Continuing from last week on foods to avoid when addressing Rosacea, with the aim of getting it under control, this week I want to cover the sugar addiction and it’s impact on health.
In my clinical experience many clients suffering Rosacea have some level of Blood Sugar Imbalance, and gaining control over this common health problem is very helpful in reducing stress and inflammation.
What is Blood Sugar Imbalance exactly?
Normal blood glucose levels range from between 50mg/100mI of blood (fasting) and 170mg/100ml (shortly after a meal); the average level being approximately 110mg/100mI of blood.
Two opposing hormones control Blood Glucose concentration: insulin and glucagon. Insulin’s role is to facilitate the entry of glucose into cells, to lower the blood glucose concentration when it is too high. The role of glucagon is to raise blood glucose levels, when too low, by releasing glucose stored in the liver (glycogen).
Approximately an hour after eating a balanced meal, consisting of complex carbohydrates, protein and some fats, blood glucose levels peak at about 170mg/100mI of blood. Within a couple of hours of completing the meal, blood glucose levels drop back to the starting point and levels out.
If we miss a meal, glucagon breaks down stores of glycogen from the liver, thus maintaining blood glucose homeostasis (balance).
Refined carbohydrate and sugars are rapidly digested and therefore raise blood glucose levels
very quickly and to well above the reference range. Abnormally high blood glucose is toxic to cells and can damage certain tissues such as the retina of the eye.
To protect the cells from damage, the pancreas secretes extra amounts of insulin to restore homeostasis (balance). However, when the pattern of high blood glucose continues, again and again, day in and day out, the pancreas over-reacts by releasing excessive amounts of insulin and an excessive amount of glucose is taken from the blood into the cells, or stored as fat in the adipose tissues (when the cells are saturated with glucose), resulting in hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose).
Rapid drops in blood glucose levels (below the reference range) starve the brain of its primary fuel and we experience symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, aggression, panic attacks, depression, foggy thinking, headaches, poor memory and concentration. To restore the blood glucose level, we start craving sugars and starches or substances that will raise blood glucose rapidly again and the cycle of extreme highs and extreme lows starts once more.
Equally, stimulants and stress can raise blood glucose levels via the hormone adrenaline, which prepares the body for the ‘fight-flight’ response. Excess glucose is released from glycogen stores in response to a perceived emergency situation. As these stressors are most often false alarms, the excess blood glucose is not utilized for activity and remains high. Too much insulin is released and the hypoglycaemic cycle starts all over again.
Blood glucose imbalance results in excessive insulin release, and insulin itself promotes inflammation. There are also potential long term health complications arising from a combination effect on the body’s blood glucose regulation when it has been out of balance chronically. This is a combination of reduced ability to produce sufficient insulin and the cells become unresponsive to insulin’s effects thereby resulting in blood glucose remaining high after eating and the development of Type II Diabetes.
This is well know to affect the kidneys, eyes, heart, nerves and blood vessels. For those with Rosacea, blood glucose imbalance may be significantly involved in blood vessel malfunction and an increased stress response which is one of the most common triggers for a flushing episode. Low blood glucose also precipitates symptoms such as foggy thinking and forgetfulness, anxiety and agitation which are very common findings in Rosacea clients when they first come to see me.
To help manage your stress levels, reduce internal inflammation, and address the symptoms listed above, follow these guidelines:
• Do not skip or delay meals; eat frequent meals and/or snacks during the day; do not have less than three meals per day.
• Include some protein in each meal and snack (proteins slow down digestion). Use high protein foods for snacks such as nuts, seeds, unpasteurized fresh cheese, yoghurt or milk kefir (preferably from sheep or goat).
• Avoid foods that release sugar quickly into the blood stream (high glycaemic index foods), such as foods high in sugar, processed foods, refined carbohydrates (white bread/pasta/rice, starchy vegetables such as peeled/mashed potato), sweet fruits (bananas, grapes, melon, pineapple, mango) and dried fruits.
• Avoid alcohol (pure carbohydrate). If you cannot avoid alcohol, always ensure you snack on a high protein source while drinking (nuts are a good choice here – unsalted/raw).
• Avoid stimulants as much as possible e.g. tea, coffee, cigarettes.
• Manage your stress levels; make time to relax, and implement regular exercise into your lifestyle such as a brisk 20 minute walk daily.
• Contact me directly if you wish to have your mineral levels assessed (from a hair sample) to ensure the ratios are within the normal range. Chromium, manganese, and several other key nutrients are vital to healthy blood sugar regulation.