Would you be shocked to learn that only 12% of Americans are metabolically healthy? (1) Or are you wondering what it means to be metabolically healthy? And why is that important? Note: It has to do with having your blood sugar in a healthy range. And what's shocking is that 88% of Americans have high blood sugar.
Over time, high blood sugar leads to insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even Alzheimer's, which is now known as type 3 diabetes due to its direct link to high blood sugar. Yikes, these conditions are definitely not metabolically healthy … I don't want to get any of these, do I? Even more frightening, recent research in the British Lancet showed that 94% of all COVID-19 deaths worldwide contained a comorbidity factor from at least one metabolic disorder. (2) This means that only 6% of all people who die from COVID die. 19 had no underlying metabolic disorder.
Ok, so you might be thinking, "I'm eating healthy, not too much sugar, I'm sure I'm fine." … but you may still not be out of the woods when it comes to being metabolically healthy. Many people do not realize that the causes of high blood sugar can go well beyond diet. What Else Causes High Blood Sugar?
Root causes of high blood sugar
It is true that eating high-sugar foods and simple carbohydrates definitely contributes to high blood sugar, but they are not the only causes. A stressful lifestyle (3), a sedentary lifestyle or insufficient exercise, and a variety of other factors can also lead to high blood sugar and insulin resistance. (4)
What is insulin resistance?
If your blood sugar gets too high over time, it can lead to insulin resistance. And when you have insulin resistance, you are no longer metabolically healthy. In very simplified terms, once your food has been digested, the glucose (sugar) from your diet is transported to your cells for energy. With insulin resistance, this process breaks down.
The glucose train
Think of a car loaded with glucose. It stops at every cell on its way to supply the cell with glucose for energy. And think of insulin as a "key" that accompanies glucose. When the train stops on each cell, the insulin unblocks the cell receptors and lets the glucose into the cells. When the cells have received as much glucose as they need, they communicate: "We're full. Not anymore!" But when you have high blood sugar the insulin keeps trying to push more glucose into the cells because the car is full of glucose and needs to be emptied so it can go back to the train station for more … because more sugar comes down the hatch. And the pancreas pumps out more and more insulin to accompany that glucose.
Insulin resistance usually occurs when people eat a diet high in sugar. For example just a 12 ounce drink. Cola has enough sugar for 1.5 days! And if you have a cola, it could be a big gulp (30 ounces or more than 5 days of sugar)! Plus, you likely also eat other processed foods that convert to sugar quickly, like french fries and fries, and possibly other sugary foods like donuts, candy, cakes, cookies, etc.
Unfortunately, your body just doesn't know what to do with that much sugar. So when it can't take any longer, your body screams "Uncle". Your cells change the locks on their receptors, and the insulin key no longer fits in order to open the receptors and let more glucose into the cells. The train can no longer dump glucose + insulin to be used as energy. So it starts to store it as fat. It could even store some of it in the liver (leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). If the glucose can no longer get into the cells, it is insulin resistance and not metabolically healthy.
Sympathetic nervous system mode and insulin resistance.
As mentioned above, high blood sugar can also be caused by stress. Sometimes medications or other diseases can also lead to high blood sugar. We're supposed to live in a parasympathetic nervous system mode 95% of the time. Instead, we “civilized” humans live in sympathetic mode (combat or flight mode) approximately 95% of the time. (6) With the stress of alarms, phone calls, SMS, traffic, our boss screaming, our spouse or children screaming, the dog barking, the TV roaring and so on and so on leaves very little peace, quiet and Tranquility in our fast-paced life is alive today.
And when we live in chronic flight or combat mode, our bodies are always on high alert and ready to flee or fight. This includes inflating our blood sugar internally so we have enough energy to fight or flee. Even if you eat completely clean, green, healthy and have a stressful life, you can still have high blood sugar. And over time, that high blood sugar can lead to insulin resistance, which means you are not very metabolically healthy.
How exercise can help lower blood sugar
According to the American Diabetes Association, exercise can help lower your blood sugar in a number of ways. (7):
- Insulin sensitivity is increased so that your muscle cells are better able to use available insulin to absorb glucose during and after exercise.
- When your muscles contract during activity, your cells can absorb glucose and use it for energy, whether or not insulin is available.
So it seems like another great reason to exercise, even if you are eating healthy. Especially since we all probably have a little more stress in our lives these days than we'd like to admit! Speaking of exercise, here is my new 4-minute FAV workout with Dr. Zach Bush. I do it three times a day and have really noticed an increase in my energy levels! I'm sure you can find 4 free minutes a few times in your day too. Are you in?
So what is a healthy range for blood sugar?
This is somewhat open to debate. As a functional medicine health coach, I use functional medicine reference ranges when visiting my clients' laboratories.
Here is what is shocking when I started my functional medicine training. The standard allopathic reference range, or what your labs indicate as the "normal" reference range, is not necessarily "normal" or even ideal. Did you know that the standard allopathic "reference range" in use today is based on the average of tens of thousands of laboratories? But if the majority of these people had abnormal numbers (since we know that only 12% have blood sugar in a healthy range, then 88% have higher blood sugar than healthy blood sugar), that unhealthy blood sugar level could actually appear "normal". . It skews the average to make unhealthy levels look "normal".
Reference ranges of functional medicine
This is one of the reasons why functional medicine reference ranges are much more conservative than allopathic reference ranges. Doctors and functional medicine scientists have seen over time that we can actually get a "disease" in the body much earlier by being more conservative with reference ranges and not waiting for something to really break. So we look for trends when things get high instead of waiting until they are already high.
For functional medicine, the reference range for fasting glucose is between 78-82 mg / dl. While for allopathic medicine the reference range for fasting glucose is 100-125 mg / dl. With these numbers, functional medicine has determined that you may already be showing the first signs of insulin resistance. However, you also need to consider other markers such as insulin and hemoglobin A1C. All together make a bigger picture to show whether or not you are metabolically healthy. And remember, individual results from a blood laboratory are just a snapshot of that point in time.
As we've seen, stress can increase blood sugar. So, if you got up extra early on your fasting blood lab day and had to drive to the lab in terrible traffic, wait long before you've even had your morning coffee. Maybe you're a little stressed out … and that in itself can mess up your lab numbers.
How can we get metabolically healthier?
All of this to say that 88% of us have high blood sugar, insulin resistance, or some form of metabolic disease. The good news, however, is that we can do a lot to get metabolically healthy again.
- eat healthier (think about lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy fats and fiber)
- Throw away the sugar and simple carbohydrates that quickly convert to sugar (save them for occasional treats instead of daily allowances).
- Finding ways to relax and relieve stress, set limits on screen time, meditate, get out in nature
- Exercise or move your body every day, check out the 4-minute workout with Dr. Zach Bush on. Everyone can find 4 minutes to be healthier
Do you still need help?
Book a free call to see how a health coach can help you make simple diet and lifestyle changes to become metabolically healthier. After all, 85-95% of pre-diabetes, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even Alzheimer's disease are preventable or reversible if you put in some effort and have a health coach cheer you on. (8th)
- https://www.healthline.com/diabetesmine/ask-dmine-diabetes-and-stress-monster#Was hat-fight-or-flight-got-to-do-with-it?