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How Blood Sugar Affects Your Hormones


Many of us are now aware that blood sugar is tied to things like cravings, hunger and energy, but did you know that a blood sugar imbalance can play havoc with your hormones, which can have knock-on effects on your overall health?


Hormones control many of the body's functions and two of the most important ones, insulin and cortisol, are affected by blood sugar levels. This article will take a look at this relationship and show why it makes sense to get your blood sugar under control today.

Insulin

When your blood sugar spikes as a result of sugary foods, your body releases more insulin in an attempt to help remove the glucose out of the bloodstream. Insulin is a powerful top tier hormone (think hormone hierarchy) that affects multiple other hormones further down the chain. When insulin is not stable, it has a downstream effect on lower-tier hormones, such as oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. For this reason, it’s nearly impossible for your hormones to be balanced while blood sugar is spiking. And yes, this is true for men as well who may experience low testosterone and low sex drive!

Cortisol

Cortisol is often referred to as one of the stress hormones, but as with most hormones it actually plays many roles throughout the body, as well as activating the stress response. One such role is to raise blood sugar. Overshooting your carb tolerance will raise blood sugar too quickly and cause insulin levels to rise. Within an hour or so, you will likely crash and crave even more carbs or sugar. Until blood sugar levels stabilise, cortisol will continue to spike. This causes a tug of war between insulin and cortisol as insulin’s job is to lower blood sugar and cortisol’s job is to raise it! How does this affect your other hormones? High cortisol will lead to low progesterone in women and low testosterone in men because cortisol competes for receptors with other hormones and cortisol will ALWAYS win. In addition, cortisol as a steroid hormone is made from some of the same precursors as the other steroid hormones. Stress hormones, being our survival hormones, are always prioritised, often at the expense of our sex hormones. This is one of the very reasons why a stressed couple struggle to have a baby yet when they go away and relax, pregnancy is the result.


The impact on sleep

Raised blood sugar in the evening from dinner, a late night snack or alcohol or a spike in cortisol from low blood sugar can make it difficult to fall asleep. In this scenario you can find yourself struggling for hours trying to fall asleep. Everyone is different and some people may have the ability to sleep well despite eating and drinking late but if you sleep poorly, this could be one explanation. On the flip side, if blood sugar is low and you don’t have adequate cortisol reserves or a good cortisol response to restore balance, you may wake up in the middle of the night. The reason for this is the body's need to get glucose into the bloodstream so it wakes you up, hoping you will have a light snack to replenish blood glucose levels. Although many think the body does not require energy whilst asleep this is because they are thinking of energy in terms of exercising, functioning properly throughout the day etc. However, when you think of energy as fuel necessary for all functions taking place in the body, this includes the many detoxification, cell regeneration and rejuvenation processes taking place whilst we sleep. So although we need less fuel whilst asleep, our body's cannot funtion on no or low fuel. Getting blood sugar balance right for the night ensures a much better quantity and quality of sleep.

What can you do?

The main thing you can do is start looking for ways to cut sugar (including sugar substitutes) out of your life. Eating a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates is one of the sure ways of causing blood sugar levels to spike and crash throughout the day, adversely affecting overall hormonal balance. I have numerous free resources here on the website that can help you make the break from sugar. Take a look at the wealth of blood sugar balancing tips on the website and browse some of the low-sugar recipes on my recipes page. If you feel that you would benefit from some personalised help, please get in touch to arrange a discovery call where we can discuss how to get your hormones back into sync.




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