March 16, 2018

Jumping on the Blood Sugar Bandwagon

Blood sugar - and postprandial blood sugar responses (i.e., what happens to your blood sugar after a meal) is all the rage these days. Researchers are toiling day and night, naturopaths are curing diabetes through diet, and non-diabetic biohackers are proudly sporting continuous glucose monitors, the round, inch tall piece of plastic stuck to their arms like a tracking device. Many feel that although these devices are currently only available via prescription to diabetics, that will soon change, and everyone will begin wearing them, just like bell-bottoms in the 60s and70s. And again in the 90s. 

Despite the fact that I have been studying the microbiome - all of the microbes that live in and on your body - and how it affects human health, for over six years, it has taken me quite a long time to biohack my own body. And, when I finally did, I didn't biohack my microbiome per se - I biohacked diet - a big deal for a diet skeptic. But, since we know that diet is the fastest and easiest way to change our microbiomes, in a roundabout way, I changed mine. I just don't know how I changed it.

As I went through my biohack journey, I became increasingly more embarrassed that I, the Forbes 30 Under 30 microbiome scientist, hadn't really given much thought to my microbiome throughout this process. Toward the end of 2017, I read the book "The Good Gut," by Drs. Justin and Erica Sonnenburg - long-time collaborators. I hadn't read their book - or any of the other mainstream microbiome books available - because I felt I already knew it. This was my world. I had done some of that research myself. What would I learn from reading the books?

It would turn out, a lot - especially once I became a science writer for the broader community myself, and needed to learn what worked and what didn't when trying to explain technical scientific concepts in an exciting, understandable way. But I digress.

After reading "The Good Gut," I began to take MACs - microbiota accessible carbohydrates, also known as dietary fiber - into account. What resulted was what I call MAC-friendly macro counting. I stopped putting white sugar on my plain yogurt in the mornings, ate more beans and lentils, and tried even harder to add more veggies. I was so proud that the microbiome scientist was finally really eating for her microbiome.

Then, my husband bought me "The Personalized Diet," by Drs. Eran Segal and Eran Elinav, two of my microbiome researcher role models. I was very curious to read their book. How had they done bringing the science down to the level of the layperson? Would non-scientists be excited about this work? What would I learn?

In short, I loved the book. You can read my full review of the book on my book critiques website, drhydesbookcritiques.wordpress.com. One thing that really struck me was the discussion about postprandial blood sugar responses, hunger, and feelings of fatigue. I have struggled with being hungry all of the time, and with fatigue for years. Once thing I noticed when I started counting macros was that I was no longer falling asleep on the couch at 8pm every day. I had more energy. I thought this was due to tracking water consumption and doing a better job of hydrating, but now I wondered if it wasn't due to better blood sugar control that had accidentally resulted from counting macros and upping my overall protein and fat levels.

Now my interest was piqued.

In the book, Segal and Elinav lay out a plan for testing postprandial blood sugar responses. I have a simple blood sugar reading kit in my Amazon cart right now. I am paying much closer attention to how I feel after each meal, hypothesizing whether I'll have a blood sugar spike or not, and I can't wait to see how close (or far off) I am. For example, I noticed that when I recently switched from yogurt, peanut butter, and fruit for breakfast to steel cut oats, peanut butter, and fruit, I got fuller faster but didn't stay full for as long. And, I've been more tired. The difference in carbohydrates between the two meals is not insignificant. I'm guessing that the steel cut oats, even though they are a "good" carb that many recommend to eat instead of sugary cereals, are spiking my blood sugar.

Let's find out. Stay tuned for my update on my postprandial blood sugar tracking adventure!

 

[You may have noticed the Amazon links in my post. Here is my disclosure; I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.]