If you ate too many sugary treats during the holidays, sugar cravings may still be dancing in your head. Those cravings often mean your blood sugar is out of balance, putting you at risk for weight gain and diabetes. Luckily, you can shrink your sweet obsession and trim your waistline with some easy, natural solutions that tame blood sugar.
The holidays have come and gone, and hopefully those of us who made New Year’s resolutions can bring them to fruition in 2012. For many of us, our goals are aimed at living healthier lives and becoming stronger, happier and more energetic. That often means cutting out the undesirable from our diets: excessive sugar, processed foods and trans fats. But with the holiday festivities just over, many of us are experiencing the aftershock of overindulging in party foods, especially desserts. We may still be battling intense sugar cravings and other eating habits left over from the holidays. However, it’s important to know that excessive sugar cravings can signal that your blood glucose levels are out of balance. When left unchecked, chronic blood sugar imbalances can lead to insulin resistance, a sign of metabolic syndrome, also known as prediabetes. The good news is there are natural solutions to help balance blood glucose, improve metabolic health and reduce sugar cravings, allowing you to make a smooth transition to a healthier diet and lifestyle.
Metabolic syndrome/prediabetes has become truly epidemic in this country. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that a third of U.S. adults — about 79 million people — are living with this health condition. This represents an alarming increase of 22 million people since 2008. Plus, last year the CDC estimated that, if current trends continue, one in three Americans will have type 2 diabetes by 2050. Currently, 26 million Americans are living with type 2 diabetes, and more and more people under the age of 20 are developing this disease, which was once unheard of in the world of pediatric medicine. Of these 26 million, about 7 million don’t even know they have type 2 diabetes.
What is truly tragic about these statistics besides their staggering numbers is that metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes are conditions that are preventable with the right diet, exercise and supplementation. If left untreated, metabolic syndrome/prediabetes can lead to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurological damage, accelerated aging, increased weight gain, blindness and other degenerative conditions. Many people are not familiar with metabolic syndrome as a health issue, and live with it unknowingly — until more serious complications arise as a result.
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by a set of conditions that also mark the development of type 2 diabetes, giving it the name of “prediabetes.”
The symptoms for metabolic syndrome include:
- Excessive fat around the abdomen, resulting in a larger waist circumference (40 inches or greater for men, and 35 inches or greater for women).
- Low HDL or “good” cholesterol, and high LDL or “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats).
- Inflammation, marked by elevated C-reactive protein in the blood.
- A tendency toward excessive blood clotting, marked by high fibrinogen, a sticky fibrous coagulant in the blood.
- High blood pressure.
- Insulin resistance, which means that your body isn’t using insulin or blood sugar properly.
The most dominant factors in metabolic syndrome are being overweight enough to be considered obese and being insulin resistant, marked by elevated fasting blood glucose levels.
Natural Solutions: Diet And Exercise
Many lifestyle factors can contribute to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome/prediabetes and eventually full-blown type 2 diabetes. The most important contributors are poor diet, lack of exercise and chronic stress. Changing to healthier lifestyle choices in these three areas represent some of your best options for preventing and reversing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Unfortunately, eating foods that contain high amounts of sugar and fat causes insulin levels to spike. When we continue to eat these types of foods again and again, our cells become overloaded with glucose and less sensitive to insulin. Insulin secreted by the pancreas is the key to transporting glucose from the blood into our cells where it’s needed. When cells stop responding to insulin, blood glucose levels rise. Over time, this increase in circulating blood glucose causes numerous inflammatory and degenerative conditions. To prevent insulin resistance and elevated blood glucose levels, your diet should focus on foods that are low on the glycemic index (foods that don’t cause rapid rises in blood sugar). By emphasizing low glycemic foods that are high in fiber and protein, and by limiting simple carbohydrates and sugars, you can be sure that your glucose and insulin levels will not spike and lead to insulin resistance, the hallmark of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Regular exercise is an important component in the prevention of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, and keeping your body active has numerous well-documented health benefits. Primarily, it increases insulin sensitivity, making cells and tissues more receptive to taking in circulating blood glucose and rapidly absorbing it for energy production.
You also need to control stress. Otherwise, chronic stress combined with blood sugar imbalances leads to the significant release of excess stress hormones, such as cortisol, which cause cells and tissues to release extra glucose into the bloodstream.
Balance Blood Glucose and Control Cravings
In addition to a low-glycemic diet, regular exercise and stress relief, specific botanicals and nutrients can help control and reverse metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
In my practice, I often recommend combinations of traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic and Western botanicals and nutrients scientifically proven to balance blood sugar, improve insulin sensitivity, boost metabolism, reduce inflammation and curb sugar cravings. Particularly beneficial botanicals, formulas and nutrients for metabolic syndrome include:
- Gymnema leaf
- Astragalus root
- Cinnamon bark
- Fenugreek seed
- Holy Basil leaf
- Jambolan seed
- Bitter melon
- Panax Ginseng
- Sodium Alginate
- Medicinal mushrooms (Grifola, Tremella and Cordyceps species)
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
- Padma Basic Circulation Formula
These natural substances have been researched and proven to benefit metabolic health in a number of ways:
- Positively influence the way your body metabolizes fat and glucose.
- Support healthy insulin levels.
- Increase circulation.
- Support cardiovascular health.
- Support healthy inflammation responses.
- Reduce sugar cravings.
If you are struggling with weight gain, sugar cravings or more serious metabolic issues, such as insulin resistance or full-blown type 2 diabetes, these and other natural options can help protect against and even reverse such health concerns. Drug-free natural solutions — together with exercise, healthy stress relief and a balanced, low-glycemic diet — offer effective support for metabolism and blood sugar balance. Share this information with anyone you know who may be having difficulties with these all-too-common health problems, and remember that these conditions can be reversed naturally over time, with dedication and a bit of discipline. Your reward for getting them under control: Increased energy and vitality, and a greater sense of well-being.