Fatigue, weight gain, mood swings and sugar cravings….how many of us can say we have at least one of these issues? Lots! And if you suffer from one of these conditions you are not alone. These are among the top 5 most common health complaints that bring people into my office for treatment. There can be many underlying causes of these health issues but one cause I see often in practice that most people are not aware of is blood sugar imbalance and insulin resistance. Blood sugar imbalance and insulin resistance are precursors to type 2 diabetes and most people are unaware that they have it.
1 out of 3 adults has prediabetes. Of this group, 9 out of 10 don’t know they have it.
Almost 30 million Americans have diabetes and 1.4 million new cases are diagnosed in the US every year.
The risk of developing diabetes increases with age. The highest rates of diabetes worldwide are seen in adults ages 40-59.
The Risk Factors for developing type 2 diabetes are:
- Excess Weight (especially around the mid-section
- Lack of Exercise
- Poor Diet
- Older Age (Age 45 and older)
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Sleep apnea
- Race (higher risk among African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian-Americans)
- Family History (parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes)
There are 2 types of Diabetes (type 1 and type 2) but we’re going to discuss type 2 diabetes in this article. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that controls blood sugar levels. You can think of insulin like a key that unlocks the door to allow glucose, your body’s main fuel source, into every cell in your body. Once glucose enters your cells, it will be turned into energy that your body will use to carry out it’s multiple functions.
Glucose is the body’s main fuel source for energy production and if it can’t get into your cells you are essentially starving your cells of fuel. It would be like a car running on empty. And if your body isn’t able to burn glucose for fuel, it builds up in your blood stream where it can damage your vessels which supply blood to vital organs. This can lead to heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, vision problems and nerve damage.
The key to prevention of type 2 diabetes is detecting it before it occurs. As you can see from the statistics mentioned above, many people with prediabetes and insulin resistance don’t know they have it because the condition in it’s early stages can be ‘silent’ meaning that there may be no symptoms or the symptoms can be vague.
So how do you know if you are at risk for diabetes? Pay attention to signs and symptoms no matter how subtle. They are your body’s way of telling you that something is out of balance.
Signs and Symptoms of blood sugar imbalance:
- Sugar cravings
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Feeling tired or lethargic after eating
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Darkened patches of skin (known as acanthosis nigricans) in body folds and creases such as the neck and armpits
If you have any risk factors or signs/symptoms associated with blood sugar imbalance see your doctor and get checked!
The best way to determine if you have blood sugar imbalance is to get your levels tested with a simple blood test. In my practice I check for 3 markers on a standard blood test to evaluate blood sugar regulation: fasting blood glucose, fasting insulin and hemoglobin A1c.
If one or more of these markers is elevated or above optimal, you are at increased risk of type 2 diabetes. It is important to have all three of these markers tested because I have seen many cases where fasting glucose and HgA1c are normal but insulin is elevated which is a precursor to insulin resistance because the pancreas is having to secrete higher amounts of insulin to control blood sugar and at some point the insulin receptors become desensitized to insulin, eventually leading to a rise in blood sugar levels above the normal range.
The root causes of blood sugar imbalance are stress, poor diet, inflammation, sedentary lifestyle, chemicals in our environment and nutrient deficiencies. All of these factors can drive up insulin and glucose levels ultimately leading to type 2 diabetes and overall metabolic dysfunction.
The good news is that diet and lifestyle changes along with the proper intake of nutrients can prevent and reverse this chronic health condition.
Whether you have pre-diabetes or you have type 2 diabetes you can reverse your condition and return your blood sugar levels to normal. Of course diet and exercise is an essential part of any treatment program but equally important is making sure you’re getting the right nutrients.
Specific key nutrients and herbs have been clinically studied and shown to balance blood sugar levels:
- Biotin is a B vitamin that helps maintain blood sugar balance by increasing insulin sensitivity, improving glucose utilization and increasing the number of insulin secreting cell in the pancreas.
- Chromium is a mineral that is crucial for uptake of glucose into cells. It potentiates the action of insulin three-fold thereby improving insulin sensitivity and also helps to lower cholesterol. Studies have shown that chromium levels were 33% lower in patients w/ type 2 diabetes compared to healthy controls.
- Alpha Lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant that activates a specific enzyme (AMPK) which increases insulin sensitivity, reduces fat storage and increases fat burning. It also reduces inflammation and oxidative stress which are involved in the development of insulin resistance and cellular dysfunction.
- Cinnamon bark extract: activates specific cell receptors resulting in improved insulin sensitivity and reduced blood sugar. Studies showed that Cinnulin (water soluble form of cinnamon) decreased fasting blood glucose, decreased blood pressure and decreased body fat in people with pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
- Vanadyl Sulfate is the stable form of vanadium a mineral shown to mimic the action of insulin. Vanadyl sulfate promotes healthy glucose uptake by activating the glucose transporter (GLUT4) which transports glucose out of the blood stream into your cells for energy production. In a 3-week study, Vanadyl Sulfate at 100mg/day significantly improved insulin sensitivity and decreased glucose production by 20%.
Take action now!
- Get tested
- Eat a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and lean protein.
- Avoid sugar and processed foods
- Move your body: aim for a minimum of 30 minutes per day of cardio combined with resistance training
- Replenish key nutrients that help to stabilize blood sugar