How sweet and innocent that doughnut may seem, but behind its tantalizing taste lies a potential culprit for hormonal havoc. It’s no secret that excessive sugar intake can lead to weight gain and dental issues, but its effects on hormonal balance are often neglected.
Sugar consumption triggers a rapid spike in insulin levels, which can throw the delicate balance of hormones out of whack. Elevated insulin can disrupt the production of other hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, leading to a wide array of health problems.
If you find yourself constantly craving sugary treats, it could be a sign that your hormones are struggling to stay in harmony. Studies suggest that sugar not only fuels cravings but can also trigger mood swings, irritability, and fatigue – all symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
Bringing awareness to the detrimental impact of sugar on hormonal health is crucial for understanding the underlying causes of various health issues. So, before you indulge in that tempting dessert, consider how it may be affecting your hormones – it might just be the key to restoring balance in your body.
I often meet women who tell me their hormones are off and they wonder if they need some kind of medication, like the pill or HRT (if they’re over 40). But my starting point may shock you. Remember, the symptom is not the problem, it’s the result of the problem. That means we have to look further upstream!
So you may think that sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone require a treatment that is targeted at those hormones, if they’re low or out of balance. But believe it or not, one of the very first places we can begin to correct imbalances is by balancing blood sugar!
How do you know if your blood sugar is out of balance? You can feel:
- Anxious, irritable or hangry
- Dizzy, shaky or lightheaded
- Tired, or foggy
- Nauseated, sweaty, racing heart
- Cravings and frequently hungry
- PMS, PCOS or other hormonal issues
So you see, blood sugar isn’t just about your waist line or Type 2 Diabetes – which by the way has very little to do with your genes!! The foods that can create imbalances are:
- Seed and Vegetable Oils
- Gluten Goods (Bagels, Pastries, Donuts, Pizza, Sandwiches, Pasta)
- Your Starbucks Latte, Soda, Gatorade
- Packaged Snacks and Processed foods
When you consume the above foods, your body produces insulin. Sugar, in its various forms, has become a ubiquitous ingredient in today’s modern diet. Excessive sugar consumption can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones in our bodies.
Hormones are chemical messengers that regulate various bodily functions, including metabolism, growth, reproduction, and mood control.
The endocrine system, responsible for hormone production, consists of glands such as the pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, ovaries, and testes. These glands release hormones into the bloodstream, where they travel to target tissues or organs to exert their effects.
Hormonal balance is crucial for optimal health. When your hormones are in harmony, you experience regular menstrual cycles, stable moods, healthy weight management, and overall vitality. However, when this delicate balance is disrupted, it can lead to a range of symptoms and health issues.
Elevated levels of insulin drives elevated testosterone! Yes, women make testosterone too! In women, testosterone is produced in the ovaries. This elevated testosterone can throw the other sex hormones out of balance!
Excess insulin inhibits the liver from producing sex hormone–binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG binds testosterone, keeping it in check. If you’re not producing enough SHBG that means your testosterone is not bound, and is free. This can throw the other sex hormones out of balance!
This can lead to conditions like PCOS, which everyone thinks is purely about hormones. This is just ONE example of a hormonal issue that is being driven by blood sugar imbalances. Women going through menopause can also be struggling with symptoms that can be made better by beginning with blood sugar regulation! Here’s how sugar affects other key hormones:
1. Insulin: As mentioned earlier, sugar consumption triggers a rapid spike in insulin levels. Elevated insulin can disrupt the production of other hormones, leading to imbalances throughout the body.
2. Cortisol: Chronic sugar consumption can contribute to elevated cortisol levels, commonly known as the stress hormone. Increased cortisol levels can lead to weight gain, particularly in the abdominal area, and disrupt sleep patterns.
3. Estrogen: Excessive sugar intake can disrupt estrogen levels, leading to irregular menstrual cycles, fertility issues, and increased risk of conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis.
4. Testosterone: Sugar consumption can also impact testosterone levels, particularly in women. Low testosterone levels can result in decreased libido, mood swings, and reduced muscle mass.
So what’s the solution?
- For a start, be mindful of your sugar intake, keeping this at the equivalent of a maximum 6tsps a day or 24g.
- Eat your food by starting with non-starchy vegetables, followed by protein, finally followed by starchier vegetables. Why? Because the fiber and protein will moderate the blood glucose spike from the starchier vegetables! The slower the conversion of glucose to glycogen, the better off you’ll be!
- Eat a combo of Protein, Fat (healthy) and Fiber with every meal. You’ll notice you won’t need to snack when you get this balance right.
- Get sleep by 10pm until 6am if possible, as a sleep cycle that is out of sync with the natural circadian rhythm can disrupt blood sugar!
- Minimize stress. Just like a disrupted sleep pattern is a stress on the body and a blood sugar disruptor, exposure to stressful situations and people acts in the same way!
What are the caveats?
While the above is good general advice for health, there are one or two things that can skew blood sugar, EVEN if you’re eating the right things, and you’re sleeping well.
- Believe it or not, poor levels of good gut bacteria, namely akkermansia, can indicate a poor metabolism.
- Mold exposure (often accompanied by candida) can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels and lead to cravings!
This means some investigative work is required to determine which of these requires attention. If you’ve been wondering about why you are still feeling tired, or you’re often hangry, or have weird cycles, even though you’re eating well, then I would love to help.
You can get on my calendar here, and we’ll figure out the best way for you to get your energy back, so you can then get back to the things you’re meant to be doing!
If you’re not ready for that yet, then why not consider a Continuous Glucose Monitor? I like the one from THEIA as it’s affordable and you don’t have to commit to wearing it for 3 months, you can do one month and get a baseline!