What happens in your body when you eat a big blueberry muffin and wash it down with a giant soda? Essentially, your body goes into sugar overload. Your pancreas detects this infusion of sugar, triggering a release of insulin to help cope with the excess sugar. Insulin, a hormone produced by the body, is responsible for regulating the level of sugar in our blood. The more sugar in our bodies, the more insulin our pancreas releases. Insulin helps store the sugar in the liver and muscles as glycogen (to be used later for energy) and in fat cells as triglycerides.
When we down that white flour blueberry muffin combined with a sugary drink, our body struggles to get the insulin to sugar balance right. If we load our body with sugar on a regular basis, the body begins to overcompensate for these blasts of sugar by dropping our blood sugar level down lower than it was before we ate the sugar. This is commonly called a “sugar crash” but the technical name is hypoglycemia. Our body responds to this crash by craving sweets or feeling hungry. When we respond to these cravings by eating more sugar, the whole process begins again. Once we are caught in this cycle of crashing and then sugar consumption, we may feel shakiness, grouchiness, trembling or weakness if we go too long without eating. Most people will feel temporary symptom relief when they eat. My sister refers to this feeling as being “hangry” – feeling grouchy and short tempered until she gets some food. Fortunately, there are some steps to take to avoid this blood sugar roller coaster ride.
- Limit the amount of sugar you eat. This includes all forms of sugar- processed carbohydrates, white sugar, agave, honey, sodas, date sugar, muffins, ice cream, cookies, candy or any other food that tastes sweet.
- Eat complex carbohydrate rich foods with a protein and/or healthy fat. Combining a carbohydrate rich food with a protein or fat will slow the digestion of the carbs down, giving your body more time to process the sugar. An apple slathered with nut butter or whole-wheat bread with avocado and turkey are good examples of healthy combinations.
- Eating small, frequent meals. When we eat on a regular basis, it helps our bodies have a steady source of energy to avoid the peaks and valleys of blood sugar regulation. Aim to eat every 3-4 hours.
Picture by beana cheese on flickr.