blood sugar

  1. 10 ways to reduce holiday stress

    There's a lot you can do to reduce holiday stress. First off, make sure to eat protein with every meal. It's the great stabilizer for your blood sugar and your mood. Plus, it will help keep your cortisol levels right where they should be.

    Cortisol is the stress hormone that causes your "fight or flight" response. We all need it from time to time. But low protein intake day after day can make your cortisol levels climb high and stay high. And that's not good. In fact, chronically elevated cortisol can cause blood sugar problems, weight gain, and lowered immunity.

    So aim to get 10 to 20 grams of protein with each meal. That will go a long way in regulating your cortisol. Breakfast is usually the one meal where you'll fall short on protein. But that's an easy fix. Just eat an egg or two will help with holiday stress.

    Each egg contains almost seven grams of protein. Just make sure to go for organic, free-range brown eggs. Get them from a local farmer, if you can! You'll know these eggs are the real deal if they have dark (almost orange) yolks and hard shells.

    And if you're worried about the cholesterol in eggs, look back at last year's Guide to Good Health. You'll never think twice about eating real eggs again!

    Any type of oily fish (yes, even in the morning!) is also a good protein choice. Oily fish like salmon also contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids. These natural substances help to lower those pesky cortisol levels which tend to creep up during the holidays. The omega-3s in fish can also help reduce holiday stress.

    Plus, remember this...

    Whole grains burn slower

    During the stress of the holidays, it's more important than ever to choose whole grains. These grains boost the levels of serotonin, the "feel good" chemical in the brain. Plus, whole grains are packed with fiber, which your body will burn more slowly.

    So opt for whole-wheat pasta instead of white pasta at dinner. You won't suffer from the blood sugar crash that will make you cranky and tense. Good whole grains to work into your diet include: 100 percent whole wheat, oats, barley, quinoa, and brown rice.

    Okay, now we're really on a how to ease holiday stress roll. So why stop? This holiday, try your best to...

    Combine whole grains with nutrient-rich foods

    Make sure your meals contain lots of dark green vegetables. That's because dark greens such as broccoli, kale, and spinach contain lots of vitamin B. And the B vitamins keep your memory sharp, your energy high, and your anxiety low. Nuts also contain lots of B vitamins...as well as plenty of calming protein and magnesium.

    It's also a good idea to take a complex supplement that contains all eight forms vitamin B. Plus, look for a brand that contains at least 25 mg of B1, B2, and B6. But don't stop there. Around this time of year, you may even consider taking a little extra B-12. It's one of the most important in this family of vitamins. Known as the "energy vitamin," it will help you power through holiday stress on even your most hectic days. Go for the sub-lingual form that you can squirt under your tongue. Your body will absorb this more easily than tablets.

    Eat more citrus fruits

    Next, I want you to eat more citrus this holiday season. Clementines are great this time of year and they contain lots of vitamin C. Research shows that vitamin C is a natural and powerful stress buster.

    In fact, in a recent German study, researchers found that men and women who were given 1,000 mg of vitamin C showed fewer signs of stress. For the study, researchers divided 120 men and women into two groups. One group received 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily and the other group received a placebo. Next, the researchers subjected the volunteers to a series of stressful situations...public speaking and math problems.

    Then, the researchers measured the volunteers' blood pressure and cortisol levels. Any guesses which group fared better?

    You betcha.

    The volunteers who took vitamin C had much lower blood pressure and much lower cortisol levels. Plus, they reported feeling less stress after they got the vitamin.

    So in addition to eating citrus this holiday season, make sure to supplement with vitamin C. I'd go for a bit more than what the volunteers in the study took. In fact, strive to get at least 1,000 mg of C twice a day. Take that amount three times a day if you're really feeling like your pot's going to boil over, it will definitely help you reduce holiday stress.

    Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so any extra your body doesn't need will get flushed. Plus, remember that vitamin C only stays in your body for a few hours at a time. So be consistent with your supplementing throughout the day and skip the time-released preparations as these are a waste of money.

  2. Green leafy vegetables may decrease type-2 diabetes risk

    If you like spinach salad, I've got good news. Eating spinach (or any other type of green leafy vegetables) decreases the likelihood that you'll develop blood sugar problems down the road.

    That's according to a new study from the UK.

    Researchers analyzed data from six different previously published studies involving more than 200,000 men and women. They found that type-2 diabetes isn't tied exclusively to sugar intake. In fact, participants with the greatest intake of green leafy vegetables cut their type-2 diabetes risk by about 15 percent.

    According to Melanie Davies, the study's lead researcher, "The results support the growing body of evidence that lifestyle modification is an important factor in the prevention of type 2 diabetes."

    Gee, ya' think?

    Well, Dr. Davies may be a little slow coming to the table. But at least it's another solid study reaffirming what we've always known: What you eat affects your health.

    So just keep doing what you're doing. Eat green leafy vegetables every day. Stay away from the sweet stuff. And your blood sugar won't ever become an issue.

  3. The Blood Sugar/Antidepressant Connection

    I know many of you reading this may suffer from depression. And you may take an antidepressant to help control your symptoms. But antidepressants aren't without their own pitfalls. A common side effect is weight gain. Some would say it's a small price to pay for regaining your mental stability. But gaining weight can also put you at risk for developing a whole host of other health problems. In fact, authors of a new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry wanted to determine if taking an antidepressant increased your risk of developing diabetes. To figure this out, researchers analyzed the medical data of 165,000 men and women who took antidepressants to treat their depression. Were these patients more likely to get diabetes? Serious side effects for some users After analyzing data, researchers found that long-term use (more than 24 months) of antidepressants in moderate or high daily doses increased a patient's risk of developing diabetes. The antidepressant/anti-anxiety drug Paroxetine (Paxil) was the worst offender. Men and women who took 20 mg/per day or more of Paroxetine for at least 24 months experienced a four-fold increased risk of developing diabetes. On the other hand, patients who only used antidepressants for a short amount of time (less than 12 months) or who used lower daily doses did not increase their risk of developing diabetes. Here's the good news: while long-term use certainly seems to increase your likelihood of developing diabetes, a short-term stint may not cause a problem. So if you must resort to a prescription drug to help with your depression, keep it as short as possible. Furthermore, if you experience mild or occasional symptoms, you may also want to consider dietary causes of your depression. Can certain foods cause depression? Yes! In fact, in my practice, I found that mild depression was often caused by uncontrolled high blood sugar. You see, when you eat a jelly donut, it causes an intense sugar rush. Your blood sugar spikes off the charts. Your brain then sends an urgent message to your pancreas to crank out more insulin to control the sugar surging in your blood. But because your blood sugar went up so fast and so high (as will happen with sugary foods), your pancreas secretes way too much insulin. As a result, your blood sugar comes crashing down. In fact, it crashes too far. And then you have low blood sugar. Not surprisingly, at this point you may feel a craving for more sugar to boost your levels back up. And so begins a vicious cycle. But when this happens day after day, year after year, your body begins to exhibit very real symptoms, not the least of which is depression. So if you're feeling slightly depressed, try eliminating sugar and simple carbs like white rice, potatoes, pasta, and bread. Instead, go for meals with plenty of protein. The secret of omega-3s
    Speaking of good protein, wild salmon is one of the best if you're prone to depression. That's because it contains lots of omega-3 fatty acids. According to a study published this year, women who have the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids improve their depression by nearly 30 percent! Now -- if you don't eat a lot of salmon, I'd recommend a high-quality fish oil supplement. But, remember fatty acids increase free radicals in your body. Left unchecked, these molecules can cause cancer and disease in the body. So always take some extra antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium along with the fish oil to neutralize the free radicals. Using some common sense In closing, if you must take an antidepressant for longer than 24 months, it's probably a good idea to boost your physical activity as well. Not only will you get all those "feel good" endorphins from the workout, it will also help control your weight and stabilize your blood sugar. And please remember that depression can be a debilitating disease. Make sure you seek the help of a mental health professional if your symptoms last longer than two weeks.
  4. Beware of stolen insulin

    This week I got an urgent e-mail blast from the FDA. Apparently several batches of Levemir (a type of insulin made by Novo Nordisk Inc.) were stolen from the manufacturer in North Carolina. Now the vials have resurfaced in the Houston area, but they could be damaged and ineffective for controlling blood sugar.

    After some digging on the FDA and Novo web sites, I found out that a total of 129,000 vials of this product were stolen. According to the FDA, vials from these lots "may not have been stored and handled properly, and may be dangerous for patients to use.

    In fact, as of last week, the FDA has already received one report of an "adverse event" from a patient who used one of these vials. I'm guessing that the stolen insulin wasn't kept refrigerated, so it didn't work to control the patient's blood sugar.

    In any case, if you take Levemir, please make sure to check your supply. Look on the side of your box or on the vials themselves for lot information. Do not use the 10 mL Levemir vials if you see they came from the following lots:

    • XZF0036
    • XZF0037
    • XZF0038
    If you find a vial from one of these lots or have any questions, contact the Novo Nordisk Customer Care Center at 1-800-727-6500.

    Levemir is a type of insulin approved for the treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. I'm not sure how the FDA plans to contact the thousands of patients currently taking Levemir, so if you know someone who's diabetic, make sure to forward them this e-mail.

  5. Sugar: The white villain in your diet

    Even if you avoid most sweets, the food industry sneaks sugar in to just about everything on the shelves these days. Just take a look at your favorite whole wheat bread. Chances are, it’s got high fructose corn syrup in it. (This stuff is still sugar. I think of it as sugar on steroids.) Sugar is bad news, no matter how you slice it. When it enters your blood stream, your body goes into overdrive trying to get rid of the stuff. Your pancreas releases insulin to help get rid of it. Eventually, it’s converted into glucose and used up by the body as energy (or stored as fat). But when you eat lots of refined sugar (or carbs)—such as a white bagel, a soda, or a bowl of cereal—your body goes into overdrive. It starts releasing lots and lots of insulin to deal with the sugar. As a result, your blood sugar drops way too fast and goes way too low. By this point, you may start to feel low after your sugar “high” (headaches, fatigue, etc). Plus, because your blood sugar dropped so low, so fast, you may feel cravings for more sugar. Over time, your body gets addicted. The ticking time bomb Say it’s your birthday and you treat yourself to a big slice of chocolate cake. But you’ve already spent years honing quite a sweet tooth. When your body receives the signal to respond to the chocolate cake, the party’s already over. Your pancreas has called it quits. It doesn’t produce the insulin (or can’t produce enough). So your blood sugar stays high…and voila…you have type II diabetes. But you’re not alone. Today, almost 24 million Americans have got it. Reversing the damage The good news is…you can prevent and even reverse type II diabetes. The key is to control your sugar and carb (which turns into sugar in the body) intake. In 2003, researchers at Duke University Medical Center examined the effects of a low-carb diet on blood sugar in diabetics. They found that 95 percent of patients who followed a low-carb diet either reduced their need for insulin or discontinued it all together after 24 weeks. I recently read another study about how you can help your body cope with type II diabetes. Researchers at Harvard studied the effects of taking the mineral zinc on women between the ages 33 and 60. A trace mineral found in the body, zinc helps maintain a healthy immune system. It keeps your skin and hair glowing. And it also influences your cognitive and muscle functioning. Researchers analyzed nutritional data documenting the women’s zinc intake over a 24-year period. They found that high amounts of zinc reduced a woman’s likelihood of developing diabetes by up to 28 percent. This is a pretty recent study, so I’m sure one with men is probably in the works. I would gamble that zinc performs equally well for men, if not better given the male metabolism. Unfortunately, the scientists could not zero in on the mechanism that caused this drop in diabetes risk. More research is needed here as well. But the data certainly makes the case for getting more zinc into your diet if you’re at risk for developing type II diabetes. (Interestingly, though not surprisingly, we know that sugar uses up all the zinc stored in our tissues. So if you’ve got a lot of sugar in your diet, it’s not surprising that you’d have low zinc stores as well. And since zinc is vital for healthy skin, it’s also not surprising that a sugar junkie probably doesn’t have a healthy glow.) Getting more zinc You’ve got to get rid of the straight sugar in your diet. That’s a no brainer. But whole grains may still work for anyone who’s yet to develop full-fledged diabetes. Here’s why… Whole grain foods contain lots of good nutrients, like zinc. And, whole grains get metabolized much slower than refined flour products. So you’re much less likely to incite an insulin invasion. My advice? Throw out all the refined flour products in your cabinet. (Refined flour products remove all the healthy nutrients, including zinc.) Keep only the real whole grain breads, crackers, pasta, and cereals. You’ll have to become a serious reader of the ingredients list. Look for whole grains such as “wheat” as the first ingredient. And make sure the products don’t contain “high-fructose corn syrup.” As a final note, you’ll find zinc in any good multivitamin. But I’d also recommend taking 50 to 100 additional mg of zinc per day, especially if you’re concerned about your blood sugar. Go for zinc in the chelated form or as zinc picolinate. Also, zinc can deplete your stores of copper. So you’ll also want to take roughly 1 milligram of copper for every 15 milligrams of zinc as a precaution. But don’t get carried away. Zinc by itself is nontoxic within these limits. But one study that I know of has linked high doses of zinc over 10 years to an increased risk of prostate cancer.

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