How SCFAs can help you to manage your blood sugar levels
Do you struggle to control your blood sugar levels?
You follow the instructions, but you’re not seeing the improvements you want?
You know diet is a key factor, but there’s so many foods out there, where should you start?
If this sounds familiar, rest assured, you are not alone.
What goes wrong?
In healthy people, blood sugar levels are controlled by the hormones insulin and glucagon. Produced by cells in the pancreas, these hormones are responsible for the concentration of sugar in your blood.
If your blood sugar is low, glucagon releases sugar into the bloodstream by breaking down stored glycogen in the liver, which it converts into sugar. Insulin, on the other hand, has the opposite effect, as it removes sugar from the bloodstream when your blood sugar is too high.
When this system isn’t working properly, your blood sugar level is likely to stay elevated.
In some cases, an unhealthy lifestyle is partly responsible for poor blood sugar control. A diet high in refined sugars, sedentary lifestyle are key factors associated with a greater risks.
Cells and hormones
In order to understand how to manage your blood sugar levels, you must first get to know some of the main biological players in blood sugar control.
Specialised cells in your gut, known as L-cells, produce and release hormones which help to control things like insulin release, blood sugar and appetite.
Three of these hormones – GLP-1, GIP and PYY – are released when food is present in your gut. When sugar is present, GLP-1 and GIP bind to receptors on the pancreas to stimulate the release of insulin. The last hormone, PYY, acts to decrease your appetite by reducing gut motility.
Lastly, we have another hormone called IGF, which you may have heard of if you’ve dug into the science before! IGF is an important hormone because it works with insulin to rapidly remove glucose from the bloodstream, and allows glucose to be transported to cells around the body. High levels of IGF improve the efficacy of this process, thus improving insulin sensitivity.
Why does this matter? Enter, Short-Chain Fatty Acids
Armed with this information, it’s time to learn about short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and their role in blood sugar level management.
SCFAs are produced by bacteria in your gut when they break down fibre. Although you may not realise it, this fermentation process is relevant for both insulin production and sensitivity. Let’s find out why!
SCFA’s increase the number of L cells in the walls of the large intestine. As mentioned above, L-cells are responsible for producing and releasing hormones associated with blood sugar control.
So, more L-cells means more cells that can produce the GLP-1, GIP and PYY hormones – all of which are responsible for controlling blood sugar and appetite.
Not only do SCFAs help to boost the number of L-cells – but, also stimulate increased release of these same GLP-1, GIP and PYY hormones, as well as that last hormone, IGF, which improves insulin action and sensitivity.
How to boost your SCFAs
As mentioned above, SCFAs are produced when bacteria within your gut break down the fibre you consume.
So, you guessed it, the answer is quite simple! Consume more fibre.
To sum it up, additional fibre consumption increases the production of SCFAs, which activate the cells and hormones that help your body to produce more insulin, improve insulin sensitivity and regulate appetite. Ultimately, this will help you to support healthy blood sugar levels.
Now that you know the strategy – let’s get to the technicalities – how much fibre should you eat, and what types are best??
In general you should aim to eat at least 35g of fibre a day. Natural, unprocessed sources are best, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and, in particular, those that contain prebiotic fibre – fibre that acts as food for good bacteria to help them to grow and produce these SCFAs.
One of the best sources of prebiotic fibre is yacon root. The type of prebiotic fibre found in yacon root has shown to rapidly increase the formation of SCFAs in the gut while promoting bacterial balance to further increase the production of SCFAs. Yacon can also be used as a natural substitute to sugar, making it a great option for those trying to support healthy blood sugar levels.
So – when thinking about your next meal, remember: having fibre in your diet is key for blood sugar control!
Now that you know the importance of fibre, why not make the change today and take control of your blood sugar! Not only will you feel better, but a high fibre diet will help with healthy weight management and look great too!