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Danielle Hamilton is a nutritional therapy practitioner and a blood sugar specialist. She focuses on helping people curb their cravings, gaining more energy, and balancing their hormones.
What exactly is blood sugar mastery?
Danielle became interested in blood sugar when she realized that her blood sugar issues and insulin resistance were at the root of her PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). She had really bad PMS and PMDD, a lot of hormonal issues she was trying to treat, and just couldn't make a dent in them. She finally realized that her blood sugar was the problem but didn't know what those signs were. However, since she wasn’t diabetic, that’s why she didn’t pay attention to her blood sugar. But diabetes is not an on and off switch. It's not like you have it or you don't, it's a spectrum. It starts with perfect blood sugar, and then it starts to become a little more dysregulated with what we eat on a daily basis. By the time we start noticing it, people might be having blood sugar crashes constantly, their blood sugar might be creeping up and their doctor might label them pre-diabetic or diabetic. But it's all part of the same spectrum. Once you are aware of this, you can try to begin reversing it and can go towards that optimal level.
That's what she likes to teach people to do on her Instagram page and her Blood Sugar Mastery program on her podcast: Unlock the Sugar Shackles. She was able to do that for herself and it brought her so much freedom, and much better health that she wants to share and help others in her same situation.
A lot of people don't understand that even if you don't have diabetes or if you don't have pre-diabetes or any sort of unstable blood sugar, in that sense, you can also have sugar spikes.
What exactly is the process of having blood sugar spikes and therefore insulin spikes?
Blood sugar and insulin go hand in hand. When you eat something with carbohydrates and even with protein, you digest the sugar and digest those carbohydrates. Then the sugar goes into your bloodstream. Our bloodstream likes to have about just one teaspoon of sugar in the blood at all times. So when you eat something with a lot of carbohydrates or with protein, the amount of sugar in your blood starts to increase, and the pancreas starts to secrete this hormone called insulin. Insulin's job is to take that sugar and put it into the cells of the body, the muscles, the heart, the brain, and the liver so that energy is made with that sugar.
What starts to happen is, over time, if you spike your blood sugar really high, you also get a really high spike of insulin and this comes with a bunch of symptoms. But when you get this spike of insulin, and if you keep spiking it over and over again, that leads you to not feeling good. You don't want to be spiking your blood sugar all the time because this is what starts the direction towards entering the diabetes spectrum.
So the more you spike your blood sugar, the higher your levels of insulin go because insulin doesn't come down as fast as blood sugar, it starts to get elevated over time so you need more and more insulin to do the job of putting the sugar into the cells of the body. The level of insulin can be rising for 20 years before we see a more permanent change in blood sugar. So it's something very important to pay attention to because you might think that your blood sugar is perfect, but maybe that’s not the case. What Danielle recommends people to do is to really look at those symptoms, maybe get a fasting insulin test or test their blood sugar. Starting to really connect to how you feel after your meals is really, really important.
Is there a way that people can identify any of these symptoms? Are there short-term versus long-term symptoms of having insulin spikes?
The short-term symptoms of blood sugar spikes and having these insulin spikes have to do a lot with the brain.
SHORT TERM SYMPTOMS
- Brain fog
- Difficulty concentrating
What the body needs vs. what it asks for
A lot of those symptoms come with intense hunger and cravings. So as your blood sugar is plummeting, your body is thinking, “Oh my goodness, we are having an energy crisis because all our energy is going away”, all this blood sugar is going away. So the body starts to freak out and the brain is like, “Oh my goodness, we need to get more energy”. If you’re having a really steep crash in blood sugar, you will want to go and get carbohydrates and sugar. It's going to be something like “a coffee at Starbucks, a muffin, a granola bar, or an energy drink”. It's not going to be like “you know what? You should make a beautiful ribeye steak with some butter and broccoli.” It's not going to ask for that.
Alzheimer’s is being called diabetes type III
Those are quick immediate symptoms. And then as they progress over time you start to have other symptoms. You need to keep in mind that blood sugar and insulin affect every single cell organ and process in the body, which means that every cell has receptors for insulin and glucose. So if there are imbalances in your blood sugar, (if you don't have enough blood sugar or if you have too much), these are all going to cause problems anywhere in your body. The headaches can eventually become migraines, Alzheimer's is being called type three diabetes which is the leading cause of macular degeneration, which is an eye issue that leads to blindness. High blood sugar and insulin issues start to affect every single blood vessel in the body so it really affects those tiny blood vessels called capillaries, there are a lot of those in our eyes and in our kidneys.
The essential minerals we truly need
Another example is the way sugar impacts our teeth, it causes gum disease. But, it can also lead to other skin issues like eczema and it can worsen things like dermatitis. Insulin resistance is the leading cause of heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, and cardiovascular issues because it raises blood pressure and also because lots of sugar depletes our minerals and we need minerals. One molecule of sugar requires 56 molecules of magnesium to process, so eating these foods, from processed sources that don't come with the nutrients we need, it’s going to cause depletion in our body of these essential minerals.
For example, calcium is a mineral that contracts muscles and then magnesium relaxes muscles. So if you think about the heart, we need the contracting and the relaxing. A lot of people develop what's called afib or atrial fibrillation where you get those irregular heartbeats when you have blood sugar issues. That causes issues in the gut and eventually, it starts to cause the overgrowth of unwanted bad bacteria. This leads to a fatty liver and affects your adrenal glands…, etc. So those highs and lows start to dis regulate our cortisol levels from our adrenals.
PCOS & infertility
PCOS, which Danielle used to have, is the leading cause of infertility in women of reproductive age. It affects about 10 to 20% of women, and it is driven by insulin resistance for the most part in the very vast majority of cases. And so it's affecting fertility. Blood sugar issues affect fertility in females, but also in males. So if you feel like you need food to keep your energy up and you feel your energy going on this rollercoaster you know that there's some sort of blood sugar issue happening.
A lot of people consider that they're eating healthy, but maybe they are having a glucose surplus, meaning that it’s getting stored still. That amount of glucose excess that your body cannot process, it just stores it into fat and people keep thinking, why am I still feeling bad if I'm eating healthy, if I'm eating vegetables, if I'm eating ‘right’. Does this have to do with not combining with the proper foods?
Many people think that if they switch from white bread to whole wheat bread they're eating healthy, or eating organic granola bars instead of eating a candy bar, brown rice instead of white rice.., etc. But overall, the amount of carbohydrates that you're eating is probably not right for your body.
What we’re told is ‘healthy’, might not be for us
That's the thing with carbohydrates, even though some of these foods can be healthy, like fruits and sweet potatoes, they might not be right for our bodies or the right quantities for us. So many of these foods that are marketed as healthy, like oat milk, people think it’s healthy because that's what they're telling us. They might not be terrible in terms of ingredients, but they do a number on our blood sugar. And so, even if they're healthy, if we're not consuming them in the right balance or the right quantity for our own bodies, they're not going to be a good choice for us. A lot of people that are trying so hard to eat healthily come to realize it’s not working and find themselves angry and desperate. That’s because they don't realize how some foods are affecting their blood sugar and therefore impacting how they feel.
How many carbs per meal is recommended? A lot of times we worry a lot about calories, which are not everything, and micronutrients, which are specifically what we should be looking at.
There is no magic number and this number is going to be different for everybody. So what Danielle recommends is to take an inventory of how many carbohydrates you're normally eating in a day. Write down all your food, write down the amounts, and then later in the day after it's all done, put it into a tracker, and just get an idea of how many carbohydrates you're eating. 100 or below is usually considered low carb. But she doesn’t think 100 is quite a lot. For some people, that's going to be a huge decrease from what they're eating, so what Danielle recommends is to slowly and gradually decrease your carbohydrates over time so that you don't freak your body out. That's one way to do it. And the other thing is getting a continuous glucose monitor.
There is this bio-individuality where you need to see how foods are affecting your blood sugar because it could be 20 grams of carbs from sweet potato or it could be 20 grams of carbs from rice cakes, they are going to impact your blood sugar so differently, that's where some of this testing and foods combinations come in:
TOP TIPS TO START
- Don’t eat your carbohydrates first or alone. If you have just an apple, that's not a good snack because that's going to cause a blood sugar spike in a crash because it's all carbohydrates.
- Have some protein and some fiber - green leafy vegetables or above-ground vegetables.
- Have the fats and the proteins, and save the carbohydrates for last.
- Danielle doesn’t recommend snacking. If you need to have snacks, maybe try to put them right at the end of your meal because they're going to have less of an impact on your blood sugar that way.
- Go for a walk or do a workout after your meal.
- You can have your meal after a workout. After a really hard workout, you depleted your muscles of all the glycogen which is stored in sugar. So then when you eat a meal that has carbs, it kind of just refills right back into the muscle. So when you build muscle, which is important for blood sugar and insulin, you provide a sponge that will suck up all that glucose and insulin to take it out of your system. The more muscle you have, the better your blood sugar might be.
These food combinations and strategies make a huge difference and can keep the blood sugar from spiking.
What are the normal blood sugar levels?
What you want to look for when you're eating a meal is that your blood sugar doesn’t rise above
30 mg/dL at a meal, and that's 1.6mmol/L. You don't want it to go up more than 1.6mmol/L. It’s really important to look for that slow, gradual curve, and then once you make sure that your blood sugar is not spiking more than 1.6mmol/L, you'll feel really good.
How does stress affect our losing fat mass?
Having high cortisol will increase your blood glucose. One of the jobs of cortisol, when you are stressed, is to make more glucose so you can get up and run away. But what is happening in the modern world is that there's no “tiger that we're running away from”. You’re just sitting at your desk, you're having all this stress but you are just sitting down. You are not using glucose. So, over time it can lead to elevated glucose levels.
It also leads to insulin resistance over time, so it leads to high cortisol levels and then causes you to gain belly fat and this is linked to insulin resistance. Stress also opens up the lining of the gut, it's causing inflammation which is going to cause you to hold on to weight more.
For a lot of people, it causes this elevation in their blood sugar levels but there are also a lot of people that Danielle works with that have their adrenal glands almost worn out because of all the stress they’ve been having, and are now so depleted that their adrenals can't keep their blood sugar up, so their blood sugar keeps crashing. It manifests in many ways.
When we talk about exercising, does it have to be something that needs to be done right after or right before you eat?
The way Danielle thinks about it is that you can do some sort of activity, movement, exercise, right after you eat when your blood sugar is going up, so you can use what you just got from your meal so that it really doesn't impact your blood sugar levels.
If you do weight lifting, you build muscles or you do some sort of resistance training and you're building muscles, that is a way to improve your insulin sensitivity in your muscles and to create more space for that glucose and insulin to go.
You'll have better glucose regulation over time. That's an investment for the future because when you exercise, you might notice on your glucose monitor that your blood sugar does go up but it’s okay. Exercising is a stressor on the body but it’s a beneficial stressor. You need to think: can my body handle this? If you feel depleted, maybe walking is better after a workout and that also helps you to burn fat so your body is using its fat burning. There are lots of benefits to exercising, you simply can't go wrong.
Fat is a word that people have been scared of for a long time. How can fat
possibly help stabilize blood sugar?
Fats are your blood sugar's best friend:
- They help stabilize your blood sugar
- They’re an energy source when not eating too many carbohydrates
Carbohydrates and sugars burn like kindling on a fire. Fat is like the log on the fire that burns low and slow. Healthy fats are so beneficial for our bodies, they make up every single cell mamboing in the body, they protect your joints, they help to digest your proteins better, they help to create hormones like testosterone and estrogen, and, of course, they help to stabilize your blood sugar.
When you eat fats in your meal they help to slow the release of the sugar in your blood so you don’t feel the symptoms of a sugar spike. Fat is delicious and makes food taste good. One of the things people do is that when they are trying to eat healthily, they cut out carbs and eat chicken breast and broccoli, but what they don’t realize is that they are missing fat. That's why they are hungry two hours later because they haven’t eaten a complete meal. You need fats, your hormones need them and they are necessary to stabilise your blood sugar.
Fat and insulin resistance
There is misinformation that fat causes insulin resistance. Some vegetable oils, like soya beans or sunflower oil, are what cause you to have insulin resistance but other fats do not. Danielle has been eating a high-fat diet for a long time now and she has noticed how her insulin has reversed. As mentioned before, fat is a source of energy so, when eating a high-fat diet you are running on this energy fuel, so you can start burning fat for fuel. In the end, that’s what you want, to snack on your body fat, instead of eating a nonhealthy snack or a plate of carbohydrates that are going to spike your blood sugar levels. By doing this, you'll feel fine, your mood will be much better, and won’t have any cravings.
Healthy fats are blood sugar’s best friend.
Fats that come from healthy animal sources, from coconut oil, nuts, avocados, and dark chocolate like yours, are very good for your body. Danielle really recommends including healthy fats in your diet because they bring a lot of benefits and will make you feel better than ever.
Where can we find you?
Podcast: Unlock the Sugar Shackles
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