Some of my friends who are new to the world of diabetes keep surprising me. The question that surprises me the most is, “Why was my blood glucose level high today?”
In reply I always ask what they ate. Their answer almost always includes starch.
Sometimes we make managing our diabetes sound a lot more difficult than is has to be. Managing it isn’t simple, particularly if you have to use insulin, but it’s not very complicated either.
You don’t have to read a book about diabetes to understand the basics of keeping your blood glucose levels within bounds. Books can help, and in fact I am the co-author of a book on What Makes My Blood Glucose Go Up...and Down? About half of that book covers the same ground as this short article. It can help when you are ready to explore the details of diabetes management.
But the details are like trees in a forest where you can get lost. By far the biggest tree in the forest of diabetes management is starch.
Let’s step back a couple of inches from this tree. Most of the forest of blood glucose management is food. A bit later in this article I will mention some of the weeds that might entangle us, but food is the giant tree here.
The three species of food are carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Only one of these trees have much of an effect on our blood glucose level, and that giant tree is carbohydrate.
But just as trees have trunks, leaves, and roots, not all carbohydrates are the same. What we call carbohydrates in the United States are three different parts of this food tree They are starch, sugar, and fiber.
One of these parts, fiber, doesn’t do much to our blood glucose level. Sugar can have more of an effect, particularly glucose and maltose. But we usually don’t consume much of these sugars.
The sugars that we might use the most of are common table sugar, which is sucrose, and high-fructose corn syrup. But now that sugar substitutes like stevia are available, almost everyone who has diabetes knows how to avoid these common sugars.
In any case, these common sugars don’t impact our blood glucose levels nearly as much as the most common starches. This is one of the most important discoveries generated by glycemic index research.
The most common starches that we consume are potatoes and wheat flour. Unfortunately, they happen to raise our blood glucose levels the most. Beyond that, all the grains -- including rice and corn and corn products -- are loaded with starch that will rapidly boost our blood glucose levels.
Avoid the starch part of the food tree and you will almost certainly avoid those blood glucose spikes that will lead to lose of diabetes control and eventually to the complications that can come from uncontrolled diabetes.
Still, this forest has some other weeds that can trip us up. The big weedy bush is inflammation. Any infection, even periodontal infection, can boost our blood glucose level. Infections stress our bodies, and too much stress isn’t good for anything, including our blood.
Even blocking the stress with drugs can work against us. Many common prescription drugs can raise our blood glucose level. My friends at DiabetesInControl.com developed the master list of “Drugs That Can Affect Blood Glucose Levels.”
When you eliminate or cut way back on the starch tree, you may surprise yourself. That surprise will be much tighter management of your blood glucose levels.