How Blood Sugar Impacts Hormones
Do you often feel exhausted, irritable, light headed or shaky after meals? This could be because your blood sugar is swinging too high or too low in response to what you’re eating.
Unfortunately, so many of us are riding the blood sugar roller coaster — experiencing blood sugar spikes and crashes all day long — and our hormones are getting whiplash as a result.
And yes it can even happen to those eating real, whole foods!
This is important for us all to be aware of. After all, hormones are a big deal — they tell the body what to do and how to do it, and so we need to make sure they’re healthy and in balance.
Common symptoms of imbalanced blood sugar levels include:
Fatigue, especially after meals
Strong sugar cravings
Difficulty losing weight
Migrating aches and pains
Trouble falling or staying asleep
Feeling “hangry,” anxious, or jittery when going too long without eating
How does blood sugar impact hormones?
After we eat carbohydrates — whether from healthy sweet potato, apple, or processed cookie — the body breaks them down into glucose, or sugar, which is released into the bloodstream to be used by the body as a form of energy.
This is where insulin comes in. Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas that shuttles glucose into the cells to be used for energy. Insulin is important because it stops sugar from accumulating in your bloodstream — it regulates your blood sugar and keeps it within a healthy range.
This is all natural and normal. However, things go askew when there is too much sugar in the bloodstream, or we experience a blood sugar spike. In response (and in an attempt to bring things back into balance) the body releases excess insulin. The problem: insulin impacts the body beyond just blood sugar, including specific reproductive hormones.
Elevated and erratic blood sugar levels are also a significant source of stress on the body, and cause a spike in the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is also released by the body when blood sugar levels are low. This stress response and increase in cortisol has a domino effect on the body’s other hormones as well.
BLOOD SUGAR AND PROGESTERONE
Cortisol competes with progesterone — when cortisol goes up, progesterone can go down.
This can lead to estrogen dominance, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, heavy and painful periods, migraines, depression, anxiety, acne, and more.
BLOOD SUGAR AND TESTOSTERONE
Your ovaries are actually covered in insulin receptors. Elevated insulin can cause your ovaries to produce more testosterone.
High testosterone can interfere with ovulation and lead to PCOS, irregular periods, or amenorrhea (lack of menstruation).
Diet for Balancing Blood Sugar
Please know that there is no one perfect diet for balancing blood sugar.
We are all unique and our dietary needs that help to control our blood sugar are unique as well.
Plus, there are so many external factors that influence how your blood sugar responds to a diet. A few of them are:
Your workout regimen
Your stress level
The amount/quantity of sleep you get
Your digestive health
Your total daily activity
Whether or not you’re fighting an infection
All of these factors, PLUS genetics, can affect how your body responds to the foods you eat.
For one person, eating lower carb might help to stabilize their blood sugar. And for someone else, the lack of carbs is a stressor on their body that raises their cortisol levels and increases blood sugar.
So while I can’t give you one blanket recommendation for how to eat to best control blood sugar, I can teach you how to eat a well-balanced, blood sugar friendly meal that you’ll then be able to adjust based on your own needs.
The basis of a diet that balances blood sugar is one that is well-balanced itself. Your plate should contain all of the macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) and should have some non-starchy veggies thrown in there too.
Here’s a helpful graphic of what a blood sugar balancing meal should contain:
Other principles, along with balancing your plate includes:
Aim for ~12 hour fast overnight
Meals should always include a protein + healthy fat + carbs + veggies
Snacks should contain at least 2 out of those 3 categories
Avoid eating carbs by themselves
Avoid sugary beverages or artificial sweeteners
Opt for fiber-containing carbs over processed carbs
Lifestyle factors like the amount and type of exercise, stress, sleep also affect your blood sugar balance and needs to be taken into consideration.
But if you have implemented all of these practices and are still struggling to get your blood sugar swings under control, don’t worry.
Sometimes, a more targeted, individualized approach is necessary, and that’s where I come in!
We can work together to dig into your health history, run some important lab tests, and come up with a plan to get to the root of your imbalanced blood sugar and help you start feeling better!