To Your Health
June, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 06)
Start With a Super Breakfast
Balance Your Blood Sugar All Day Long
By Dr. John Maher
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a reason: A balanced, healthy breakfast gives your body the sustained energy it needs to move, think and survive the huge mental and physical demands placed on it. Unfortunately, too many people eat an unhealthy, inadequate breakfast or skip it altogether. Here's why that's a bad idea.
What is health? Health may be best defined as the ability to maintain a condition of homeostasis, which is the ability of a body to regulate its internal conditions, such as the chemical composition of body fluids, so as to maintain health and functioning, regardless of outside conditions. A common way many of us begin to lose our health is by losing our ability to maintain a healthy level of sugar in our blood. In fact, some experts have said that dysglycemias (blood sugar imbalances) have become an epidemic.
Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, occurs when we are not able to keep enough sugar in our blood. When this happens, our nervous system starts to dysfunction, leading to irritability, fatigue, loss of focus and cravings for sweets and stimulants like caffeine. Hypoglycemia can be caused by not eating or, paradoxically, by eating too many low-fiber carbohydrates and sweets. Consuming the latter causes our blood sugar to spike up and then crash down. This phenomenon is often easily apparent in children, but it happens to adults just as often.
This "spike up, then crash down" pattern is caused by the hormone insulin. Insulin's main job is to get sugar from the blood to the cells. When large amount of low-fiber, simple sugars are ingested, a large amount of insulin is released in response. The large influx of insulin works so well in clearing the sugar of blood into the cells that low blood sugar results.
Blood Sugar and Insulin Resistance
Long-term continued overeating of sweets and low-fiber carbohydrates eventually "burns out" the insulin receptors on the cells that assist getting sugar from the blood into the cells. This loss of cell-receptor sensitivity is known as insulin resistance. Such "burnout" is quickened by lack of exercise. In an effort to overcome this, our bodies may make more insulin, leading to hyperinsulinemia (excess insulin production). This can eventually lead to a cluster of symptoms related to the upset of blood sugar homeostasis called metabolic syndrome, which is often a precursor to heart disease and diabetes.
The common findings indicative of metabolic syndrome are blood pressure above 130/90 (either number), high triglycerides, a suboptimal good/bad cholesterol (HDL/LDL) ratio, and central adiposity, perhaps most easily defined as a waist size more than half your height. It is important to realize that blood sugar tests will usually still read normal with metabolic syndrome, although often on the high side of normal. (However, it is now possible to measure blood insulin along with blood sugar when doing a two- or four-hour glucose tolerance test.)