Unless you have a known issue with your blood sugar (like diabetes or PCOS), it may not be at the top of your list of things to worry about. But, while not so sexy, your blood sugar balance has a HUGE effect on your overall health, especially your hormones. If you’ve ever wondered how the two are connected, let’s break it down together.
Blood sugar and hormones
Addressing blood sugar balance is one of the first and most important steps in getting hormones back on track (second perhaps only to sleep and partly because the two are closely related; more on that later).
One way blood sugar and sex hormones are connected is through an often-ignored hormone, insulin. Insulin is the hormone that helps move sugar from floating around in the bloodstream to the inside of the cell where it is needed; insulin acts like the key to the cell.
When blood sugar rises, say after eating a sugary treat, insulin levels also have to rise to get more of this sugar into the cells. It’s okay if this happens every once in a while, but if your blood sugar is consistently skyrocketing, due to things like lots of sugary treats or carbs, high stress levels, or lack of sleep, your insulin can become elevated on a more permanent basis.
Now, how does this all affect our sex hormones? There are actually many ways these processes are connected (after all the body is a system so when one system is out of whack it eventually throws other systems out of whack too) but here are a few specific examples-
High insulin levels tell the ovaries to make more testosterone which can be a component in the development of things like PCOS or other symptoms of high testosterone, like acne and facial hair.
Another way high insulin levels affect hormones is through sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG acts like a taxi for our hormones and carries them around our bodies. Because high insulin levels contribute to low SHBG levels, there are not enough taxis around for estrogen. When this happens, estrogen is free to roam around the body and causes symptoms of estrogen dominance like sore breasts, fibroids, and heavy periods.
Ways to support blood sugar balance (& therefore, hormones)
- Get enough sleep! When we don’t get enough high-quality sleep, cortisol levels (our stress hormone) go haywire, and blood sugar balance becomes nearly impossible.
- Chill the F out. Stress is the enemy of blood sugar balance. When we stress, not only does cortisol increase causing a bump in blood sugar, but we have more cravings selectively for sugary foods.
- Start each morning with a high-protein breakfast (aim for 30-40 g). Sure, have the pastry too, but only after getting some eggs and sausage into your belly, please. This will prevent you from getting on the blood sugar rollercoaster at the start of the day, which is really really hard to get off of.
- Never eat naked carbs. ALWAYS pair carbs with protein, fat, and/or fiber (preferably all 3). Gonna eat a cookie for a snack? Make sure to have something like a hardboiled egg and a small carrot salad first.
- Try apple cider vinegar. Yup good ole’ ACV has demonstrated beneficial effects on post-meal blood sugar levels in multiple studies. The best way to consume it is 1 T in a glass of water up to 20 minutes before or after a meal. Can’t stomach drinking it? Include it in your salad dressing, and start the meal with a salad instead! The fiber from the veggies will also help to prevent a blood sugar spike, so it’s a double whammy.
- Go for a quick walk after indulging. Muscles are happy to guzzle up the extra sugar hanging out in your bloodstream. 5-10 minutes can make a big difference.
- Lose the guilt. Life is for enjoying; if there is a treat you just love, it’s absolutely okay to indulge (here’s the permission slip you didn’t need). Often the stress, guilt, and shame we put ourselves through afterward cause way more harm than the treat itself. Remember how we just talked about the effects of stress on blood sugar?
Bonus resource: Wanna learn a ton of other practical, easy-to-implement tools to balance blood sugar, like the ones above? You must read the book Glucose Revolution by biochemist Jessie Inchauspe. And no, it doesn’t just scare you into eating less sugar; the main focus is on teaching you tips to help you continue to eat the foods you love while decreasing their impact on your blood sugar.
Want to press the easy button and get a personalized plan to balance blood sugar? I’ve got your back- book a time to chat here.
Want to know more about the symptoms of blood sugar imbalance or what key lab tests to ask your provider for? Check out part 2 here.