No carb, low carb, night carbs… what’s the deal?
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
Discovering how to detect a client’s Non-Negotiables is one of my favorite topics.
The Non-Negotiables involve what we call Mediators in Functional Medicine. They’re the things that we know (or can determine) make us feel better or worse. Things like avoiding gluten, or peanuts, or garlic to sidestep digestive distress, or observing a set bedtime or a daily swim or morning sun salutation to enable better resilience can all be Mediators.
Accepting that these Mediators are Non-Negotiables (meaning they are things we need to either avoid, adhere to, or include in our regular practices as much as possible) takes that knowledge we have about what helps or hurts, into action.
While there are many Non-Negotiables for each of us, recently I’ve been highlighting what I like to call the Non-Negotiable Trifecta. This Trifecta includes sleep, poop, and blood sugar balance.
The Trifecta includes categories, not dictates. That’s because each of us, and each of our clients or patients, will likely have different needs within each area of the Trifecta—yet each category must be addressed.
In fact, sleep, poop, and blood sugar balance are called Non-Negotiables because addressing them isn’t negotiable. They are each so critical and foundational to resolving any health issue.
We dove deep into the first Non-Negotiable — sleep — in a 5-part series that starts here.
Now it’s time to tackle Non-Negotiable #3—blood sugar balance. (I promise we’ll tackle poop, in all its glory, in a separate series.) Blood sugar balance has a lot to do with a very hot topic in the health and wellness circles…carbs.
Download a free copy of our Functional Nutrition Alliance Carb Continuum below.
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The Real Deal on Carbs
There is so much (often contradictory) information about carbs. Some dietary theories advise eliminating them almost entirely, favoring fats and proteins instead. Others say to cut way back. And some theories suggest steering clear during the day, consuming your carbs only in the evening.
So, what’s the deal? And how can you explain to your clients what’s going on in their bodies, so that they can easily follow your recommendations instead of the latest fad diet (which could possibly make their symptoms worse)?
First, narrow the Education Gap and recognize that your clients likely don’t understand their carb intake. They may not know which foods contain high levels of carbohydrates. And they very likely don’t know which carbs are good and which ones are best to be avoided.
That’s where the Functional Nutrition Alliance Carb Continuum comes in. Download your copy below and feel free to share it with your clients (we certainly do!)
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I find that a helpful graphic like this one serves as a great conversation starter. Once your client understands all the different types of carbohydrates, you can then have them track their daily food consumption and symptoms. You’ll both learn a lot by tracking alone!
While there are certain “rules” around carbohydrates, including their glycemic index and glycemic load, we each react differently to carbohydrate consumption. This is what I call Symbiosis. It’s not just the food, but what your body can do with the food.
And each of us, due to myriad physiological factors from the health of our pancreas and its ability to release appropriate levels of insulin, the receptivity of our cells, and even the make-up of the microbiome, along with other factors, responds differently to different carbohydrates (and at different times of day!) But we need to start somewhere, and that somewhere is education.
Where to Start
The first step in educating your clients about blood sugar is to answer this question:
Just what are carbohydrates and why do they matter to me?
Once your client understands what’s going on in their body, and how certain changes could positively impact their daily life and help them reach their goals, they are much more likely to comply with your recommendations.
Then you can begin tracking the following:
- Does your client have a habit of eating simple carbs at certain times of the day?
- Does their mood fluctuate with their carb intake?
- Do you see how carb intake may be impacting their sleep patterns, or their hunger from breakfast to lunch?
Two common blood-sugar hacks that I like to use in practice include:
- Trialing 3 different breakfast options that include your client’s go-to or favorite and tracking how long that meal sustains their energy, focus and satiety into the day. You can rotate through the 3 twice for a six-day trial and tracking.
- Determining if there is what I like to call a “witching hour” in the day — where hunger strikes and carbs win over willpower. If this happens at a common time each day, have your client set an alarm for 30 minutes prior to that time and plan a healthy low-glycemic snack appropriate for their needs.
I’ve got more (and bet you do too!) We’ll aim to explore them together in this blood-sugar series.
- Remember blood sugar balance is a Non-Negotiable. It’s something that needs to be addressed right away, with each and every client.
- Start with the Functional Nutrition Alliance Carbohydrate Continuum. This valuable resource will help your clients understand what’s going on in their bodies, and why all carbs are not created equal.
- Recognize that every body is unique, and each person you work with will have their own distinct needs and reactions related to carbohydrates and blood sugar balance. Remember to follow the Functional Nutrition Protocol—Assess, Recommend, and Track. In doing so, you’re paying heed to both the science and the ART (Assess, Recommend, Track!) of the practice.
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