Blood sugar is key to hormone health - Here's why and what you can do about it

Blood sugar is key to hormone health – Here’s why and what you can do about it

Let’s talk blood sugar and why it’s so important to think about, even if you think it’s fine…

Our blood sugar levels have influence over all our other hormones

When we think about blood sugar we often think it’s important for diabetes management, which it is. Maybe you also think about those with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).⁠

⁠Yet did you know that our blood sugar is a key hormone influencer? ⁠

Your blood sugar influences many things including:

  • feeling energetic⁠
  • feeling more resilient and minimizing stress⁠
  • mind clarity and focus and creativity⁠
  • mood (minimizing anxiety and depression)⁠
  • reducing cravings⁠
  • not depending on carbs or caffeine⁠
  • getting quality sleep & feeling rested⁠
  • optimizing sports performance⁠
  • building or maintaining muscle⁠
  • minimizing belly fat (extra blood sugar is often stored there)⁠
  • optimizing fertility⁠
  • optimizing your metabolism or thyroid⁠
  • healthy skin and hair⁠
  • minimizing PMS and menstrual symptoms⁠
  • managing PCOS or endometriosis⁠
  • taming hormonal symptoms in (peri)menopause⁠
  • regulating body temperature & minimizing night sweats or hot flashes⁠
  • and there’s more…⁠

Our blood sugar levels have influence over all our other hormones. ⁠

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⁠Wonky blood sugar levels add stress to our bucket

When we’re on a blood sugar roller coaster with lots of highs and lows or peaks and valleys, it influences our stress hormones, namely cortisol, and can cause us to feel less resilient, lethargic, moody, irritable, even hangry. ⁠That means that wonky blood sugar levels add stress to our bucket. ⁠ ⁠

⁠Our body does a great job of trying to keep balance. Yet we can also support it better so it doesn’t have to work so hard. The harder our body works, the harder it is for us to keep balance and find calm. ⁠

⁠Before I move on to how we can tell if our blood sugar could use fine-tuning or what we can do about it, allow me to geek out for a quick minute.

It could be helpful to understand what’s going on physiologically when we talk about blood sugar balance.

⁠Our body does a great job of trying to keep balance. Yet we can also support it better so it doesn’t have to work so hard. The harder our body works, the harder it is for us to keep balance and find calm. ⁠

Our body does a great job of trying to keep balance, but we can support it so it doesn’t have to work so hard.

Before I move on to how we can tell if our blood sugar could use fine-tuning or what we can do about it, allow me to geek out for a quick minute.

Our physiological background to blood sugar balance.

It could be helpful to understand what’s going on physiologically when we talk about blood sugar balance.

To start, there are a few key hormones involved. You may know some of them:

  • Insulin – Lowers blood sugar (aka glucose) and gets it into your cells.
  • Glucagon – Raises blood sugar when it goes too low.
  • Adrenaline or Cortisol – Raise blood sugar when you’re stressed or when it goes too low, which also stresses the body

When we eat, or when glucagon or adrenaline or cortisol boost our blood sugar, insulin’s job is to tuck it away in our cells for energy or storage.

In contrast when we don’t need that energy right now, insulin helps store it away for later, either as glycogen or as adipose tissue (aka fat).

Sometimes our body responds with too much insulin. This can happen for a number of reasons and the response will vary from person to person.

 Excess insulin can drop our blood sugar too low (causing hypoglycemia) or it can remain circulating in our blood, which affects other important hormones that require blood sugar to be lower for optimal function.

Other times our body becomes a little (or even a lot) insulin resistant, meaning the cells don’t respond well to insulin and instead of glucose getting into our cells for energy, it stays circulating in our blood or gets stored away. Furthermore, we feel tired or hungry because the energy is not getting into our cells.

 Less often, our body doesn’t produce enough insulin, as in diabetes type 1.

 When our blood sugar goes low because of insulin, not having eaten in a while, or from having unstable blood sugar levels, your body calls upon either glucagon, adrenaline or cortisol to pick it back up.

Adrenalin or cortisol can be helpful hormones, but they can also have adverse effects when we call upon them too often (think blood sugar roller coaster ). Your body might be receiving this as a stress response.

 “Insulin, glucagon and adrenalin or cortisol affect our blood sugar and can make your body percieve a stress response. “

If you’re trying to reduce your stress load, being on that blood sugar roller coaster could be working against your goals.

Even if you eat well and exercise (or avoid sugary foods or limit carbs), even if you think you know much about health, fitness and nutrition, unstable blood sugar levels can still be affecting you.

Being on a blood sugar roller coaster can feel like many things or just a few… because we’re all so wonderfully unique.⠀

It’s likely you’re riding the roller coaster even if you only have one or two of these side effects of the blood sugar roller coaster:

  • Fatigue or afternoon energy dips
  • Fatigue after meals
  • Needing something sweet after a meal
  • Craving carbs, caffeine or sweets for energy
  • Anxious or irritable when you go too long without food
  • Constant hunger
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Feeling hangry
  • Needing food for energy every few hours
  • Lack of focus or concentration

 Balanced blood sugar is about so much more than food, or sugar.

Blood sugar is key to hormone health - Here's why and what you can do about it

Moreover, if your blood sugar is often riding the coaster, your hormones are going to be impacted, even before you notice.

Any of these following things can affect your blood sugar:

  • Too much or too little estrogen

Estrogen can start to naturally decline as early as your 30s, but other factors such as exercise, nutrition, birth control, stress, environmental toxins and more affect estrogen. Supporting or replacing these hormones can help to have better control of blood sugar balance. 

  • Stress

It comes in so many packages and the more you have, the more likely your blood sugar balance is affected. Even things like fasting, saunas, HIIT, (hot) yoga, running, hot baths and keto diets can be stressful for certain women and negatively impact blood sugar levels, especially in combination with other stressors. It’s about the approach and the woman.⠀

  • Sleep

Lack of sleep, poor sleep, disrupted sleep, irregular sleep patterns, late nights… If you’re not getting adequate, quality sleep, your body’s blood sugar control can be impacted. Catching the circadian wave can often help keep it in better balance.⠀

  • Your menstruation cycle⠀

 Each week of the cycle your hormones will be at different levels and this variation will impact your balance that week. Living, exercising and eating by your cycle can help keep things in better balance. If you’re without a period, then considering how that impacts blood sugar can help too.⠀

In conclusion your blood sugar influences many things. Therefore crazy blood sugar has many negative side effects. Since even healthy people can ride the blood sugar roller coaster, it’s important to pay attention to it. If you need some solutions to get you started you can find them here.

How about you? Have you ever ridden the blood sugar roller coaster? I would love to hear from you!

Citations:

Schwarz PEH, Timpel P, Harst L, Greaves CJ, Ali MK, Lambert J, Weber MB, Almedawar MM, Morawietz H. Blood Sugar Regulation for Cardiovascular Health Promotion and Disease Prevention: JACC Health Promotion Series. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018 Oct 9;72(15):1829-1844. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2018.07.081. PMID: 30286928; PMCID: PMC6709577.

Vanhorebeek I, Gunst J, Van den Berghe G. Critical Care Management of Stress-Induced Hyperglycemia. Curr Diab Rep. 2018 Feb 26;18(4):17. doi: 10.1007/s11892-018-0988-2. PMID: 29479638

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, manage, or treat disease or serious conditions. Always check with your doctor before making any changes. It’s important to consult a well-informed health practitioner for personal advice about your situation before relying on general information we’re all wonderfully unique.

Laurie Villarreal, FNLP, CHWC, FNS, LMC, CPT, RYT

The Blood Sugar Maven, functional nutritionist and fitness expert helping active, driven women, like you, rebalance your blood sugar and hormones so you can get back to feeling, performing (heck, even looking!) your best when nothing else has worked. I help you go from feeling tired, stuck and overwhelmed to playing bigger (and brighter!) than you’ve ever imagined, so you can carry on living your best life and chasing your dreams — with much more joy and ease.

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