Every food you choose to eat can be a powerful medicine or a powerful risk factor for the disease.
But with high stakes like these, how do you know which foods do what? You can find information online to justify almost anything you want to eat, so it can be tricky figuring out what’s best for your health. Where do you even start? While each person is different and responds to food in different ways, we do know that for those with blood sugar issues, there are certain foods and dietary practices known to help. But the foods and diets you think are best for your blood sugar may not actually be therapeutic for your issues. As a functional medicine practitioner, I see many people eating foods every day that contribute to their blood sugar problems, even foods they believe to be healthy choices.
Here are ways you could balance your blood sugar:
Adjust Your Carb Quantity and Quality
It is well established that a high-starch, low-fiber diet increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Despite this fact, conventional health experts continue to recommend a high-carbohydrate diet for type 2 diabetics to achieve better results. The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends that diabetics obtain 45 to 60 percent of calories from carbohydrates, while the American Dietetic Association has only recently rescinded its endorsement of high carbohydrate intake for diabetics and remains reluctant to recommend a low carb intake. Despite such foot-dragging, a growing body of scientific research indicates that low-carbohydrate diets are superior to high-carbohydrate diets for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis of 18 randomized controlled trials found that reducing dietary carbohydrates produces significant improvements in HbA1c, triglycerides, and cholesterol, while also lowering patients’ diabetes medication requirements. Importantly, the definition of a “low-carbohydrate diet” varied across the studies included in the review; had the definition been stricter, a greater beneficial effect might have been observed. (1)
Several large-scale studies have compared the effectiveness of low-carb diets with high-carb diets to treat diabetes. In these studies, low-carb diets consistently outperform high-carb diets for the management of type 2 diabetes. Low-carb diets produce more significant improvements in blood sugar stability and lipid profiles and significantly reduce the need for medications. In addition to adjusting carb quantity, you also need to change the quality of the carbs you consume.(2) Instead of refined carbohydrates such as pasta and bread, eat moderate amounts of starchy tubers (sweet potatoes, cassava, beets, and rutabaga), plantains, whole fruit, and moderate amounts of full-fat dairy, if tolerated.
Think about Going Keto
Increasing numbers of people are experimenting with the ketogenic diet for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, with some strongly positive results. The ketogenic diet is a very-low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat diet that causes the body to rely on fatty acids and ketones for fuel, rather than glucose.
Studies indicate that a ketogenic diet has significant benefits for type 2 diabetics. A ketogenic diet has been found to improve HbA1c, promote weight loss, reverse kidney damage, and improve blood lipids and cardiovascular health in type 2 diabetics. It has also proven more successful than a conventional low-carb diet for diabetes. In fact, the benefits are so profound that an entire company, Virta Health, has made a ketogenic diet the cornerstone of their novel treatment approach for type 2 diabetes.(3)
Consider Getting Rid of Gluten
In recent years, multiple studies have examined the effects of gluten on type 2 diabetes. We know that celiac disease is more common in individuals with poorly controlled diabetes than in the general population; this finding suggests that gluten may contribute to the development and progression of diabetes. Furthermore, animal models of type 2 diabetes indicate that a gluten-free diet increases the functional capacity of beta cells, the pancreatic cells responsible for making insulin, and improves glucose tolerance.(4)
How does gluten contribute to diabetes? The answer lies in the damaging effects of gluten on the intestinal barrier. Gluten increases intestinal permeability, causing leaky gut and systemic inflammation; these two factors have been found to precede type 2 diabetes. Removing gluten from the diet restores intestinal barrier integrity and reduces inflammation, thereby improving insulin resistance and potentially reversing the course of diabetes.
Eat More Protein
Protein is a powerful tool for managing type 2 diabetes. Increasing protein intake improves blood sugar control and satiety (the feeling of fullness) and preserves lean body mass in diabetics. According to the research, a protein intake of 20 to 30 percent of total calories is best for optimizing type 2 diabetes management. There are still some concerns that a high protein intake can cause diabetic kidney disease.(5) However, this myth has been disproven multiple times; a high protein intake does not compromise kidney function in people without preexisting kidney disease.
Nothing can fix your body better than it can fix itself. We must provide it with the right environment, nutrition, and reduce stress. Your lifestyle and nutrient status have a profound impact on insulin and consequently lead to diabetes. Anyone with diabetes knows it’s important to manage insulin levels. Functional medicine offers unique tools to manage insulin and blood sugar including diet, exercise, stress management, detoxification, and maximizing essential nutrients.
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