Having asked thousands of clients their average daily diet, I have no doubt that there is one common dietary habit or requirement that most people fail to achieve. From my clinical experience, I would say that over 95% of people fail to achieve this – regardless of whether they eat organic, are vegetarian or vegan or follow some other dietary or health approach. It is so predictable.
That they fail to regulate their blood sugar levels on a day to day basis. The pattern that usually occurs to varying degrees is that people’s blood sugar levels fluctuate throughout the day with intermittent peaks and troughs – known as hypoglycaemia. The telltale signs of this are:
- Desire for sweets or refined carbohydrates (processed or white flour, alcohol), or foods high in trans or saturated fats, at the times where we usually experience blood sugar level troughs – upon waking, mid morning, especially mid afternoon, pre-dinner, post dinner.
- Fatigue at the times above or generalised fatigue.
- Excessive hunger, especially at lunch or late afternoon and pre-dinner.
- A need for coffee to get going at the start of the day or regular consumption of coffee throughout the day – at times similar to the above (especially the first half of the day).
- A propensity for weight gain.
Why do we get this wrong?
The answer could lie in understanding what our body has evolved or adapted to and comparing that to what we expose our bodies to in the modern world. It is understood from genetic and anthroplogical research that it takes 40,000 to 100,000 years for a change in our environment to be genetically assimilated by our bodies, meaning that the bodies we have inherited are those that adapted to the environment our hunter-gatherer or paleolithic ancestors were exposed to 40,000 years ago or more. Or, put more loosely, our bodies still think we are wandering the bush!!
Yet the environment our hunter-gatherer ancestors were exposed to was vastly different to the culture we have created. Our ancestors lived in an environment where food was scarce and we had to work hard to find it. We were often hungry and exposed to conditions of scarcity and famine. As such we evolved to be extremely adept at seeking out energy dense foods – especially when we were hungry. We all know the feeling that fatty or sweet foods smell or appear almost irresistible when we are hungry!
Two examples of energy dense foods include those high in carbohydrate (sugar) and those high in fat. Yet, there were very few of these energy dense foods available to our hunterer-gatherer ancestors – some via animal sources, or nuts and seeds and maybe fruit. Compare that to nowadays where energy dense foods are everywhere – in fact, most junk or packaged foods are comprised mostly of fat and/or refined carbohydrate/sugar. Food companies, which are invariably more interested in bottom line than they are in our health, prey on this aspect of our behaviour.
The changes in our food chain first began about 2,000 to 10,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture or farming – which is, at best, one quarter of the time it takes for a change to be adapted by our bodies. This saw the advent of grain and saw us start to settle in villages and towns. Evolutionary biologist, Dr Daniel Lieberman, who wrote the wonderful book “The Story of The Human Body”, suggests that while the advent of farming was great from an economic perspective as it made food more readily available, so our population could grow, it was the biggest mistake we ever made from an evolutionary perspective, because it resulted in the carbohydrate content of our food chain increasing dramatically which paved the way for hypoglycaemia.
With the advent of the industrial revolution and our modern technological age, this change accelerated exponentially. We now have far more exposure to carbohydrates, refined carbohydrates, sugars; and saturated and trans fats. And at levels that none of us have ever had a chance to adapt to. Hypoglycaemia is clearly a by-product of this evolutionary mis-match.
All of the eating programs and dietary plans that benefit our health and work in the long run, whether by design or not, successfully rectify this failure to regulate blood sugar levels.
To be continued…