Could sugar be wreaking havoc on your hormones? When we think of consuming a diet high in sugar and high-carb foods, weight gain is often the first thing that comes to mind. However, beyond basic metabolic health, these dietary choices can impact our hormones – playing a part in estrogen dominance, irregular menstrual cycles, and PMS.
Let's delve deeper into the intricacies of blood sugar balance to see how we can use the interaction between the glycemic response and hormones to our advantage to optimize hormonal health and "un-hate your hormones"!
Before we dive in, let's cover the basics:
- Hormones: are chemical messengers that relay information and control the physiological responses in the body. Hormones are responsible for your metabolism, menstrual cycle, reproduction, immune function, sleep-wake cycle, stress response and more.
- Blood sugar: glucose (a simple sugar) is the body's main source of energy. Glucose is converted into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which fuels your body's cells. Some glucose that is found in your bloodstream comes from our food, but the body can make glucose from glycogen stores through gluconeogenesis if needed. When in need of energy, your body will first use up any glucose available in the blood before turning to glycogen stores. Recent research has found that blood glucose (aka blood sugar) levels should optimally stay between 72 mg/ dL - 110 mg/ dL. This low glycemic variability creates less stress on the body and is optimal both short-term and long-term.
How Blood Sugar Impacts Hormonal Health
There are several ways that imbalanced blood sugar can impact your hormonal health:
- Insulin resistance: Chronically elevated blood sugar can lead to insulin resistance, which can disrupt the balance of other hormones in the body. Insulin is a hormone that facilitates the uptake of circulating blood glucose – distributing glucose to insulin-dependent cells and tissues. When the body becomes resistant to insulin, higher levels of circulating insulin in the blood can cause the production of excess androgens. As androgens are a precursor to estrogen, this can contribute to estrogen dominance and hormonal issues such as PCOS. In addition, insulin resistance can impact progesterone, leading to menstrual cycle irregularities and infertility. Testosterone can also be elevated in women due to insulin resistance. Elevated testosterone symptoms in women can include acne, hair growth, and menstrual cycle irregularities.
- Stress and cortisol: Chronic stress can also disrupt blood sugar balance and therefore impact hormone levels. Stress triggers the release of cortisol, which can cause blood sugar levels to rise and affect other hormones including thyroid hormone and sex hormones. A simple hack to reduce cortisol daily? Stop drinking your coffee on an empty stomach in the morning!
- Menopause: Hormonal changes during menopause can also affect blood sugar balance. As women age, our bodies become less sensitive to insulin, which can lead to higher blood sugar levels and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. It's important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and manage blood sugar levels during and after menopause for optimal hormonal health!
- Inflammation: Chronic inflammation, often associated with high blood sugar levels, can also impact estrogen levels. Inflammation alters estrogen metabolism in the body, leading to imbalances in hormone levels. This can have implications for reproductive health and overall well-being. By adopting an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, you can support healthy blood sugar and hormone levels.
Dietary and Lifestyle Changes to Support Healthy Blood Sugar & Hormones
Balanced blood sugar is vital for optimizing overall metabolic health – contributing to more energy, reduced sugar cravings, reduced inflammation, longevity, and balanced hormones.
Here are a few simple dietary and lifestyle changes that you can make to optimize blood sugar, support healthy hormones, and therefore feel your best!
- Get enough sleep - more sleep = less inflammation! Prioritize quality sleep as it helps reduce inflammation and supports hormonal health. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine by reading before bed and avoiding screen time. Herbal teas like chamomile can promote better sleep quality!
- Manage stress through exercise: Engage in regular physical activity that brings you joy. Exercise not only helps lower cortisol levels but also releases endorphins and boosts serotonin, improving mood and overall well-being.
- Eat a blood sugar-balanced diet: Incorporate healthy fats, fiber, and protein into your meals to support balanced blood sugar. Pairing carbohydrates with fiber, fat, or protein slows down their digestion, preventing glucose spikes and stabilizing blood sugar levels. A few of our favourite snack combinations for balanced blood sugar are:
- macadamia cookie dough bites
- high protein chocolate fruit dip
- high protein green smoothie (without protein powder)
- Learn 5 simple hacks to optimize blood sugar here, and stock up on blood sugar-balanced organic snacks here (they taste like a fudgy brownie and are good for your hormones - you can't go wrong)!
- Supplement with natural remedies - say goodbye to your mood swings, cravings, uneven skin, and low energy in the past with hormone-free, vegan, non-GMO natural supplements from Semaine. Formulated for real humans – PMS & Period Support will help you have the best period imaginable, while The Daily will provide stabilized mood and energy, and Menopause Essentials will help you to keep your cool – mentally and physically!
A Holistic Approach
By understanding the link between blood sugar balance and hormonal health, you can make informed choices to support your well-being. Balanced blood sugar levels play a crucial role in maintaining hormonal balance and overall metabolic health! Incorporating dietary and lifestyle changes can help optimize blood sugar levels, promote balanced hormones, and contribute to your overall health and vitality.
Jasmine Ouellette is a Registered Nutritional Consulting Practitioner, and Head of Marketing at nomz. With a background in Biology and Holistic Nutrition, Jasmine is passionate about sharing science-backed wellness information and healthy recipes to help elevate mental and physical health. Read more health and wellness articles written by Jasmine on the nomz blog!