It’s not easy being a healthy American. We are constantly besieged by the lure of sugary, starchy treats (salted caramel latte and a scone anyone?). Yet behind the innocent disguise of these lures is the threat of chronic disease, the leading cause of death.
Heart disease, stroke diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimer’s are among the most common and expensive health problems in the United States. In most cases their origins spiral back around to those small daily decisions — the fries instead of a salad, the syrupy hot drink with whipped cream instead of a simple cup of coffee or tea, or the ice cream or pie for dessert instead of a little fruit (or, gasp, no dessert).
What is it about these seemingly innocuous indulgences that add up to deadly diseases? Sugar and refined carbohydrates. (Although the hydrogenated fats, lack of fiber, industrialized salt, and artificial chemicals play their roles, too.)
The standard American diet chronically spikes blood sugar, which in turn chronically spikes inflammation. Inflammation is now recognized as the common denominator among chronic disease today.
Stable blood sugar levels are vital to all processes of the body, especially those of the brain and the immune system. The body has a variety of mechanisms in place to keep blood sugar within a narrow range. Americans, however, exhaust this system with a degree of sugar consumption our bodies were not designed to handle.
Pasta, white rice, breads, pastries, soda, coffee drinks, ice cream, etc. — are examples of foods that spike blood sugar.
How sugar and insulin create the perfect storm for chronic disease
Too many sugars and processed carbs cause the body to overproduce insulin, a hormone that escorts glucose into cells and helps regulate high blood sugar.
This constant over production of insulin exhausts the body’s cells. In an attempt at self-defense, they refuse entry to the insulin. This is called insulin resistance.
Now glucose is unable to enter into the cells where it’s needed to make energy. This explains why people feel sleepy after eating, especially after eating sugar, high-carb meals or overeating. Another reason is because excess sugar must be taken out of the bloodstream, so the body converts it to fat. This is an energy-demanding process that also contributes to post-meal sleepiness.
Research shows links between insulin resistance and many chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s. Some researchers even call Alzheimer’s type 3 diabetes because sugars are so damaging to the brain.
To make things worse, because of the damaging effects of insulin resistance and high levels of circulating glucose, people with insulin resistance often feel too tired to exercise, are prone to overeating, and have intense sugar cravings.
Symptoms that indicate you’re at increased risk of chronic disease
Symptoms of insulin resistance that can raise your risk of chronic disease include:
- Fatigue after meals
- General fatigue
- Constant hunger
- Constant craving for sweets
- Strong desire for sweets after meals
- Waist girth equal to or larger than hip girth
- Frequent urination
- Increased appetite and thirst
- Difficulty losing weight
- Migrating aches and pains
One of the best ways to prevent or manage chronic disease is to eat a diet that stabilizes your blood sugar. Regular exercise also increases insulin sensitivity. Certain nutritional and botanical supplements can help manage insulin resistance. Contact my office for more advice.