As far as your microbiome is concerned, sugar isn’t just the stuff that tastes sweet. Your entire system – all of the magic bugs that make up your body, your muscles, brain, heart and liver, driving all of the trillions of cascading actions that occur every second in your system – needs energy to work. This energy comes from the food you eat.
The bugs in your gut digest your food by mixing it with fluids in your stomach. During this process, sugar and starches in the food are broken down into another type of sugar, called glucose.
The bugs in your stomach and small intestines absorb the glucose, and then release it into your bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, glucose can be used immediately for energy or stored up for later use.
Why Do You Need Insulin?
But blood sugar on its own is not enough to make things work. You also need insulin, in order to use or store glucose for energy. Without insulin, glucose just loiters around uselessly in the bloodstream.
So clever, hard-working little cells called beta cells run a constant monitoring system on the amount of glucose in your bloodstream. They check your blood glucose level every few seconds, and sense when they need to speed up or slow down the amount of insulin they’re making and releasing. Understand, these poor little guys are just trying to keep everything stable. And usually, we don’t make it very easy for them.
Different foods do different things to your blood sugar levels. And most of the food we eat these days dumps huge amounts of blood sugar into your system, all at once.
What Is The Glycemic Index?
The Glycemic Index rates different foods according to their ability to raise your blood sugar levels. A low GI rating means that the food only raises your blood sugar levels a little bit. A high GI rating means that the food raises your blood sugar a lot, all at once. The GI index compares everything to pure glucose, which has a rating of 100. Any food with a GI value over 70 is considered high. 56-69 is considered medium, and 55 or lower is ideal.
To picture the impact this has on your microbiome, imagine that you’re making a fire in the fireplace, using only newspaper. It will all flare up with a huge, bright whoooosh – and then fade right down and burn out, dropping you flat. That’s what happens inside your system when you eat something that is “high GI.”
When you eat high GI foods, the glucose level in the blood soars, and the beta cells trigger the pancreas to release a lot more insulin into the bloodstream, to deal with all the blood sugar. Then the excess insulin in your system causes you to crave more sugar.
So you eat more sugar, the beta cells dump in more insulin – and after enough repeated cycles like this, you end up with Type 2 diabetes. Basically, you’ve exhausted your body’s insulin system by causing repeated blood sugar spikes.
But here’s the kicker…
It’s not just things that taste sweet that create this cycle. It’s also anything that raises your blood sugar rapidly – and that includes bread, potatoes and rice. Your body burns it up too quickly, like newspaper in the fireplace.
So choose food items that are low on the glycemic index: whole fruit instead of juice, oatmeal instead of corn flakes, new or sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, lentils or chickpeas instead of rice or pasta, grains like amaranth, millet, quinoa, or buckwheat instead of wheat products. To find out the GI rating of any food that you’re wondering about, simply google “GI rating of …” Ideally you’re looking for foods that have a GI rating of 55 or less. (Sugar sets the high bar with a rating of 100.)
If you de-stabilise your microbiome, the results will map onto your skin. You want to eat things that will slowly trickle blood sugar into your system, keeping your microbiome platform steady and secure. Avoid things that wobble your microbiome platform, causing general panic and upheaval inside your system! Your gut bugs and your entire system will thank you!