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Sep 10, 2018

Glycemic Control to Reduce Adrenal Stress

by Dr. Dan Kalish

We have frequently been told that eating more complex carbohydrates than protein is healthy. However, it has been proven that an excess of carbohydrates to protein results in excess levels of insulin. Excess levels of insulin cause adrenal stress, including hypoglycemia. In order to normalize blood sugar, the adrenals have to produce increased levels of cortisol and epinephrine. This often leads to long-term cortisol depletion and ultimately adrenal exhaustion.

One of the most effective ways to prevent or reverse the excess production of insulin and cortisol is to balance the amount of carbohydrates and proteins that are eaten with each meal. The proper ratios are approximately 2 parts carbohydrates to 1 part protein by weight in grams (2:1 ratio). An example of this is 20 grams of protein with 40 grams of carbohydrates. Proper ratios of carbohydrates to protein will vary depending upon the glycemic index of the carbohydrates consumed. The higher the glycemic index of a carbohydrate, the greater the need for protein in order to maintain glycemic control. High glycemic food releases sugar into your blood stream very quickly, thereby driving up insulin levels.

Examples of very high glycemic carbohydrate sources (use in small quantities) include: rice, potatoes, bread, oatmeal, corn, carrots, sugar, honey, bananas, and raisins.

The glycemic control diet requires that adequately balanced portions of protein and carbohydrates be eaten with each meal and snack. Low glycemic carbohydrates such as green vegetables should be emphasized over high-density carbohydrates such as bread. Additionally, 20% of the meal should consist of one or more high quality fats such as olive oil, almonds, avocado or flaxseed oil. Fats, especially those with essential fatty acids, play many important roles in normal body functions, including helping to maintain blood sugar by slowing the release of glucose (sugar) into the blood stream. Fish is a good dietary source for healthy fats.

Establishing a glycemic control diet generally requires shifts in one’s eating habits. Carbohydrates often need to be reduced substantially. This is especially the case with breakfast, which for many people consists of very little protein and large amounts of carbohydrates.

The glycemic control diet is not just a quick fix for those who need to reduce adrenal stress. It is essential for fitness, overall health, and optimal immune system function.

You can minimize the deposit of body fat and maximize lean body tissue growth, i.e., grow strong muscles.

There are just a few fundamental principles to keep in mind:

  1. Balance carbohydrates and proteins.
  2. Balance glycemic index.
  3. Carbohydrates increase insulin output.
  4. Protein increases glucagon output.
  5. Insulin promotes fat storage.
  6. Glucagon promotes mobilization and utilization of stored fat for energy.

We want to have plenty of glucagon. When excess carbohydrates are eaten, we produce excess insulin and little glucagon. This excess insulin results in more fat being formed and stored.

The optimal level of insulin to glucagon is brought about by a diet which has carbohydrates balanced with proteins in a ratio close to 2 to 1. That's about twice as much carbohydrate as protein, provided one chooses mostly lower glycemic index carbohydrate foods.

Each food’s ability to raise the blood sugar is given a value called the glycemic index. This value, a number, indicates how rapidly the food will raise the blood sugar - the higher the value, the quicker and higher the rise. Insulin and glucagon output are influenced by this rise in blood sugar. The higher and more rapid the rise, the more insulin we need to handle it to prevent blood sugar levels from going too high. Insulin’s job is to put sugar into storage as either glycogen or fat. Insulin interferes with glucagon and hormone production.

A few simple guidelines:

  1. Avoid cooked fats and oils.
  2. Eat before hungry.
  3. Spread food intake over 5-6 small meals.
  4. Use carbohydrate foods with a glycemic index of 50-80.
  5. Include proteins with each meal in a weighted ratio of 2:1 of carbohydrate to protein.
  6. Minimize refined fat intake.
  7. Butter is better than margarine. Use sparingly.
  8. Preferred choices: fish oil, olive oil, almond oil, avocado oil and flaxseed oil.
  9. Any fat that is hydrogenated is bad.
Dr. Dan Kalish

Dr. Dan Kalish

Founder of the Kalish Institute
Dan Kalish, DC, IFMCP, is founder of the Kalish Institute, an online practice implementation training program dedicated to building Integrative and Functional Medicine practices through clinical and business courses.