Don't Be a Statistic: Why You Need to Balance Your Blood Sugar
Insulin issues are the name of the 21st century disease game. At the current diagnosis rate, 1/3rd of all children will have Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is essentially accelerated aging due to increased oxidation from excess glucose in the blood; at this rate, we are priming a whole generation to lead a disease-riddled, expensive life. Not only does diabetes profoundly inhibit health, but it is also seriously expensive. Yearly, an individual will spend $13,700 and our country will spend $825 billion just to ameliorate the effects of a 99.99999% preventable disease (Harvard Chan School of Public Health, 2016).
Insulin resistance is the precursor to Type 2 diabetes, and 25% of the non-diabetic population are unknowingly insulin resistant (and 25% will go on to develop full-blown Type 2 diabetes). We need insulin to tell our cells how to deliver glucose out of the bloodstream and into tissue so it can be utilized for energy. The conversion of food to energy is foundational to life; when the body loses the ability to do this task correctly, a domino effect of disease ensues. This is why insulin resistance (also known as Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X) and diabetes are always accompanied by co-morbidities: neuro-degeneration, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, polycystic ovarian syndrome, cancer, etc. The underlying biochemical defect of all these chronic degenerative diseases is all the same: decreased sensitivity to insulin signaling.
So why does our body stop responding to insulin? It’s a combination of things- mainly sugar, processed foods and trans fats (the two go hand-in-hand), stress, and lack of exercise. Obviously, there is a lot of this in the modern world, and some individuals are more susceptible than others. When insulin signaling gets disrupted and excess glucose remains in the blood instead of being transported to the appropriate places, our internal environment shifts to a disordered state. The pancreas will begin secreting larger amounts of insulin to overcome to the lack of insulin signaling. So now, there is more than enough insulin in the blood but the cells simply can’t get the message because of all the misplaced glucose.
All that glucose floating around in our blood stream eventually oxidizes, clunking up our vessels and jeopardizing circulation. Think crusty bread- the same reaction that forms crust on bread forms clunks in our blood: the excess sugar molecules react with the proteins in our blood to form clunky, gloopy advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) which are seriously bad news. They stress our body out, contributing to further inflammation and stress and screwing up blood flow.
There is great biochemical diversity among individuals, so some folks can maintain this hyperinsulinemic (“excessive insulin”) state for a while without developing diabetes, while others develop it immediately. Folks with Syndrome X will have a cluster of signs and symptoms: abdominal fat, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, depressed HDL (“good” cholesterol), cognitive decline, poor circulation, etc. With excess glucose in the blood, the body goes into an alarm state because it knows that glucose isn’t supposed to be there. The body’s alarm state is inflammation. It starts firing off inflammatory cytokines (chemical messengers), tipping our bodies further and further in the direction of disorder and disease. It’s a vicious cycle and the one spinning the wheel is us. Our unfit lifestyle and dietary habits are fueling the diabetic fires.
When you tally all the potential pain and expense you’ll be sparing yourself by making some simple yet effective lifestyle modifications, the answer is easy: do it! You can reverse diabetes and Syndrome X- it will take time and effort, lots of vegetables, herbs, and exercise, but your renewed vigor and figure will outshine your longing for simple, refined sugars. When you start eliminating sugar and processed foods and then go back to them, you will be amazed by how excessively sweet they taste. We must shift our bodies back to states of efficient metabolism, smooth digestion, and clean elimination. It is our responsibility on earth to take care of our bodies.
There is a simple formula to re-sensitize our bodies to that ever-important chemical, insulin. You can follow these recommendations as closely or loosely as you’d like, depending on your degree of insulin resistance:
10 Steps for Better Blood Sugar Handling
1. Eat vegetables, protein, with every meal. A typical day could look like this: eggs and greens for breakfast; berries and nuts for snack; sautéed vegetables and pesto with chicken/mushrooms/fish for lunch; an apple and cheese for snack; lentils and salmon for dinner; 70% or higher dark chocolate with a fat glob of coconut oil and sea salt for dessert.
2. Stay away from fruit juices, tropical, and dried fruits. Berries are the best fruit choices, then things like apples, plums, pears, and citrus fruits. Avoid all processed food and refined sugar. Avoid all breads and grains, especially white bread. After a while, you can start incorporating a bit of good quality, whole and ancient grain treats: sprouted grain bread, whole-wheat sourdough, oatmeal, and buckwheat are some fine examples.
3. Eat the right veggies. Dark leafy greens, brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, etc.), onions, zucchini, cucumber, squash, peppers, beans, tomatoes, turnips, radishes, lettuce, avocados, asparagus, carrots, parsnips… Wow! there are so many wonderful vegetables to eat. If you are concerned about blood sugar, it’s best to avoid super sweet starchy vegetables like sweet peas, white potatoes and corn. Starchy vegetables that are okay to eat include sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and Jerusalem artichokes.
4. Eat good fats with every meal. Omega 3s – essential for good health and lacking in the modern diet- shift bodies back to un-inflamed states. When we get our body to an un-inflamed state, it will begin to heal itself. Fish oils, walnuts, flaxseed oil, olive oil, and coconut oil are all good sources. Animal fat/butter are okay to eat in small quantities for they have many Omega 6s, which can shift our body back to inflamed states. Some body types, typically prone to constipation, are able to handle large amounts of good fats and need it for smooth digestion. For others, a modest amount of fat will do.
5. AVOID PROCESSED FOODS and TRANS FATS. Even if a processed food doesn’t have sugar, it is still playing a major role in perpetuating insulin resistance and inflammation. The more packaging and indiscernible ingredients, the more processed the food. Processed foods and trans-fats go hand and hand. Humans created trans-fats so they could turn liquid fat into a solid for transporting and processing purposes. Our bodies haven’t quite figured out how to process this new chemically structured fat. Therefore, it doesn’t get processed and just sits in the blood stream causing clunkiness and oxidation. Oxidized fats in the blood is a ticking time bomb for blood clots, heart attacks, stroke, etc. Sometimes, in a pinch you might have to rely on packaged food to fuel you. But feed your cells the right way! Instead, choose nuts, seeds, beef jerky, or a piece of fruit for a quick snack.
7. Get a good quality probiotic and eat fermented foods. Every aspect of our being is dictated by the bacteria in our gut (Salina Nelson, 2016). The bulk of our immunity and neurotransmitters is maintained and manufactured by our gut bacteria. They unlock crucial vitamins and minerals and make nutrients available to us. Gut dysbiosis – an unhealthy bacterial state in our tummies- effects our whole body. Gut dysbiosis, which largely results from lack of vegetables (they eat fiber), excessive sugar, trans-fats, and processed foods, is marked by inflammation. Remember: when our bodies shifts to the alarmed state of inflammation, everything malfunctions. Dr. Ohhira probiotics are a great choice. Stay away from cheap probiotics at convenient stores and those that need refrigeration (probiotics should be shelf stable).
8. Exercise. Move every day. Don’t sit down so much. Little subtle movements add up: use the stairs; bend at the knees rather the hips when you pick something up; take a 30 minute walk after dinner; do ten pushups during your bathroom break (and then wash your hands and smell your pits); stretch. Exercise increases insulin sensitivity, lubricates hungry joints, and facilitates circulation so that life-giving blood can travel to all the places it needs to go. Exercise reduces stress, too. Stress hormones cause inflammation. Are you seeing
9. Don’t eat past 8 PM. It is a bad health habit to go to bed on a full tummy. Digestion takes a lot of energy. Even though we are sleeping, our bodies are still working if we have to digest food and alcohol while we sleep. Night-time is time for our detoxifying organs to do rejuvenation and maintenance work. If you are starving, a small snack is fine.
10. HERBS and MINERALs.
While food and lifestyle habits are foundational, herbs and minerals help wake up our cells to insulin signaling and help us efficiently utilize the fuel we are ingesting. Here are some common herbs and minerals known to improve insulin sensitivity and sugar handling:
-Bitter melon, Momordica charantia
-True cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum
-America Ginseng, Panax quinquefolius
-Triphala (a traditional Ayurvedic blend)
-Turmeric, Curcuma longa
-Fenugreek, Trigonella foenum-graecum
-Licorice, Glycyrrhiza glabra
-Blueberry leaf, Vaccinium ssp.
-Mulberry leaf, Morus ssp.
-Any bitter herb (Milk thistle, Artichoke, Gentian, Wormwood)
-Moringa, Moringa oleifera
Any adaptogenic herb is also great to take daily. Adaptogenic herbs strengthen our body’s complex reactions to stress. They are generally regarded as safe to take daily and come in many different forms. Find the one that works with your body. I like Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) and Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum/tenuiflorum).
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Like Julia Child says, “Everything in moderation, even moderation”. Treat sweets and breads like just that - a treat! When you do this, your appreciation and enjoyment of them will enhance greatly.
Head over to our online shop to check out our Healing Harvest Tea, designed to enhance digestion and blood sugar handling
Stellaria media, Caryophyllaceae
Literally means “in the midst of stars”
Chickweed is a low grower who knows no boundaries. She sneakily, sweetly sprawls, hugging the earth and producing a soft green carpet in her wake. Chickweed loves cool weather and cool, damp places. You will find her in moist, fertile, low spots of the land, alive and kicking in winter, early spring, and even into summer in cooler climates. Chickweed is shy, blending in with other garden weeds and hiding her gentle white, star-shaped blossoms until mid-day. Chickweed is good for the garden. She helps soil retain nitrogen and forms a protective barrier for gardens in the off-growing months. Chickweed has naturalized herself throughout the US and if you see her, you should use her- her medicine is absolutely best fresh (seriously, don’t even bother with dried Chickweed. Her power is held in the moment)
Chickweed is a nutritive tonic, rich in minerals. Eat her daily if you can! Chickweed is a cooling agent in her anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, and refrigerant properties. Chickweed soothes - she is a demulcent, emollient, vulnerary, and pectoral herb perfect for any itchy, inflamed, painful or irritated situation.
Fresh Chickweed juice is rich in steroidal saponins. These compounds have a soap-like activity in the body. As you can imagine how soap cuts through grease, Chickweed’s saponins also cut through fat in the body. In the same way, chickweed’s steroidal saponins increase cellular membrane (made of fats) permeability, making it easier on cells to release and neutralize toxins while uptaking good minerals and nutrients. Chickweed can even soften bacterial cell walls making it easier for the immune cells to destroy them. Chickweed’s saponins and delmulcent qualities are great for breaking up gunk in the lungs and a fresh poultice can even dissolve cysts. Rinse eyes with diluted (with distilled water) fresh chickweed juice or a poultice for inflamed, itchy, or infected eyes. Chickweed’s anti-inflammatory, bioavailable nutrition are a dream on hungry, inflamed, and upset tummies. For any hot, inflamed and dry condition, think Chickweed! Hot sore throats, congestion, dry coughs, hoarseness, cranky livers, and constipation - think Chickweed!
Identification points: habitat, small white flowers with five deeply divided petals, single row of tiny hairs growing along stem- smooth otherwise, grows out instead of up, crush the stems- feel the juiciness
Taste: mild, buttery, sweet, cooling, nutritive/salty
Best as: FRESH! Chickweed salad, pesto, substituted anywhere you would use fresh greens, broth, tincture added to water and/or vinegar - stay away from dried (basically worthless)
Visit our Perfect Pesto Every Time post for our full-proof pesto recipe
Sea salt, lemon, beet, yum.... This is how we hydrate - all day long and with botanicals and minerals that help us absorb the water we are drinking.
Did you know that many modern maladies are simply the result of chronic dehydration at the cellular level?
WHAT TO DO:
1. GET A BERKEY - Berkey makes the best water filters out there and we really can't recommend them enough. From basic filters to cartridges that remove flouride, you are definitely investing health when you get berkey with it.
2. GET TO KNOW BEETS - Beets are filled with betaine (and lots of other goodies) that improve liver and gallbladder function. We need these fat-digesting organs, toxin-removing organs to be functioning if we want to feel good. Sluggish livers and gallbladders can really make us feel crummy. Beets get the motors running and the bile circulating! We love this beet powder and keep it on hand for hydrades, smoothies, and sauces!
3. LOVE LEMONS - These sour fruits are our tummies favorite fruit, hands down. Lemon water helps replenish digestive juices and keep our system running clean.
4. DON'T BE SCARED OF SALT* - Sea salt is PACKED with minerals that have been stripped from modern table salt. Lava, pink Himalayan, black - whatever floats your boat! Just makes sure its straight from the source and in its whole, mineral rich form. You can also add Trace Mineral drops for extra mineral-y goodness.
*Excessive salt does lead to high blood pressure and stressed kidneys, but naturally occurring salt is self-limiting, meaning it is VERY hard to overdo. What gets people is all the crummy sodium added to processed food to add flavor to lackluster food. If you eliminate processed foods, you shouldn't have to worry about overeating salt
HERB GIRL'S HYDRADE
As herbalists and nutritional therapy practitioners, we relish in the interface between nourishing herbs and foods.
We adapted this recipe to be fitting for our students in the Restart Program, a guided 3-week vacation from sugar and processed foods. During this time, we retrain our bodies to burn fat - its preferred fuel - over carbs - the macronutrient that has been villianized by current fad diets but that actually holds tremendous value when consumed in the proper amounts (there is a that reason sweets taste so good!).
The addition of rose hip and licorice powder give a delightful herbal touch to these satisfying chocolates.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is known as the great harmonizer in several herbal traditions for its ability to enhance and round out the flavor and action of other herbs in formula. A little bit goes a long way with licorice, so treat it like you would sea salt. Rose hips (Rosa ssp.) are excellent cardiovascular aids and give a bright touch to the deep richness of the cacao.
Raspberry Rose Chocolate Recipe
keto, paleo, no-sugar, delish!
Ready in 15-20 min (10+ minute chill time)
¾ c coconut butter
¼ c coconut oil
¼ c grass-fed butter
3 tbsp cacao powder
1 tsp vanilla
½ c coconut butter
½ c frozen raspberries
2 tbsp coconut cream/milk
1 tbsp rose hip powder
2 pinches licorice powder
2 tsp maple syrup
1 c toasted, shredded coconut
In a small pan, add ¾ c coconut butter, ¼ c grassfed butter, ¼ coconut oil, 1 tsp vanilla, and 4 tbsp cacao powder, and a pinch of sea salt and heat on medium low until everything is melted. Stir until everything is combined. Remove from heat. Set aside.
1. Filling-In a small saucepan mix together ½ c coconut butter, ½ c raspberries, 2 tbsp coconut cream/milk, 1 tbsp rose hip powder, 2 tsp maple syrup, and a pinch of salt on med-low. Heat until coconut butter is melted and incorporating into the raspberries. Pour ingredients into a blender or use an immersion blender to blend well. Set aside.
Using a silicon ice cube tray, pour the bottom ½ of each cube with the chocolate mixture. Put this in the freezer so it is resting evenly and the chocolate sauce doesn’t cool crookedly in the ice cube molds. Let freeze for at least 10 minutes until the chocolate is set. Remove from the freeze and spoon ~1 tsp of the raspberry filling into each cube mold. Press ~½-1 tsp of toasted coconut flakes into the raspberry filling. Pour the remaining chocolate sauce over each mold so that the raspberry and shredded coconut filling is covered. Return to the freeze for another 10 minute at least to let that set. Remove from freezer and dust in a combination of cacao and rose-hip powder or toasted coconut.
Add 1 tbsp maple syrup to the raspberry filling
Add 2 tsp maple syrup to the chocolate base
Inflammation and How Gold Dust Might Help
Turmeric’s popularity has skyrocketed in the last few years, and for good reason - this Ginger family root can answer many a modern malady. Why is it so effective for such a large range of common complaints? Two words: PROLONGED INFLAMMATION.
In fact, prolonged inflammation is such a common source of pain and disease and it has been called “the root of all disease” in western medicine (1 in 3 Americans suffer from an inflammation-caused disease). There is some truth to this - but rather than simply treating inflammation on the spot, we are wise to look a bit deeper as to what is causing this prolonged inflammatory reaction.
But first, we have to define inflammation. Oftentimes, these health buzzwords get thrown around so much that we forget the meaning. Inflammation is simply our bodies response to some type of adverse stimuli such as an injury, infection, or general imbalance. The inflammatory response triggers our body’s immune system to kick into action and start the healing process. Inflammation is designed to treat acute/short-term issues. You cut yourself- a scab forms and mends the skin. You catch the flu- a fever comes and goes. Sometimes, however, when the body feels an onslaught of adverse effects, it is unable to return to homeostasis and the immune system stays turned on. Overtime, you can imagine that this majorly wears the system out.
Back in Roman times, Inflammation was defined by 5 characteristics: redness, aching, swelling, heat, (calor, dolor, rubor, tumor) and loss of function. Have you ever felt any of these in an injury? Sometimes, if an injury (internal or external) is unable to heal, the long-term affect is illness. And to be clear, an injury doesn’t have to be something as clear as breaking your leg. Injuries can look like lingering damage from a bad cold, knicks in your arteries from clunky blood, or most commonly these days - chronicaly inflamed guts from eating foods our body doesn’t understand how to digest. A few examples of inflammation induced diseases are: arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, MS, and fibromyalgia.
The goal is to allow an inflammatory response to do its job. As soon as you see signs of inflammation, address them before chronic inflammation takes hold yielding much more complicated problems.
Apart from addressing diet and lifestyle factors, we have a favorite anti-inflammatory drink that is well-balanced and therefore pleasing to the majority of constitutions out there. We call it GOLD DUST and it features Turmeric, Eleuthero, Fenugreek, Maca, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cardamom, and Black Pepper.
How to Make the Perfect Cup of GOLD DUST
Here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy this delightfully warm and sunny drink:
THE MILKY WAY- Gently heat 8-12 oz of your favorite milk in a saucepan. We like raw cow's milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, or hemp milk for this. You want the milk very hot but not simmering (if you overheat raw milk, it deactivates all the goodies inside). Meanwhile, add 1 tsp of Gold Dust to a mug. Pour the hot milk over the Gold Dust. Add 1/2 tsp maple syrup, honey or agave. Use a hand frother and froth to perfection (alternatively, mix it up in a blender). Top with a dollop of whipped heavy cream or coconut cream and a cinnamon sprinkle. Enjoy in place of coffee, as an afternoon pick-me-up or post-dinner dessert.
THE ATHLETE- Bring 8-12 oz of filtered water to a simmer in a saucepan. Meanwhile, add 1 tsp of Gold Dust to a mug. Cover with simmered water, 1 scoop collagen (coupon code #OCEANLOVE for 10% off!), 1 tsp coconut oil, coconut butter, or MCT oil. Use a hand frother and froth to perfection (alternatively, mix it up in a blender). Top with a pinch of cayenne and cinnamon. Enjoy after a workout or to nourish you on busy mornings.
THE COLD SHOULDER- Mix 2 tsp of Gold Dust and 1 tsp honey or maple syrup in ~1/4 c very hot filtered water until completely incorporated. Add 12 oz of your favorite cold milk (we like almond or coconut for this). Blend up with some ice and enjoy on a sunny day.
The Herbs In Gold Dust
All images from Creative Commons Flickr; Steve, Heather, Utilisima, Sh.fernando, cpmkutty, Kata Tolgyesi.
Below you will find materia medicas on all the harmonizing, anti-inflammatizing herbs in Gold Dust. Materia medicas are like an herb's resume. They are very helpful in deepening your understanding of all the things a single herb can do.
Eileen Brantley & Amy Wright
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