Blood Sugar and Hormones
Updated: Sep 29, 2022
Hormone imbalances are so common!! Women who go to the doctor for issues with their menstrual cycle, acne or other issues are immediately thrown on “The Pill” without further investigation. But The Pill is only masking your symptoms.
Regulating your blood sugar is one of the most important things you can do to hack your hormones.
Having balanced blood sugar is not only foundational to hormones but also to our neurotransmitters - those chemicals that our brain produces that make us feel happy, sad, energized or calm and tired. If your blood sugar is all over the place then we might not be making the right amounts of serotonin and GABA to keep up happy and calm. Add hormone imbalance into the picture and you can see how mood swings can become really common.
Remember that insulin is the hormone that is produced by the pancreas to help bring blood sugar into your cells. Chronically elevated insulin can lead to higher levels of estrogen. Estrogen dominance is so common and can show up as weight gain around the hips and thighs, water retention, mood swings, and painful periods.
Blood sugar issues can come from a lot of different sources, one of the most obvious ones is under-eating. Ladies, we need to be eating healthy amounts of hormone loving fat and protein to make sure that our blood sugar is stable. If we are skipping meals all of the time and then reaching for carbohydrate laden, low calorie foods then we are setting ourselves up for swings in blood sugar that could be messing with our hormones.
Let’s get into the biochemsitry real quick. Let's take Missy for example, Missy has estrogen dominance and she is on day 19 of her cycle.
I stress day 19 because days 19-21 are the best days to measure progesterone. Progesterone values should be peaking around this time in your cycle. (Remember day 1= first day of bleeding/ the first day of your period).
Progesterone is not as high as it should be so Missy is anxious and irritable and she didn't have breakfast that morning. She is HANGRY. She reaches for an acai bowl and she gets a surge of blood sugar from all of the sugar.
Rant on Acai Bowls: These “health” foods can have 600 calories depending on who makes them and upwards of 75 g of sugar!!!! That is a dessert folks, not a health food.
Back to Missy though- Pos acai bowl, she feels great for an hour or so (she is on a sugar high). Then insulin takes over and shuttles all of the sugar into the cells to protect our body from high blood sugar.
Then her blood sugar plummets. And cortisol, a stress hormone, is released to help raise blood sugar back to a good level. And she is left feeling more anxious than she did before the smoothie, so she reaches for a bagel… and the loop continues.
Chronically elevated cortisol levels steals the precursor hormone away from progesterone so that progesterone levels decline even more!!! Missy is in trouble. And if this loop continues she may also be increasing her risk for developing PCOS because of the constant insulin surges which will eventually create insulin resistance which is at the root of PCOS.
When we think of insulin resistance we usually think of people that are overweight. But this is not always the case! Skinny fat is so common, especially in women. Skinny fat is when you have a normal body weight but your body composition is higher in fat than in muscle. Having more muscle helps you shuttle blood sugars into your cells even without the help of insulin which can be really protective in preventing insulin resistance.
And in Missy’s case, if we have high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, we can also see insulin resistance develop even in individuals with normal body composition. Cortisol and adrenaline both help our body increase our blood sugar levels so we have immediate energy to run from a tiger. Unfortunately these days, the tiger is more like our boss or our kids, and we aren’t running anywhere to expend the extra energy we have freed up.
So how do we balance our blood sugar? It starts in the kitchen. And it doesn’t have to be complicated! Click here to sign up for a complimentary copy of the MODRN Food Strategy Guide. The big takeaways to balance your blood sugar:
Consume enough protein - this only needs to be 0.5- 0.8 g / pound of body weight if your activity level is at a moderate amount.
Aim for 9 cups of vegetables per day! Fiber helps stabilize blood sugar and slows the absorption of sugars across the intestinal lining so blood sugar rises slowly.
Avoid processed foods and refined sugars. No one needs soda or added sugar! Not even kids (especially not kids!)
Eat enough fat! Healthy fats like olive oil, ghee, avocados, nuts and seeds - these all help stabilize our blood sugar and prevent spikes that can mess with our mood and hormones.
Drink ½ your body weight in ounces of water per day. Drinking enough water and staying hydrated can help curb cravings and prevent you from reaching for high sugar snacks.
If you think blood sugar swings could be contributing to your hormonal imbalance then make sure to schedule a complimentary phone consult with Dr. Mary HERE.