If our blood sugar levels aren’t regulated (a rollercoaster characterised by sugar highs followed by the crash) we can experience symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, anger (the hangries!), sugar cravings, inability to concentrate, dizziness, palpitations, anxiety, “the shakes”, etc. Personally, before my Hashimoto’s diagnosis (and starting AIP) I’d experience these feelings on a regular basis and would “resolve” them by eating a processed carb or a piece of fruit (yay, back on the sugar roller coaster!). However, this wouldn’t actually resolve the issue and unless I ate a balanced meal I’d be experiencing that sugar crash again. I’d even experience panic attacks which, looking back, I think was due in part to poor blood sugar management.
Balancing blood sugar is important for everyone, to avoid the symptoms I describe above. But even more so for those with autoimmune disease as imbalance causes bad bacteria to flourish in the gut, increasing intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”) which in turn provokes our hyper-vigilant immune systems and can cause a flare of our autoimmunity. And this is something I also regularly experienced. On the other hand, “good bacteria” can help protect the integrity of our gut wall, so this is something we’d like to encourage!
With this in mind, here are some tips that I personally use to keep my blood sugar balanced and in control (not all tips are elimination phase AIP):
- Cut out added sugar, mainly found in processed foods, but often in homemade treats as well. If you’re not eating it there’s less for your body to have to process. Once you’ve got your blood sugar back on an even keel you can reintroduce the occasional sweet treat
- Eat a balance of protein, carb and fat with each meal and snack (ie if you have a piece of fruit (carb), also have some nut butter (protein and fat) or for an AIP example have a slice of apple (carb) with some liver pate (fat and protein))
- Don’t skip meals if you’re prone to blood sugar crashes (any of the symptoms above). Initially, this may mean eating small, frequent meals (with the balance of protein, carbs and fat as mentioned above), perhaps 3 meals a day with 2 snacks in between. As your blood sugar balance improves you should be able to drop back to 1 snack, then 0 snacks and manage with the 3 meals per day which I personally find so much simpler
- Focus on unprocessed, wholefoods. Generally speaking, if it’s in a packet and contains ingredients with words we can’t pronounce, it’s probably not the best option. Fresh vegetables are high in fibre that help slow down the absorption of sugar as well as acting as a prebiotic to feed our good gut, these should make up 1/2 to 2/3 of our meal or snack
- Exercise helps with the uptake of glucose by our muscle cells. Be careful not to overdo it though, particularly for those with autoimmune diseases. Work to your own tolerance, that may be a 20 minute walk per day (or 2). 30-60 mins of exercise 5-7 days per week can help increase the sensitivity of cells to insulin, again helping with sugar regulation
- Cortisol, the “stress” hormone, can cause blood sugar levels to rise as well as increasing our cravings for sweet comfort foods. Stress management can include tools such as guided meditation, walks in nature, exercise, laugh (go out with a friend you have fun with, watch a comedy)
- Alcohol is not included in my stress management tools for many reasons! But it often something that is used as a crutch when we feel stressed. However, alcohol not only often contains a lot of sugar which can cause our blood sugar to spike, but over time it also decreases the effect of insulin. Another reason to cut or greatly reduce alcohol consumption
- Supplements can help with sweet cravings if necessary. Magnesium is my personal favourite, chromium can also help regulate insulin, as can zinc and selenium
I hope these tips are helpful! This is generalised advice, however if you’d like a customised protocol for your own set of circumstances please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org