Many people put weight on when they quit smoking and this fear can prevent people from quitting. One reason that people put on weight when they quit is because they need to raise a low blood glucose level which normally a cigarette would achieve. Since this option is now gone, they turn to food. The answer to this problem, is learning to balance your blood glucose level leading to fewer food cravings. This also can help you lose weight because it switches your hormone system from fat storing to fat burning.
When we eat carbohydrates they are broken down into glucose molecules. These glucose molecules then are absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream. In order for them to provide us with energy they must be transported into our cells. This is facilitated by the hormone insulin which is secreted from the pancreas when we eat carbohydrates. Once our meal has finished digesting and insulin has transferred the sugar into the cells, our blood sugar begins to fall. If we do not then go and eat again to raise our blood sugar, another hormone, glucagon, should be triggered to liberate our own reserves of energy in the liver and fat cells, which are then released into the bloodstream. This system should work ideally to give our brain and body a constant, steady supply of fuel.
However for a lot of people, this system does Blood balance not work so efficiently. They swing from high to low levels of blood sugar and experience the accompanying symptoms of mood swings, fatigue and food and stimulant cravings when their blood glucose plummets. The reason for this is often because they are consuming things which initially cause a high level of blood glucose such as refined carbohydrates and stimulants. This high sugar level triggers a corresponding large increase in insulin to take the sugar out of the blood and transport into the cells. Once the sugar has been taken out of the bloodstream the blood glucose level falls, but in this situation glucagon does not kick in to raise it again. This is because high insulin inhibits glucagon so you now cannot access your own stores of energy.
Moreover, insulin not only inhibits glucagon, termed “the fat burning hormone”, but also controls how much sugar we store as fat. The higher insulin goes, the more it tells our bodies to store sugar as fat. So not only do you feel the need to eat more often in an effort to raise blood sugar, but you are more programmed to store the sugar as fat.
The reason refined carbohydrates raise blood sugar quicker and higher because they breakdown more easily. Sugar is the worst since it requires little to no digestion.
Regular consumption of stimulants also contributes to this type of situation. Stimulants are substances which stimulate the adrenal glands to secrete hormones which are necessary for flight or fight. One of their actions is to raise our blood sugar level. Examples of stimulants that are commonly consumed are caffeine, chocolate and nicotine in cigarettes. Whilst in the absence of cigarettes you may be tempted to substitute cigarettes with other stimulants, this is not recommended due to their negative effect on blood sugar imbalance.
The way to avoid this situation is to eat carbohydrates that breakdown slowly, to eat regularly and to eat them with protein at the same time. Eating slow release carbohydrates provides a slow but continual source of glucose. If you eat food that takes longer to be digested then your blood sugar will not need replenishing so soon and when it does, your glucagon hormone will not be inhibited by such a large release of insulin. This prevents the highs and lows of blood sugar imbalance and the cravings for fast release carbohydrates and stimulants that can either lead to weight gain or a return to smoking.
To balance your blood sugar follow these dietary rules
Eat regularly. Eat three meals a day with two snacks in between.
Eat slow release carbohydrates. These are foods which have a low to medium glycaemic load (GL). These include porridge oats, wholegrain bread, rye bread, wholegrain pasta, new potatoes and sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown basmati rice, wild rice, pulses, nuts, seeds, most fruits and vegetables.
Eat protein with every meal and snack. Do not only rely exclusively on animal protein. Pulses such as chickpeas, beans and lentils also contain protein as well as carbohydrates as do nuts and seeds which are good as snack foods.
Eat foods with plenty of fibre. Fibre also slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream. If you shun refined carbohydrates then the chances are that the foods you eat will contain fibre anyway. Fibre rich foods are wholegrains, pulses, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Some people find that taking fibre supplements with a meal such as konjac fibre helps to slow blood sugar.