Understanding Glycemic Variability: Tips for Better Metabolic Health

Glucose spikes

Understanding Glycemic Variability: Tips for Better Metabolic Health

In order to be metabolically healthy we must switch up the what we eat, how much we eat and how often.

In the USA today only 10% of the population is metabolically healthy. That means the rest of us are metabolically busted.  Not good for our future and the future of our kids and grandkids.

I am on the Metabolic Soap Box this week because I want this statistic to change!

How Glucose spikes cause Metabolic Mayhem

You know how your blood glucose levels go up and down throughout the day? Well, those ups and downs are pretty normal, but how much they swing is super important for your metabolic health. While small changes are expected, big swings can have some serious short- and long-term effects.

Let’s break it down: When you eat, your body turns carbohydrates into glucose, which is a simple sugar that fuels your cells. This extra glucose in your bloodstream triggers the release of insulin, a hormone that helps your body use or store the glucose. This whole process makes your blood sugar rise and fall. Although other factors like sleep, stress and exercise also affect your blood sugar, what you eat and how much is the biggest driver of these changes.

These ups and downs in your glucose levels are called glycemic variability. For better metabolic health, you want your glycemic variability to look more like gentle hills rather than sharp peaks and deep valleys. Those tall peaks are what we call blood sugar “spikes,” which happen when you eat a lot of sugar or refined carbs at once. Your blood sugar shoots up quickly because your body can’t use all that glucose right away. Then, your body overcompensates with too much insulin, causing a “crash” where your blood sugar drops below normal for a while.

Understanding Glycemic Variability: Tips for Better Metabolic Health

So, why should we care about blood sugar spikes?

Over time, high glycemic variability is linked to weight gain, anxiety, hormone dysregulation, fatty liver, skin issues, gut problems and overtime, serious illnesses like diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and even a higher risk of death. It can damage your cells and lead to a cascade of metabolic problems, starting with insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance: Constant high blood sugar levels lead to high insulin levels. Over time, your cells might become “numb” to insulin, so they don’t respond to it well anymore. Your body then has to produce even more insulin, which just increases insulin resistance. The most obvious sign of Insulin Resistance is fat around the middle. This vicious cycle can then lead to PCOS, Type 2 diabetes and other conditions like heart disease, infertility, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Vascular dysfunction: Blood sugar spikes can harm your blood vessels. The lining and muscles around your blood vessels can start to malfunction, affecting blood flow and pressure. This can eventually lead to heart disease, stroke, and other vascular issues.

Oxidative stress and inflammation: High blood sugar also causes your body to produce inflammatory compounds and reactive oxygen species—volatile molecules that can damage your DNA. This can harm your cellular health and lead to serious diseases.

Cognitive dysfunction: High glycemic variability is linked to dementia in people with diabetes. Even in those without diabetes, it’s associated with cognitive decline in older adults and poorer memory in young people think symptoms like, Brain Fog, ADHD, etc. The brain is sensitive to glucose levels, and high glycemic variability might damage the network of blood vessels that nourish the brain or the brain tissue itself.

A single blood sugar spike won’t cause these conditions, nor will one stressful day or a bad night’s sleep. These are long-term risk factors that threaten your health when they happen repeatedly over time.

Understanding Glycemic Variability: Tips for Better Metabolic Health

Some of the symptoms and effects of a sugar spike and crash!

Hunger and cravings: After a blood sugar spike, the crash can make your blood glucose drop lower than before your meal. Your body might take this steep drop as a sign that you urgently need food, leading to hunger or cravings for more sweets. Giving in to these cravings can cause more spikes and crashes.

Negative emotions: Research, especially in people with Type 2 diabetes, shows that blood sugar spikes can trigger feelings of sadness, low energy, and increased agitation or anxiety. For instance, a small study in women with Type 2 diabetes found that those with more glycemic variability also had more negative moods, like depression, anxiety, and anger.

Disrupted biological rhythms: Studies have found that carb-heavy meals can mess with your circadian rhythms, such as body temperature and heart rate. These changes might explain why people with Type 2 diabetes often have worse sleep and sleep apnea.

 Tips on how to keep blood sugar stable

  • Start your day with a savory meal
  • Don’t wait till you are shaky to eat, because you will choose poorly
  • Eat more Fiber, Protein, Lots of colorful Veggies and Good Fats
  • Move more:  It dosen’t have to be much but it needs to be consistent and never ever stop. Muscle, stability and flexibility are the currency of a longevity and quality of life
  • Move after your Dinner. A walk around the block, dancing to music etc etc
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night
  • Don’t eat too much at once
  • Stay Hydrated: Sometimes that sugar craving is a water craving.
  • Manage  Stress: Cortisol has a huge impact on Glucose swings, so include breathwork, sunlight, and mediation to your daily routines.
  • Invest in a CGM and wear it for a month.  The data could provide valuable insights.
  • Stop eating processed foods. ( They are loaded with added sugars and chemicals)
  • Last: Gymnema from Mediherb is an herbal product that helps blunt the cravings if you need help over the hump.

I hope this post has motivated you to manage your glucose and insulin spikes.  If you want more info there are two good books that I reccomend to all my patients.  The Glucose Revolution and Good Energy.

Have a healthy week

Dr Pia