Regulating Blood Sugar & Why It’s Important
To control blood sugar our main strategy is going to be finding the amount of carbohydrates that your gut cannot only handle but will also thrive on. Blood sugar regulation is important for two reasons: (1) stable blood sugar promotes healthy weight, metabolism, energy, and production of stress hormones;1,2 (2) appropriate carb intake (thus stable blood sugar) will help optimize your microbiota.
Carbohydrate & Blood Sugar Relationship
Carb intake is important because it has a direct relationship with blood sugar regulation,3 let’s briefly discuss this relationship. When you consume a meal that doesn’t contain the right amount of carbohydrates (for you), either too much or not enough, it is likely to cause spikes and falls in your blood sugar. The ideal amount of carbs varies from person to person and largely determined by differences in insulin sensitivity, the lower the amount of insulin someone needs to produce to stabilize their blood sugar – the higher their insulin sensitivity. Neither high blood sugar levels nor low blood sugar levels are ideal, especially when extremely elevated or low.
Insulin Resistance, A Warning Sign for Developing Diabetes?
If you’re consistently eating an improper amount of carbs, causing this roller coaster ride in your blood sugar levels, the result can be weight gain and insulin resistance4 (opposite of insulin sensitive). As your body develops a resistance to the blood sugar lowering the effects of insulin it becomes progressively more challenging to stabilize blood sugar levels. This can eventually result in the inability to sufficiently control blood sugar levels, as seen in those with type 2 diabetes.5
Why is There So Much Carbohydrate Confusion?
There is much confusion when it comes to carbohydrates and whether we should eat a lower- or higher-carb diet. In my mind, this debate exists because there is no one single answer that is correct for everyone. Some do extremely well eating very low to almost no carbs, while others can’t function adequately without at least a moderate amount of carbs. Here is one example, if a person has any underlying imbalance such as SIBO or small intestinal fungal overgrowth (SIFO) in the gut they will almost certainly not do well on a high-carb diet, as this will only promote the overgrowth further.6 Clearing Things Up
A Different and Possibly Radical Approach
Therefore, I think, a much healthier and wiser approach is to recognize that each person is unique, and they may require higher or lower amounts of carbohydrates, the key is finding out what works for you. This may be a radical concept since it puts the individual first rather than the dietary ideology. If you can learn to listen to your body, it will tell you what amount of carbs is ideal for you.
Low- & High-Carb Guidelines
But I don’t want to just leave you with that, as to get you started you’re probably going to require something more practical than “just listen to your body.’ To start you may want to know what is considered low carb versus high carb? Here are some guidelines:
- High carb – more than 175 grams per day.
- Moderate carb – 100-175 grams per day
- Low Carb – less than 100 grams per day
- Very-low Carb – less than 50 grams per day
Geographical Location May Determine Ideal Carb Intake
These differing levels of carb intake are connected to latitudinal (North to south) regions of the world.7 This is due to what foods were available to our ancestors depending on the time of year and distance from the equator, as our ancestors did not have the supermarkets of today. Availability of regional foods greatly affected the genes of our ancestors.8 For example, if your heritage is that of an equatorial region (close to the equator), you’re likely to do better eating a higher-carb diet. Conversely, if you’re heritage is of a more northern region, you may very well do better on a lower-carb diet.
Further Determining If a Low- or High-Carb is Right For You
Here are some other guidelines9 to help you determine whether lower- or higher-carbohydrates is right for you. You may do better with fewer carbs (100g per day or fewer) if: you have tried a lower-carb diet and felt good, you have a family history of diabetes, you currently have or used to have diabetes (type 2) and/or prediabetes, you are overweight, you crave carbs/sugar or can’t stop eating the them once you start, your ancestry is more of northern descent than equatorial (example, Irish vs Venezuelan). You may do better with more carbs (150g per day or more) if: you have tried eating higher-carb and felt good, you are an athlete or extremely active, you need to gain weight, your ancestry is more of equatorial descent than northern (example, Cuban vs. Russian).
“Safe” Carbohydrate Choices
If you find that you feel better eating a moderate to high carb diet. It is important that you’re making safe carb choices. Although I want to point out that safe carb choices should also be made by those on a lower-carb diet. Some of the best safe carb choices are: vegetables, white rice, sweet potato or white potato, gluten-free bread products (preferably sprouted), oats, plantains (not same as a banana), cassava, rutabaga, and non-GMO corn (difficult to find).
Summing This All Up
Let’s review, we have covered a few of the main reasons why some do better on high-carb diets and others do eating low-carb. These reasons include differences in insulin sensitivity, gene origin and ancestry, and any possible underlying imbalances in the gut (SIBO and SIFO). All this taken together comes back to our ability to optimize our bodies regulation of blood sugar.