Blood Sugar Control: An Herbal & Food Perspective

Blood sugar control

Sometimes the usual foods we choose to keep our blood sugar stabilized are just that—usual foods.” Take, for example, the common suggestion that we just eat a slice of cheese or drink a cup of coffee! Unfortunately, we forget, or simply don’t know, that for thousands of years many different herbs and foods have played a part in keeping the pesky and sometimes scary symptoms associated with unbalanced blood sugar from dominating an otherwise productive day.

After an interesting conversation with someone who asked my opinion about a blood sugar-stabilizing coconut cookie recipe (included at the bottom of this post), I thought to write something from an herbal and food perspective featuring vital information about blood sugar stabilizing. As a matter of fact, this may be the first time you’ve heard of the traditional way of treating low blood sugar with herbs. Let’s try and eliminate, or at least reduce, the bothersome highs and lows we feel when something is amiss with our blood sugar.

When we research the subject of blood sugar control (also referred to as balancing or stabilizing), we find a lot of the information is generally related to diabetics, the pancreas, or insulin levels gone awry.

Maria Noel Groves, author of the wonderful new book Body Balance, describes the action of a compromised pancreas as follows (emphasis mine):

“Your pancreas (the same organ that makes digestive enzymes) has specialized cells, called beta cells, that produce insulin, a hormone that ‘unlocks’ the doors of cells to let sugar in. When sugar levels rise, the beta cells flood your bloodstream with insulin, triggering cells to take in the sugar, which they use as fuel. However, the process doesn’t always work the way it should.

“Most of us consume far more sugar than we actually need, and after a while your cells become desensitized to insulin. Eventually our cells get sick of it, block the door, and say ‘Forget about it, I’m not letting you in! I’ve seen too much of you lately, and I don’t need any more sugar.’ At first your body panics and produces more insulin to bang down the doors of the cells. And because it’s more insulin than you actually need for the amount of sugar at hand, you might notice a sharp blood sugar crash once the sugar does get into the cells—fuzzy brain, and fatigue, and sugar cravings.”

Although the information above is of vital importance to diabetics (and to some degree it coincides with my particular intent for this article), it’s a brief explanation, and I only offer it to distinguish from the less serious blood sugar condition that way too many of us experience. That condition is hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.

What Causes Hypoglycemia? 

Homemade Organic Egg Baked in AvocadoToo much insulin in the blood leads to low blood glucose levels, a condition known as hypoglycemia. Common reasons for hypoglycemia include skipping meals, following a weight loss diet, and exercising excessively, which deprives us of the calories we need to supply our bodies with enough glucose. Consequently, we experience the symptoms associated with this all too common disorder.

Sounds like a simple problem to fix—but unfortunately, once the damage is done, it’s not so easy. And soon, when we begin to experience even more serious bouts of low blood sugar, we realize how devastating and dangerous this habit can be to our overall ability to heal other health challenges we face. It also has an impact on the expectation that we will live to a ripe old age because it weakens our pancreas, brain, and other bodily organs from functioning the way nature intended.

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

It’s of great importance to understand what happens when the brain doesn’t receive enough glucose. The symptoms of low blood sugar may include shakiness, fear-like symptoms, headache, anxiety, moodiness, migraine, confusion, nausea, sweating, faintness, and hypothermia.

If the hypoglycemia is very severe and prolonged, it can even cause loss of consciousness and death, although this is rare. As a matter of fact, this condition has reached epidemic proportions due to our busy schedules and our improper preparation of meals and/or snacks. We no longer keep our calorie intake in tandem with our need to maintain balanced blood sugar levels. If you’re one of the guilty ones (smile), here are some commonsense suggestions:

  • Low Blood Sugar and Susceptibility to Polio” by Benjamin P. Sandler, MD. Polio may not be the problem it once was, but this excerpt from Sandler’s book Diet Prevents Polio is another interesting perspective that offers more evidence that high-carbohydrate diets set humans up for infection and disease in general.

Two Top Remedies to Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels

The following information has been adapted from the book Body Balance by Maria Noel Groves.

  1. Bitters: Bitter or sour flavors improve your body’s ability to deal with sugar and quell sugar cravings. Experiment with bitter greens such as arugula, dandelion greens, artichokes, endive, grapefruit, and lemon peels. If using the actual bitter plant is not a good option for you, I suggest purchasing bitters from one of my favorite vendors. Check them out. I think you’ll be glad you did.
    Note: Eat your snack or dinner with these special greens, but be sure to add a good amount of butter to them because fat slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream and prevents sugar highs and crashes. This keeps us full longer, which helps maintain a healthy weight.
  2. Chromium: This mineral would be found in a wide range of whole foods—if the foods were grown on healthy soil. Chromium is essential for the proper metabolism of glucose. Supplementing with Standard Process Cataplex GTF is your best way to support a blood sugar program. Also explore their Diaplex supplement. (Click here to learn more about chromium deficiency and its symptoms.)

Recommended Foods If You Are Hypoglycemic

You can help manage your hypoglycemia, often referred to as low blood sugar, by including healthy proteins and fats in your diet. Both are converted to blood glucose more slowly than carbohydrates.

You can enjoy a variety of foods. Everything on the following list is both tasty and healthy:

  • Organic meats (grass-fed, if possible). Jerky makes a great healthy snack, and you can see how to make your own without chemical flavors and preservatives in my Cook Your Way to Wellness DVD.
  • High-quality protein (fish, poultry, lean meat, free-range eggs). Boiled eggs are a quick and healthy snack for those times you cannot eat a meal.
  • Fresh fruits (preferably with a meal or half an hour before). Eat blueberries and raspberries often; stone fruits such as peaches and nectarines are also good, but you may not be able to tolerate fruit initially. Eating fruit with raw cream or crème fraîche will slow down the glucose.
  • Fresh vegetables (especially dark, leafy greens, lightly cooked with lots of butter).
  • Nuts and seeds (raw, unsalted, and unseasoned). These are called crispy nuts, and you can learn how to make them with my Cook Your Way to Wellness DVD.
  • Alternative sweeteners (I recommend green Stevia powder).

Herbs from Yesteryear Used by Our Ancestors

medical flowersHere is what the Hypoglycemia entry on the website Herbs 2000 has to say on the herbs that lend themselves to stimulating the body’s ability to deal with sugar balancing:

“The wonder herb ginseng helps in the regulation of blood sugar levels and will correct imbalances resulting from fluctuating sugar levels. The herb will also boost energy levels and will increase the stimulation of the pituitary gland—making it release more blood sugar regulating hormones. Dosage of this herb can be 15–20 drops of ginseng herbal tincture added to any liquid, and this can be taken thrice every day following meals. This herbal tincture can also be taken before meals to aid any weakness in the digestive system. If the ginseng herb is used as a regular supplement over a long period of time, it is necessary to take a break lasting at least two to three weeks once every two months or so. Pancreatic activity can be stimulated by the mugwort herb. Dosage of this herb can be 5 drops of herbal tincture taken thrice every day and used regularly over a long period of time. Half an hour before eating meals, take some bitter, saponine, and other gland-stimulating herbs such as the dandelion, the gentian, the feverfew herb, the Iceland moss, the plantain, the violet, the coltsfoot, the chicory and the lovage herbs.”

In addition to the herbs recommended above, don’t forget about coconut oil! According to Bruce Fife, ND, using coconut oil to balance our blood sugar levels is a sure bet—and it also provides many other benefits. Take a moment and watch this excellent video with Dr. Fife to learn more.

Blood Sugar Stabilizing No-Bake “Cookies”

Coconut cookies—Adapted from Nicole Eckman, RD

Ingredients
1½–2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoon raw cocoa powder (optional)
½ cup coconut oil, slightly melted
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Alternatives

  • Add 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • Substitute 1 teaspoon carob powder for cocoa powder
  • Replace half of the coconut oil with butter

Instructions

  1. Pulse all ingredients in blender or food processor, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom, until it becomes creamy. If the mixture is too dry, increase the coconut oil to ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons. (Dryness might be caused by larger coconut flakes, so adjust that amount as well if needed.)
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Scoop a tablespoon of dough onto cookie sheet. Flatten into round “cookies.” Store in fridge or freezer. Eat as a snack as soon as you are aware of a hypoglycemic event or in time to prevent one.

Note: Should you feel queasy after eating these cookies or other high-fat foods, it may be an indication of gallbladder issues and trouble digesting fats. Standard Process Betafood and/or Cholocol would then be indicated.

Raw Milk and Cream Shake

I highly recommend this nutritious beverage, courtesy of Kim Schuette, CN, of Biodynamic Wellness and vice president of the Weston A. Price Foundation. This is an excellent option if you need to skip a meal but still need to properly maintain your blood sugar levels and superior nutrition. Serves one.

Note: To avoid vitamin A toxicity, do not exceed more than 3 oz. of raw liver per week. Also, if you’re following the GAPS diet, omit the raw cream and use sour or piima cream instead. Ideally, raw, sour, or piima cream is best for supporting hormone health. Cultured cream may be made from viili, piimä, and filmjölk cultures (all room temperature mesophilic cultures). These may be purchased online from Cultures for Health. 

Ingredients
2–4 oz. raw organic cream (see the note above if you’re following the GAPS diet) or coconut cream (I recommend Artisana coconut cream)
3–6 oz. raw milk, kefir, whole milk yogurt, or coconut milk, if desired (see the note above if you’re following the GAPS diet)
1 cup berries, fresh or frozen (optional)
2–3 raw organic egg yolks
1 tablespoon or more raw liver, frozen for at least 14 days prior to use
1 teaspoon raw honey (optional)
1 tablespoon organic, unrefined coconut oil

Instructions

Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and process until well blended.

An Afterthought from the Traditional Cook…

I eat a balanced diet,
I do it day and night—
a pound of brownies on my left,
a pound upon my right.

And filling up my right hand,
with clear and certain heft,
a twelve-ounce bag of jellybeans.
The same is on my left.

A candy cane in one hand,
and likewise in the other.
There are equal sweets on either side,
a big frown from my mother.

I eat a balanced diet,
but mother disagrees.
I just don’t understand it.
She’s so darned hard to please!

—“A Balanced Diet” by Robert Scotellaro


AUTHOR’S NOTE

To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:

  • chemical- and hormone-free meat
  • wild-caught fish
  • pasture-raised, organic eggs
  • whole, unrefined grains
  • virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
  • whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
  • pure, clean, spring water
  • sea salt
  • raw and/or cultured milk and cream products

Photos from Stephanie Anderson (coconut cookies) and iStock/monkeybusinessimages (at top); bhofack2 (avocado); alisbalb (flowers)

Note from Maria: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor prior to following any recommendations I make in my blogs or on my website.

Maria Atwood, CNHP

Maria Atwood is a semi-retired Certified Natural Health Professional and Weston A. Price Chapter Leader in Colorado Springs, CO. Her website, Traditional Cook, offers the Wonder Mixer as well as the #1 rated grain mill, Wondermill. Maria’s “Cook Your Way to Wellness” DVD and booklet is available on demand at Vimeo.com and also sold as a full set on Selene River Press. Be sure to join the Selene River Press newsletter to follow Maria’s Tips from The Traditional Cook blog.

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