As we approach the thick of Summertime, prepare to be exposed to lots and lots of sweet treats. Whether it’s the ice cream truck, a quick cool-down smoothie, or apple pie and watermelon at a cookout, there are a multitude of ways to indulge a little here and there and before you know it, your health is impacted. Before we start, I am definitely not saying to “have no fun” this summer. I am simply wanting to raise awareness of what happens in your body’s system as a reaction to sugary foods so that you can indulge mindfully and safely.
What is High Blood Sugar?
High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, is a major concern, and can affect people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes . There are two main kinds:
- Fasting hyperglycemia. This is blood sugar that’s higher than 130 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) after not eating or drinking for at least 8 hours.
- Postprandial or after-meal hyperglycemia. This is blood sugar that’s higher than 180 mg/dL 2 hours after you eat. People without diabetes rarely have blood sugar levels over 140 mg/dL after a meal, unless it’s really large.
Frequent or ongoing high blood sugar can cause damage to your nerves, blood vessels, and organs. It can also lead to other serious conditions…. If you have type 2 diabetes or if you’re at risk for it, extremely high blood sugar can lead to a potentially deadly condition in which your body can’t process sugar. It’s called hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HHNS). You’ll pee more often at first, and then less often later on, but your urine may become dark and you could get severely dehydrated.
It’s important to treat symptoms of high blood sugar right away to help prevent complications.
But I’m Not Diabetic!
You may not be diabetic (although many people who are type 2 diabetic go undiagnosed for years, which leads to more damage), but over consumption of sugar and sweetened foods can lead to other problems as well.
- Currently, the average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, which adds up to 77 lbs of sugar yearly
- The human body isn’t well-designed to process excessive amounts of sugar, especially fructose. It is actually a hepatotoxin and gets metabolized directly into fat – which often causes a whole host of problems with far-reaching effects on your health
- One study found that fructose is readily used by cancer cells to increase their proliferation – it “feeds” the cancer cells, promoting cell division and speeding their growth, allowing the cancer to spread faster
- As a general recommendation, your total fructose consumption should be below 25 grams a day, including sugars from whole fruit
In other words, moderation is the key here.
Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology in the University of California and a pioneer in decoding sugar metabolism, says that your body can safely metabolize at least six teaspoons of added sugar per day. But since most Americans are consuming over three times that amount, majority of the excess sugar becomes metabolized into body fat – leading to all the debilitating chronic metabolic diseases many people are struggling with.
Here are some of the effects that consuming too much sugar has on your health:
- It overloads and damages your liver. The effects of too much sugar or fructose can be likened to the effects of alcohol. All the fructose you eat gets shuttled to the only organ that has the transporter for it: your liver. This severely taxes and overloads the organ, leading to potential liver damage.
- It tricks your body into gaining weight and affects your insulin and leptin signaling. Fructose fools your metabolism by turning off your body’s appetite-control system. It fails to stimulate insulin, which in turn fails to suppress ghrelin, or “the hunger hormone,” which then fails to stimulate leptin or “the satiety hormone.” This causes you to eat more and develop insulin resistance
- It causes metabolic dysfunction. Eating too much sugar causes a barrage of symptoms known as classic metabolic syndrome. These include weight gain, abdominal obesity, decreased HDL and increased LDL, elevated blood sugar, elevated triglycerides, and high blood pressure.
- It increases your uric acid levels. High uric acid levels are a risk factor for heart and kidney disease. In fact, the connection between fructose, metabolic syndrome, and your uric acid is now so clear that your uric acid level can now be used as a marker for fructose toxicity.
I Don’t REALLY Eat That Much Sugar…
…or do you? Here is an info-graphic detailing the amounts of sugar in common foods and beverages — you may be surprised.
How Do I Know If I’m Eating Too Much Sugar?
If you are having trouble keeping track of how much sugar you eat day to day and you are wondering if you have ongoing high blood sugar issues, you may notice:
- Increased thirst
- Trouble concentrating
- Blurred vision
- Frequent urination
- Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
- Weight loss
- Blood sugar more than 180 mg/dL
Ongoing high blood sugar may cause:
- Vaginal and skin infections
- Slow-healing cuts and sores
- Worse vision
- Nerve damage causing painful cold or insensitive feet, loss of hair on the lower extremities, or erectile dysfunction
- Stomach and intestinal problems such as chronic constipation or diarrhea
- Damage to your eyes, blood vessels, or kidneys
If you are concerned about your blood sugar levels, the best first step is to see your doctor and have it tested. Information and tracking of patterns are the best tools to managing your blood sugar. Your doctor may prescribe a glucometer to test your blood sugar regularly, or you can also buy one yourself at a drugstore.
How Do I Fix High Blood Sugar?
Fortunately, unless you are Type 1 Diabetic, high blood sugar can be reversed. Some things to try:
Drink more water. H20 helps remove excess sugar from your blood through urine, and it helps you avoid dehydration.
Exercise more. Working out can help lower your blood sugar. But under certain conditions, it can make blood sugar go even higher. Ask your doctor what kind of exercise is right for you. Caution:If you have type 1 diabetes and your blood sugar is high, you need to check your urine for ketones. When you have ketones, do NOT exercise. If you have type 2 diabetes and your blood sugar is high, you must also be sure that you have no ketones in your urine and that you are well-hydrated. Then your doctor might give you the OK to exercise with caution as long as you feel up to it.
Change your eating habits. You may need to meet with a dietitian to change the amount and types of foods you eat.
And you can just take a moment before consuming a sweet treat and ask yourself “WHY?” If your answer much of the time is that you are stressed or feeling bad emotionally, you will need to work on disassociating sugar with comfort and well being.
Try finding another way to get a boost of “feel good” hormones — a few minutes of deep breathing and centering can often do the trick.
Several people have also said that Paula’s Micronized Purple Rice helped their blood sugar levels come down.
Carmen and Jan have both reported improved blood work numbers after trying MPR, but of course, once you make the decision to start investing in your health with MPR, you are going to want to maximize the effects by making healthier choices in all other areas of your life. Many people find that they see better results faster when taking Paula’s Purple Rice if they also increase water consumption and decrease their sugar and highly processed food intake, so causation vs. correlation is hard to track there; but in any case, keeping a watch on your blood sugar and moderating your fructose just makes good sense.
And of course, a great way to reduce the sweets you eat this summer is to share your treats with a friend!