High blood sugar isn’t just a concern for diabetics; emerging research suggests that it also has significant health implications for people with Lyme disease. In this research update, I’ll discuss the adverse effects of high blood sugar on Lyme disease outcomes and offer evidence-based recommendations for improving blood sugar control so that you can support your body in its recovery from Lyme.
Hyperglycemia impairs the immune response to Borrelia burgdorferi
A preclinical study published in PLoS One recently found that high blood sugar, referred to as “hyperglycemia” in the medical community, impairs the function of neutrophils, mediators that play a central role in the immune response to the Lyme pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi. Reduced neutrophil activity allows for widespread colonization of body tissues, including the brain and joints, by B. burgdorferi and reduces clearance of the bacteria from the body. These findings indicate that maintenance of blood sugar within a healthy range should be an essential part of any Lyme disease treatment protocol.
Testing blood sugar
How can you determine if your blood sugar is within a healthy range? The two simplest biomarkers you can look at are fasting blood sugar (FBG) and hemoglobin A1c. These are routine tests I often order for clients in my clinical nutrition practice. For fasting blood sugar, measurements in the 80’s are best and should ultimately be your goal. However, I always like to compare fasting blood sugar measurements with fasting insulin, triglycerides, and hemoglobin A1c to get a more complete picture.
If you are interested in regularly testing your fasting blood glucose at home, I recommend buying the Keto Mojo blood glucose and ketone meter. I’ll write more about the implications of ketosis in Lyme disease in a future post.
Strategies to improve blood sugar control
Ditch refined carbohydrates
Eliminating refined carbohydrates from your diet is the first step in improving your blood sugar control because the consumption of refined carbs causes dramatic spikes and dips in blood glucose.
The next step is to find the level of carbohydrate intake that works best for you. For my clients with Lyme, I generally recommend a carbohydrate intake equivalent to 15-20 percent of total calories; this level supports hormonal balance without providing too much glucose, which can promote the growth of opportunistic/pathogenic gut bacteria. Protein and fat intakes can also be customized to improve your blood sugar response; consuming dietary carbohydrates with protein and fats attenuates the postprandial blood sugar response, meaning you’ll experience less dramatic spikes in blood sugar after meals.
Foods that support healthy blood sugar
Once optimal carb, protein, and fat intakes have been determined, I recommend incorporating specific foods that support healthy blood sugar control, including:
Apple cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar (1)
Broccoli sprouts (4)
Olive oil (6)
Natural honey (7)
Resistant starch (10) I recommend obtaining resistant starch from green banana flour and tigernuts.
Regular periods of fasting significantly improve blood sugar control by reducing oxidative stress and enhancing metabolic flexibility, the body’s ability to switch between using glucose and fatty acids for fuel. (5) I recommend that all of my clients fast for at least 12 hours overnight, from dinner until breakfast the next day; this fasting period allows the body to enter “rest and repair” mode and increases autophagy, the process by which cells clean out damaged, dysfunctional components. Autophagy has recently been found to support immune function in Lyme disease. (6)
Nutritional supplements for blood sugar control
Last but not least, consider incorporating supplements that support blood sugar control. A few of my favorites are alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), N-acetylcysteine (NAC), GTF chromium, and berberine. ALA and NAC offer the additional benefits of boosting the body’s production of glutathione, an antioxidant essential in the battle against B. burgdorferi. (7, 8) In addition to lowering blood sugar via mechanisms similar to metformin, a popular antidiabetic drug, berberine also supports a healthy gut microbiota and activates AMPK, a key anti-inflammatory molecular pathway that is also activated by fasting.