Friday, October 16, 2009

Sweet on Sweets?

by Dr. Kristina Sargent


Does your sweet tooth get the best of you? Let me guess, about 10:30 in the morning and/or sometime between 2 and 4 in the afternoon, you’re feeling tired and in need of a pickup. Sometimes you even feel shaky or light-headed at those times. You may get downright mean and irritable when you don’t eat at a regular interval. You know that something sweet will usually make you feel better - at least temporarily. These and other symptoms may signal a problem with blood sugar control.

We call this the “vicious cookie cycle”. Basically, if you eat a carbohydrate - something with primarily white sugar, flour, chips and other junk food - this sends your blood sugar soaring. When your sugar is high your body produces insulin to bring it down, however, when there is excess sugar, your body takes it to the liver where it is converted to triglycerides - FAT! When your blood sugar drops too fast or from skipping meals, your body, in order to feed your brain, goes into compensation mode. Your adrenal glands make cortisol, which will increase your blood sugar, and also insulin and ultimately fat storage - right around your middle - where you don’t want it.

Fat stored around our waist has been shown to contribute to inflammation. Inflammation produces other disorders such as diabetes/metabolic syndrome, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis pain and some autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Your particular disease process is ultimately determined by several other factors, as well. Those factors include genetics/family history, hormones, stress, immune function, digestive health, vitamin D status and the liver’s ability to clear toxic substances.

The following are some easy ways to maintain your blood sugar throughout the day:

1. Do not go longer than 4 hours without eating.

2. Eat smaller amounts - no more that 3-400 calories per meal/snack.

3. Add protein and fiber to your snacks - lean meats, almonds, walnuts or any nut butter. These foods will slow the release of sugar into your blood.

4. Exercise 30 minutes 5 days per week. Muscle mass plays a direct role in blood sugar maintenance.

5. Stay away from the “white foods” - sugar, flour - even whole wheat, potatoes, and rice. Good substitutes are agave nectar, high-fiber breads (>5 grams per slice), sweet potatoes and unprocessed brown rice.

Maintaining your blood sugar can have a significant impact on your overall health. Your sweet tooth will only serve to temporarily placate your brain’s need for sugar, but in the long run it may only serve to create preventable chronic disease.

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