Blood sugar regulation is one of the top priorities of the body. Anything that disrupts the blood sugar handling mechanisms will disrupt all aspects of our physiology - metabolically, hormonally, and neurologically. The disruption has the power to affect our mood, sleep, weight, energy levels, susceptibility to disease, and most importantly the degree of inflammation in our body.
Blood sugar regulation is truly a foundational part of what makes our bodies healthy!
Blood Sugar Dysregulation
Blood sugar dysregulation typically occurs on a spectrum and is a progression of dysfunction that happens over time if the root cause is not addressed. Hypoglycemia is so prevalent in our society that it is seen as normal. We talk of “crashing” after eating or needing coffee to keep us going in the afternoon. These are some of the first signs that blood sugar dysregulation is occurring. When left unchecked, this condition can progress to insulin resistance and ultimately diabetes.
Hormones Control Blood Sugar
Blood sugar management is a finely balanced dance of hormones. Insulin is the most well-known of these hormones. Insulin is released from one of the three key organs that manage blood sugar, the pancreas. The sugar, or glucose, circulating in your blood supplies your cells with the energy to keep you moving throughout the day. However, there is a goldilocks amount of sugar your body wants - just enough but not too much. The body is always trying to maintain a very narrow range of how much sugar is circulated in the blood. Insulins’ role is to help lower blood sugar when it becomes elevated. For instance, when something high in sugar is consumed, the amount of sugar in the blood increases and insulin is released to tell the cells to store sugar, decreasing the amount of sugar in the blood. That sugar is stored in the cells of liver tissue, muscle tissue, and ultimately fat tissue. This is how insulin contributes to weight gain and obesity. Insulin also increases cholesterol production, which is one of the ways that blood sugar handling is directly connected to cholesterol levels.
Monitoring particular markers in a blood chemistry panel can give some clues as to whether a individual is on the path to diabetes. For instance, an elevated HbA1c marker is used as an indicator of blood sugar imbalance and can indicate the early stages of hyperglycemia long before a disease as progressed as diabetes manifests. This gives us a critically early opportunity to reverse blood sugar dysregulation.
Patterns and Connections
Functional medicine professionals evaluating blood chemistry panels are not looking at individual biomarkers in isolation. They evaluate the numbers in relations to each other, looking for patterns and trends. Markers that are out of the functional range have to be put in the context of the whole person. For instance, biomarkers such as glucose, insulin, HbA1c and LDH can suggest blood sugar dysregulation, but inflammation markers can indicate how far the dysregulation might have progressed. These comparisons help determine a proper restorative plan. As functional nutritionists, we use these results to create a plan focusing on nutrient-dense foods that balance blood sugar, combined with specific, targeted supplements to help that balance.
We offer a comprehensive wellness blood chemistry panel that includes blood sugar and cholesterol markers, but also other bio markers to help evaluate the health of digestion, thyroid, and immune system.
Originally posted in the Natural Awakenings magazine, Jan. 2019 edition