We have several blog posts talking about blood sugar and the harmful effects of not having it balanced. And today we bring you another one. We want to talk about the importance and the positive effects of blood sugar stabilization and how having your blood glucose stable can reverse several chronic diseases.
What is blood sugar?
When we speak of blood sugar, we’re referring to blood glucose, the main sugar found in the blood. Glucose is the primary source of fuel for humans, that which your body taps into first for energy. For those following a ketogenic diet it changes a bit but let’s stay on track.
Glucose is regulated by the hormones insulin and glucagon. Our body can get glucose from the carbohydrates we eat or through glycogenesis or, it can make it from other non-carb sources such as lactate, amino acids and glycerol, through a process called gluconeogenesis; it’s like your body’s backup glucose source. While glyconeogenesis helps maintain blood glucose levels during fasting or low-carbohydrate periods without causing a significant increase in blood sugar, glycogenesis is involved in storing excess glucose to prevent high blood sugar levels after meals.
Going back to glycogenesis, whenever we finish eating a meal that contains any type of carbohydrates, the body turns what it needs into glucose, signaling the pancreas to release insulin to transport the blood glucose to the cells so it can be used as fuel. However, when there is more glucose than our body needs, we get what is typically known as high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia. This term is associated with diabetes and prediabetes (when your blood sugar levels are high, but not high enough to be diabetes).
Blood sugar instability and its effects in the long run
Before we dive into the chronic diseases and how to reverse them, we need to understand also the effects of blood sugar instability. This is characterized by fluctuations in blood glucose levels, and can have profound long-term effects on health, particularly in individuals with diabetes. Both hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can lead to a range of complications.
Prolonged hyperglycemia can exacerbate diabetes or trigger its onset, leading to a diabetes progression. Most individuals who suffer from diabetes have foot and eye problems, resulting in a decreased quality of life. These problems are due to poor circulation and nerve damage caused by diabetes. The results are foot ulcers and infections, sometimes requiring amputation. Also, diabetes-related retinopathy, a result of blood vessel damage in the eyes, can lead to vision problems and blindness if untreated.
Another dangerous effect of blood sugar instability is the cardiovascular risks that come with it. Persistently elevated blood sugar levels contribute to cardiovascular complications among lots of other health issues.
👉 It can damage blood vessels and promote atherosclerosis, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
👉 High blood sugar can harm nerves as well, leading to peripheral neuropathy. This condition causes numbness, tingling, and pain, affecting limbs and bodily functions like digestion and sexual health.
👉 Aside from cardiovascular and neurological issues, another risk is kidney damage.
👉 Chronic hyperglycemia can damage the kidneys, potentially progressing to kidney disease or failure, necessitating dialysis or transplantation.
As we’ve mentioned already, blood sugar instability provides a decreased quality of life, since it often results in fatigue, irritability, and difficulties in daily activities, diminishing overall quality of life.
To reverse these effects and prevent them long-term, we must have effective blood glucose management, which involves a major lifestyle change to have a healthier and happier life. Effective management involves a healthy diet, daily exercise, stress reduction, and regular monitoring, among others.
What diseases are reversible if you stabilize your blood sugar levels?
As we’ve mentioned, stabilizing blood sugar levels can have a positive impact on various health conditions, and in some cases, it may lead to the reversal or significant improvement of these conditions. While complete reversibility depends on factors like the severity of the condition and individual factors, here are some diseases and conditions that may show improvement or reversal with better blood sugar control.
1. Type 2 diabetes
Diabetes remission refers to achieving and maintaining normal blood sugar levels without the need for diabetes medications or insulin. This is typically accomplished through sustained lifestyle changes and maintained in the long run to avoid a relapse. These lifestyle changes include a balanced diet, regular exercise, and weight loss. While remission is possible for some individuals with type 2 diabetes, it may not be permanent if not taken seriously, and ongoing monitoring and management are essential to prevent relapse.
2. Metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors, including high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, excess abdominal fat, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol. It increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Stabilizing blood sugar levels through dietary changes and physical activity can help address the underlying insulin resistance and reduce the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome.
3. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age. It's characterized by irregular menstrual cycles, excess androgen hormones, and cysts on the ovaries. PCOS can lead to various symptoms like acne, hirsutism (excessive hair growth), weight gain, and fertility problems. It also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular issues.
Management is key to improving PCOS symptoms and fertility outcomes. It often involves lifestyle changes such as managing blood sugar through diet. Many studies are revealing the promising role of the ketogenic diet in treating PCOS symptoms and improving the quality of life of many women.
4. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
Non-alcoholic fatty Liver Disease is a condition characterized by the accumulation of fat in the liver of people who consume little to no alcohol. It ranges from simple fat buildup (steatosis) to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which involves liver inflammation and can lead to fibrosis and cirrhosis. NAFLD is often associated with obesity, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. To revoke this disease and improve liver health huge lifestyle changes need to be made such as weight loss, daily exercise, and stabilization of blood sugar.
5. Cardiovascular Disease
The term cardiovascular disease refers to a group of conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels, including coronary artery disease, heart failure, stroke, and hypertension.
Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, diabetes, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Even though cardiovascular disease is not entirely reversible, stabilizing blood sugar levels is vital to manage it. Good management can slow down the progression of heart disease and reduce the risk of complications.
6. Gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy when the body cannot produce enough insulin to meet increased insulin needs. It can lead to elevated blood sugar levels, potentially affecting both the mother and baby. Management typically involves dietary changes, and monitoring blood sugar levels. After childbirth, blood sugar levels often return to normal, but there's an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
How to stabilize blood sugar levels
As we’ve seen, stabilizing blood sugar levels is key for overall health, especially for individuals with diabetes or those at risk.
Start by adopting a balanced diet, rich in healthy fats, and lean proteins while avoiding sugar and processed foods. Be mindful of portion sizes to avoid overeating, and manage carbohydrate intake by monitoring glycemic index values. Engage in regular physical activity (3 to 5 times per week) to enhance insulin sensitivity, manage stress with relaxation techniques, and prioritize quality sleep. Weight management, limited alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking contribute to stable blood sugar levels and a healthier life as well. Remember to check your case and your progress with your healthcare provider for further information.
The goal is to live a long healthy life, with the ability to move freely, have autonomy, be disease-free, and not be reliant on any medication.