One of the most powerful tools you have for stabilizing blood sugar and/or reversing insulin resistance is what you choose to put into your mouth. For a lot of people, eating healthy means eliminating fat. But beware! Not all fat is equal, and not all fat is bad for you. If you are not eating fat to avoid weight gain, you may be doing more harm than good. Incorporating good, healthy fats into your diet is essential in overall health, not to mention hormone regulation. Adding healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, coconut, and nuts and seeds into your diet can be helpful in keeping you full and satisfied. It will also keep your blood sugar stable between meals.
A diet of low glycemic, low carbohydrate, and high fiber foods are the most effective at helping to stabilize blood sugar. Following a low-glycemic food plan, such as a modified version of the Mediterranean diet, paleo diet, or low-carb ketogenic diet can be helpful guides to navigate what to eat.
In the world of autoimmune illnesses, understanding – and controlling – insulin and blood sugar, is vitally important. When it comes to blood sugar, just as important as what you eat, is how and when you eat. Have you ever considered the timing of your meals? First, ask yourself if you tend to get high or low blood sugars.
Here are the symptoms of each:
Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is typified by symptoms of feeling dizzy, shaky, or lightheaded. Other symptoms include getting sweaty, having a fast heart rate, or feeling hungry (or hangry) – and then getting more energy after eating.
People who tend to get “hangry” seem to do better if eating more consistently throughout the day. Snacking every three hours or so helps keep the blood sugar from dropping and causing a rebound effect called reactive hypoglycemia. This is a spike in blood sugar when the sugar drops too low. It’s like a built-in safety mechanism that keeps you out of hypoglycemia, which can be dangerous if your sugar levels drop too low. Eating constantly throughout the day, with small snacks between meals, helps keep blood sugar stable. You will also avoid the problems that come from hypoglycemia and blood sugar dysregulation.
High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, occurs when the body is not making, or properly using the hormone insulin. This elevates the blood glucose making it too high. Eating too many processed foods can cause blood sugar to rise. You get glucose from the foods you eat. includes blurry vision, feeling tired, feeling weak, especially after meals, and feeling an increased need to drink and urinate. People who tend to have higher blood sugars tend to benefit most from skipping snacks and incorporating intermittent fasting.
With more than SEVENTY drugs regularly prescribed for diabetes in the US alone, guess how many address the root cause (or even stop the progression) of diabetes? None.
Billions of dollars are spent on pharmaceutical research. In fact, some studies indicate that nearly half of the US is either diabetic or pre-diabetic, and not one single medication on the market is addressing the cause. (That’s a lot of money spent on band-aids.)
Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes is an autoimmune disease. In the case of type 1 diabetes, the immune system is mistakenly attacking healthy tissues of the body and destroying insulin-producing pancreatic cells. The damage from these attacks wreaks havoc and prevents the pancreas from supplying the body with insulin.
Researchers have found evidence, most recently, that insulin resistance may be the result of immune system cells attacking the body’s tissues, which means that type 2 diabetes is likely to be found to be an autoimmune disease as well. You can read more on this and other topics on our blog page.
Sleep and Blood Sugar
Adequate sleep in terms of duration and quality matters greatly in terms of blood sugar stability. This is partly due to the direct connection between blood sugar and your stress hormone cortisol. Because blood sugar fluctuations are stress in the body, cortisol is called on in times when the sugar drops or spikes too high, making cortisol a big player in blood sugar regulation. Cortisol also plays a major role in our circadian rhythms or sleep/wake cycle. One of the functions of cortisol is stabilizing blood sugar while in the fasting state as in when you are asleep.
Problems with sleep, such as issues falling back to sleep if you wake in the middle of the night or early morning, can sometimes be a direct result of blood sugar dysfunction and cortisol surges. Therefore, not only can issues with sleep reflect possible blood sugar issues, but by fixing underlying blood sugar issues, you can fix your sleep. Not only does blood sugar affect sleep, but sleep directly affects blood sugar. It has been shown that lack of sleep increases blood sugar! It’s a vicious cycle!
If you tend to get low blood sugars, sometimes a low-glycemic snack before bed, such as unsweetened plantain chips or a handful of nuts, can help keep your blood sugar more stable. If you tend to wake up in the middle of the night and have a hard time falling back to sleep, you can simply keep a handful of grapes on your nightstand and eat them upon waking, which can help you go back to sleep quicker.
To promote better sleep, go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. This simple routine can drastically help your cortisol and blood sugar levels stay more consistent.
Sleep Hygiene Checklist
Use this list to see if there are any areas of your sleep hygiene
that need to be improved/modified to achieve better sleep.
___ Keep a sleep diary (track quality, quantity, and any issues)
___ Maintain a regular sleep schedule daily
___ Go to bed around the same time nightly
___ Wake up around the same time every morning
___ Sleep on a comfortable mattress
___ Pick a supportive pillow for your sleeping style
___ Control light exposure (from clocks, windows, etc.) or use a sleep mask
___ Have good air circulation, use a fan if needed
___ Use an air purifier to minimize allergens
___ Remove blue light on electronics at least a few hours before bed
___ Remove electronic devices from the bedroom
___ Turn phone on airplane mode if near bed or using an alarm
___ Don’t eat 2-3 hours before bed (unless snack is needed for blood sugar reasons)
___ Exercise regularly (at least 3 hours before bedtime or best if in the morning)
___ Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol
___ Practice belly breathing and visualization or meditation to fall asleep if needed
___ Take an Epsom salt bath before bed for sleep
___ Use an essential oil diffuser with lavender
Exercise and Movement to Manage Diabetes
Finally, avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Staying physically active instead of a couch potato is an important key to blood sugar stability. Commit to exercising consistently, at least four days a week. Consistent exercise will improve not only control of your blood sugar and insulin levels, but it will also help improve your cardiovascular health. All of this leads to improved stress management.
As we all know, when we exercise, the body releases chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins interact with brain receptors to reduce our perception of pain and trigger positive feelings in the body. Endorphins can alleviate depression, a common symptom for lupus patients, and reduce stress and anxiety.
Find your level of exercise tolerance and keep a journal of type of exercise, time, intensity, and how you feel. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer types of exercise like weight training, cardio, high-intensity interval training, or something a little slower and gentler such as yoga or tai chi. Do whatever gets you up, active and moving, and make it a habit!
Nutrient Therapy for Healthy Body
There are a number of nutrients that help address insulin resistance and blood sugar dysregulation. These nutrients bolster and support a healthy diet and lifestyle to specifically address the unhealthy use of blood sugar in the body.
The following list of nutrients helps with blood sugar stability and insulin receptor sensitivity, which is key in reversing insulin resistance and diabetes. A number of nutraceuticals are made up of synergistic blends of these nutrients that target insulin resistance.
Nutrient/Supplementation for Blood Sugar
- Berberine – activates AMP-activated protein kinase, helps regulate how the body uses blood sugar
- Alpha-lipoic acid – may help lower blood sugar and cholesterol, decrease oxidative stress and inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, and improve blood vessel tone,
- Chromium – can lower insulin levels and fasting blood sugar
- Cinnamon – imitates the effects of insulin and increases glucose transport into cells
- Magnesium glycinate – a vital nutrient for regulating blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and muscle and nerve function
- Vanadium – can normalize sugar levels
Cookbooks, recipes, and online cooking sites can be amazing tools – KEYS to fueling delicious lifestyle changes and controlling your blood sugar. Millions of people struggling with blood sugar suffer from autoimmunity, whether they know it or not, and it is often the root cause of weight gain, brain and mood problems, fatigue, and often can take years—or even decades—for symptoms and a clear diagnosis to arise.
Recipes can be your entry point to recovery. And furthermore, cooking has other benefits besides just supporting you in putting healthy food into your body. Cooking can be very relaxing and the very task of cooking can help to reduce stress levels. If you don’t consider yourself a good cook, that can change. You can develop a love of cooking de-stress while creating healthy and delicious foods that will go a long way in helping you to heal, recover and get your life back. If you have children you can model a healthy lifestyle for them and teach them to cook for themselves as well.
If you already have a love of cooking, you can re-learn a healthier way to cook and enjoy the creativity and ingenuity that can help you to stabilize your blood sugar, improve your sleep, and support your body in healing itself.
I know that change isn’t easy. As a health practitioner, I get to see how much people suffer because they weren’t able to change… but I want you to know that you ARE able to change. We all are. I have no doubt in any patient that change and the road to health are possible.
There are two motivators, one is that the pain of living as you are right now is too great – and sometimes that means you’ve faced a health crisis of huge proportions.
The other way you can motivate change (and I hope it is this one you need right now), is to put your important lifestyle change FIRST, ahead of everything else. That is a powerful starting point to build upon each day.
Dr. Tiffany Caplan & Dr. Brent Caplan
PS: Have fun exploring the creative and flavorful recipes in Dr. Caplan’s cookbook “Friendly Recipes to Calm the Fires of Inflammation.” These delicious recipes are great support for lowering inflammation due to lupus or other autoimmune disease symptoms.
PPS: Self-care is so important, and an essential component of conquering autoimmune disease. This is why my wife; Tiffany and I created the “Simple Self Care for Autoimmunity” e-book. This guide provides 8 simple and effective ways to practice self-care you can start today! It’s our gift to you! Download it now at no cost!