Our Educational Content is Not Meant or Intended for Medical Advice or Treatment
I recently had a patient ask me, “How do you keep your blood sugar normal without eating sugars?” After all, this can seem like a pretty tricky balance. Plus, on the surface, logic seems to dictate that you actually need to eat sugars to maintain normal levels (you need sugar to have sugar).
But you don’t. Instead, you can keep normal blood sugars by turning to the keto diet, which is high in natural fats.
Here are the details.
In this article: -
The Problem With Sugar
First: why is it so important to have normalized, balanced blood sugar?
Though it may not seem like that big a deal, unbalanced blood sugar can cause a lot of serious symptoms, and it can contribute to a ton of other health issues, including diabetes and heart disease.
On one hand, low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can happen if you’re diabetic. It can also appear - if you don’t have diabetes - as reactive hypoglycemia (which occurs a few hours after you eat a meal) or fasting hypoglycemia, which could be linked to medicine or disease. Whatever the cause, low blood sugar levels can cause symptoms like:
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
If this blood sugar problem is chronic, more severe symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness or seizures
On the other hand, there’s high blood sugar levels or hyperglycemia. This can affect both people with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
There are two main kinds of high blood sugar: fasting hyperglycemia, or blood sugar levels that are higher than 130mg/dL after not eating or drinking for 8 hours, and postprandial hyperglycemia, which is blood sugar levels that are higher than 180 mg/dL 2 hours after you eat. Early signs of high blood sugar include:
- Increased thirst
- Trouble concentrating
- Blurred vision
- Frequent urination
- Weight loss
More advanced symptoms of high blood sugar include:
- Vaginal and skin infections
- Slow-healing cuts and sores
- Nerve damage causing painful cold or insensitive feet, loss of hair on lower extremities, erectile dysfunction
- Stomach and intestinal problems like chronic constipation or diarrhea
- Damage to eyes, blood vessels, or kidneys
- Death, particularly if you have type 2 diabetes
In short, too much or too little blood sugar can be a big problem. Now, how does this all relate to your metabolism and your brain?
The Basics: How Your Body and Brain Runs
The common thought is that the brain runs on glucose, so you need sugar for proper brain function. But the reality is much more nuanced.
Fact #1: The majority of your brain can run on ketones.
Fact #2: The part of your brain that does need glucose (which is a very small part) doesn’t need to get it from a dietary source. Instead, it can get that glucose from your own stored fat or from dietary fat.
Let me explain a little more.
You Can Get Glucose From Triglycerides
You have something called triglycerides in your body. Triglycerides are the type of fat found most commonly in humans. They come from natural fat food sources, they’re present in the bloodstream, and they’re stored inside fat cells when you’re not using them.
Each triglyceride is composed of three fatty acids (which the body can run on) and one glycerol. That glycerol can be converted to glucose. That’s what the brain can run on.
That means that you don’t need external glucose. Your body can make it from your triglycerides.
Your Brain Can Run on Ketones
With that in mind, you must also understand that the brain runs very well on ketones, an acid produced by the liver that can be considered an alternative fuel source for energy.
In fact, ketones are very beneficial to the brain. It’s like a clean fuel that protects the nerves.
In order for that to happen, you need to be on the ketogenic diet with intermittent fasting.
The Keto Diet Can Normalize Blood Sugar
Running on ketones by sticking to the keto diet with intermittent fasting can help normalize your blood sugar levels.
There are a few things to keep in mind to make this work.
You Can’t Eat Sugar, Period
Now, normal blood sugar levels of, let’s say, 80 mg/dL, amount to one teaspoon of sugar in the blood - so we don’t need that much sugar. Unfortunately, the average American consumes 30 times that amount of sugar a day. This comes from candy, refined carbohydrates (rather than whole grains), white sugar, and other processed foods. It's is super unhealthy on its own since it can lead to diabetes and insulin resistance.
Sugar Causes Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance, in particular, is when insulin can no longer get into your cells to normalize your blood sugar levels.
Here’s what’s going on. Insulin is a hormone that exists to lower blood sugar in the body. The idea is that, if you eat something really sugary, your blood sugar levels will spike and insulin will be released to get it back down to normal. In that way, it’s a great tool.
The problem, though, is that the average American consumes over 30 times more sugar than they’re supposed to every day. There’s a massive amount of blood sugar at all times, and the body has to release too much insulin to try to combat this problem and lower blood glucose.
Eventually, the cells notice this influx and they start to resist the hormone. It’s too much and it’s unhealthy, so they don’t want to let it in anymore. So the insulin can no longer get in the cells to lower the blood glucose.
It’s a complex problem, and it can contribute to diabetes and a ton of other health concerns. You need to normalize the insulin resistance first if you want to overcome it.
Sugar Encourages Your Body to Store Fat
And, if you consume sugar, there’s no reason for your body to take it from the saddlebag fat on the hips or from the saggy belly. Your body gets sugar from your diet, and the rest continues to be stored in fat.
The Keto and Intermittent Fasting Solution
So - how do you keep your blood sugar normal without eating sugar? Basically, you just avoid eating sugar and your body will convert over to ketones. That is done through the keto diet with intermittent fasting.
Keto is a high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate diet. So why does it work for this problem? Well, healthy fat is the only macronutrient that doesn’t actually spike glucose levels and insulin in the body (both carbohydrates and proteins do, even if you're eating nutrient-rich whole grains and healthy sources of protein). Additionally, as we’ve mentioned, if you don’t have sugar in the body, it will run on ketones.
Keto, then, serves as an effective blood sugar control, and it will help your body run on a more efficient fuel.
Similarly, intermittent fasting prevents the small spike in insulin that can come with eating frequent large meals (even if those meals are keto - more on that here).
And, any extra blood sugar or glucose that it needs can be made from the body fat or gotten from the dietary fat.
Welcome to a healthier, more balanced you.
- High Blood Sugars and Nerves
- Keto Transition and Low Blood Sugar Issues
- Blood Sugars Will Not Come Down
Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.