Carbs are addictive, there’s no doubt about that. Overcoming a sugar addiction has been likened to giving up heroin – it’s no easy feat. However, here are just some of the benefits you will experience if you manage to kick the carbs for good.
■ weight loss
■ a healthier relationship with stress
■ increased immunity
■- better sleep
■- more energy
■- more control over your emotions and appetite.
There are three simple steps you can take to start increasing your sensitivity to insulin and reaping the benefits of normal glucose tolerance.
Step 1: Nutrient repletion
Magnesium and chromium are required for insulin to bind to cell receptors, so deficiencies in these nutrients can cause insulin resistance. However, stores of these nutrients are also drawn upon excessively by high circulating insulin levels, turning it into a vicious cycle of depletion.
The way to break this cycle is to supplement with high doses of these nutrients – 800mcg chromium and 1200mg magnesium per day, for example. The magnesium will need to be administered in divided doses throughout the day to prevent loose stools and encourage absorption. Other supplements to take in high doses include zinc, B complex, vitamin C and omega-3 oils. These are all perfectly safe.
Replenishing levels of these nutrients will not only make you feel better quickly – it will curb carb cravings right from the start, making it easier to cut down on simple sugars.
Step 2: Eat a high protein breakfast
There are several benefits to eating protein and fat instead of carbs for breakfast. Firstly, it sets the metabolism off to a good start. Avoiding a blood sugar spike in the morning will naturally prevent a dip later on in the day, so you’ll crave fewer carbs. Protein is heavily satiating, keeping you satisfied for longer, and amino acids are the building blocks of energy production at the cellular level, so you’ll have more energy, willpower and mental clarity.
Sound good? Eat as much as 35g of protein for breakfast to reap these physiological benefits. For omnivores, this would be something like two eggs, some smoked salmon and an avocado – for vegetarians, two eggs, a big dollop of hummus, some shiitake mushrooms and greens.
Step 3: Do some resistance exercise
Muscle cells become insulin sensitive through training, just as the untrained muscle cell becomes insulin resistant with inactivity. The best way to train muscles is by doing manual labour, though a simple weights routine, some burst cycling, running, or cross-training at the gym are all great options.
Engaging in resistance or burst exercise on most days for 15-20 minutes is sufficient to drastically improve insulin resistance, along with the two above steps. Medicated diabetics need to be very careful if implementing this regime as their blood sugar could drop to dangerously low levels – they will need to monitor carefully and reduce insulin doses if necessary.
Next step: ditch the carbs
After implementing these steps for 2-3 weeks, you will be more physiologically prepared to reduce your carb consumption. Mentally, it will still be tough. Start by cutting out sweet treats and simple sugars, and then slowly cut out things like pasta, bread, potatoes, and excess alcohol. This might be depressing in many ways, so seek help from a natural health practitioner if you can. This is where herbs can come in.
A final word
I don’t think living carb-free should be everyone’s goal. But if you’ve got a family history of diabetes, cardiovascular disease or obesity, an increased waist:hip ratio and love your carbs, you may have to ditch them. The only way of knowing for sure is to do some blood tests – HbA1C, fasting insulin, fasting glucose, triglycerides and HDL cholesterol – and even purchase a home glucose monitor to test your individual response to the foods you commonly eat.
Next up: my top five herbs for blood sugar control and helping people wean off carbs.
Most of this is based on the writings, teachings and clinical experience of herbalist Paul Bergner in the United States, who devised a programme to combat insulin resistance when he himself was diagnosed with it. I have implemented it in my own practice with good results. If you are a medicated diabetic, please consult your doctor before embarking on this regime.
By Poppy Burr
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Poppy is a UK-trained medical herbalist practising in Praia da Luz. She offers consultations and treatment in Western Herbal Medicine, incorporating Functional Medicine testing and nutritional strategies where appropriate. For more information, visit poppytheherbalist.com.