Blood Sugar Problems

Blood Sugar Problems

Problems of blood sugar imbalance are increasingly common, and are often related to an unhealthy lifestyle. Along with genetic factors and other issues, poor dietary and exercise habits may compromise the body's ability to produce insulin or utilise it effectively. In the long term, many people with blood sugar problems are likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms

  • Symptoms that appear a few hours after eating and are alleviated by the consumption of food are suggestive of blood sugar imbalance. These may include:
  • Fatigue
  • Cravings for sweet foods (e.g. sugar, chocolate) or carbohydrates (e.g. bread, pasta, potatoes)
  • Headaches
  • Inability to concentrate ('fuzzy headedness')
  • Mood swings, irritability, DEPRESSION
  • Many people with diabetes are asymptomatic, and consequently remain undiagnosed unless blood sugar testing is performed during regular medical check-ups, or unless complications such as damage to the blood vessels, eyes, nerves and kidneys occur. However, symptoms that may be indicative of diabetes, and require urgent medical investigation include:
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Insatiable hunger
  • Poor healing of cuts and WOUNDS
  • Itchy skin
  • Dizziness, headaches, blurred vision
  • Muscle cramps, especially in the legs

Causes

  • Risk factors for blood sugar problems include having a family history of diabetes, weight problems (especially abdominal obesity), having HIGH blood pressure, a history of gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome, and getting older
  • People of certain nationalities are also at increased risk, including those from Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Pacific Islander, Indian sub-continent, or Asian backgrounds
  • Ongoing consumption of large quantities of foods with a high glycaemic index (GI) can also lead to blood sugar problems. These include sugary foods, alcohol, and starchy carbohydrates (e.g. bread, cakes, potatoes)
  • Skipping meals and eating irregularly may lead to unstable blood sugar levels and slumps in energy levels
  • Deficiencies of nutrients involved in the breakdown and utilisation of glucose, and the production and utilisation of insulin may also contribute to the problem. These include the minerals chromium, zinc, magnesium and manganese, and several of the B-complex group of vitamins
  • For people with diabetes and pre-diabetic conditions, failure to adhere to prescribed medicines and/or dietary advice may cause or exacerbate symptoms and complications of the condition

Nutritional & Herbal Solutions

  • If you have diabetes, do not take any nutritional or herbal supplements without prior consultation with your healthcare professional, as to do so may interfere with the actions of your prescribed medication or diet
  • Chromium is essential for the breakdown and utilisation of carbohydrates and sugars, and for maintaining blood sugar balance. It is used to reduce sugar and carbohydrate cravings, and may also aid in the management of weight problems. Other nutrients that are involved in the metabolism and utilisation of sugars include zinc, magnesium, manganese and nicotinamide (vitamin B3). The herbs gymnema and goat's rue are traditionally used to help regulate blood sugar and reduce sugar cravings
  • For weight problems, chromium and gymnema are sometimes taken in combination with hydroxycitric acid (HCA), the active component of the herb garcinia (also known as brindleberry). Hydroxycitric acid has been clinically proven to reduce appetite and decrease food consumption, and its use may lead to up to three times more weight loss than diet and exercise alone. It works by supporting your body's ability to burn fat and convert it into energy, and is best taken in conjunction with a sensible diet and exercise plan. In research studies, hydroxycitric acid has also helped reduce high CHOLESTEROL and triglycerides, and been shown to promote a positive mood in people who were dieting. The combination of hydroxycitric acid, chromium and gymnema may be more effective for weight loss than hydroxycitric acid alone
  • Many of the complications associated with diabetes are CIRCULATORY PROBLEMS caused by increased FREE RADICAL DAMAGE to the blood vessels. Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that provides extra support to the blood vessels, as do the herbs ginkgo biloba, grape seed and bilberry, which are traditionally regarded as circulatory stimulants

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • Symptoms of blood sugar imbalance may be indicative of underlying disease, and require medical investigation. If you are concerned that you or your child may have diabetes, seek medical attention urgently
  • Diabetes and other problems of blood sugar imbalance require professional healthcare. Always follow your doctor's recommendations with regards to diet, exercise, supplement and medication use. Failure to do so may exacerbate your symptoms and increase your risk of complications
  • Talk to your healthcare professional about an appropriate dietary regime for your personal circumstances. In many cases they will recommend you follow a low glycaemic index (GI) diet that includes slow-burning carbohydrates (such as oats and legumes) to help you maintain better blood glucose control. At the same time, you will be advised to avoid high GI carbohydrates such as sugars, wheat products (e.g. bread), and potatoes, which are metabolised quickly, leading to blood sugar fluctuations
  • Eating several small meals throughout the day may also help stabilise blood sugar levels. Include a small serve of protein at each meal
  • Decrease your consumption of saturated fats (from animal products) and increase your consumption of omega-3 fats (from fish, nuts and seeds)
  • Drink two litres of water every day, and avoid soft drinks, cordial, alcohol and caffeine, all of which can interfere with your blood sugar levels
  • Regular exercise is important for maintaining blood sugar balance and managing weight problems, but may be unsuitable for some people with diabetes - consult your healthcare professional before starting or changing your exercise regime
  • Don't smoke - it significantly increases the likelihood that you'll experience CIRCULATORY PROBLEMS, poor HEART HEALTH and other complications

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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