium, folate, and phosphorous. Studies have also shown that beetroots protect the liver against damage and support phase 2 detoxification.  Additional ways to support the liver and clearance of toxins include: Epsom salt baths, coffee enemas, oil pulling, dry skin brushing, and infrared sauna sessions.

Reduce inflammation

Inflammation is at the core of all diseases. Chronic inflammation develops as a result of many factors including poor diet, chronic stress, lack of sleep, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and toxic exposure from our environment. This chronic inflammation increases the risk of disease development, such as diabetes.

Reduce pathogens

High glucose levels in the blood actually promote growth of pathogenic bacteria and parasites including candida and other yeasts. Ozone therapy produces a direct oxidative effect on bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa. This oxidative effect has a damaging consequence on the microorganism’s membrane! In addition, it addresses inflammation as well as activates your antioxidant pathways. Regular rectal insufflations of ozone would be beneficial in keeping pathogenic overgrowth in check.  Find your ozone bundle HERE

Enhance energy metabolism

Mitochondria have a crucial role in determining our overall health, energy, and longevity. Unfortunately, over time the mitochondria can become damaged and dysfunctional. This typically occurs from stress, oxidative damage (free radicals), exposure to toxins, nutritional deficiencies, and chronic inflammation. Supplementation with Co-Q10 & rectal ozone insufflations can improve energy metabolism.

Conclusion

It is crucial to not only understand the ways in which elevated blood glucose causes damage but what you can do to negate and halt the decline in health. It’s a vicious cycle but with a little support, we can address our dietary choices, sleep hygiene, exercise routine, toxic exposures and other lifestyle choices which perpetuate the development and progression of diabetes.

Avoid stimulants and alcohol

As mentioned above, stimulants indirectly impact blood sugar control. Therefore it is best to limit exposure to these stimulants. Avoid alcohol as it actually causes a sharp rise in insulin with a subsequent fall in blood sugar. In addition it inhibits the release of glucose by the liver so hinders any attempt by the liver to stabilise blood sugar liver.

Get physically active

Walking a minimum of 30 mins each and every day is excellent! Depending on your current physical fitness, you can include a 30-60 minute strenuous session (4-5x a week).

Stress less

Stress is a major contributor to the development of diabetes and blood sugar imbalances. Therefore, it is important to prioritise “YOU” time and relax and unwind. Find what works for you whether that is yoga, deep breathing exercises, dancing, journaling, vagal nerve stimulation, laughing, singing, painting, walking in nature…

The Damaging Cycle

It is crucial that those pre-disposed to diabetes or diabetics understand the ways in which blood glucose causes damage and take active steps to interrupt these processes.
The more notorious process is glycation. Glycation occurs when glucose reacts with protein, resulting in sugar-damaged proteins called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). One well known AGE among diabetics is glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c). HbA1c is created when glucose molecules bind to haemoglobin the blood. Measuring HbA1c in the blood can help determine the overall exposure of haemoglobin to glucose, therefore showing a long term blood glucose control. These damaged proteins damage cells in various ways, including impaired cellular function, elevated production of inflammatory cytokines and free radicals.
The second is oxidative stress which is also central to uncontrolled blood sugar levels. Diabetics suffer from high levels of free radicals that damage arteries throughout the body.

3 Responses

  1. Congratulations on a great article, it was very informative and eye opening to my husband who never listens or believes me, when I warn him of all his bad coffee and chocolate habits
    Maybe now he will “OPEN” his darn ears and actually listen to me (ha ha, I wish)

    1. Thank you Lynne! Haha everything in moderation – life is all about balance. Perhaps starting with changes such as 80% dark chocolate and coffee with no sugar? Goodluck!

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