In this podcast I’ll be exploring how Blood Sugar Affects Your Hormones:
- I’ll explain how hormones control your health
- I’ll talk about how blood sugar levels affect your health and control your hormones
- Finally, I’ll share a few holistic lifestyle tips on how to control your blood sugar levels and hormones naturally
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There is so much information old and new about health and wellness that it can be extremely frustrating sorting through what he said and what she said and what science says just to find yourself back where you began – confused. If you ever find your head spinning and your ears smoking and your brain melting and your bodymind just about to explode because of all the contradictory information out there I suggest you keep it simple by focusing on one thing and this one thing to focus on would be your hormones.
Now do you know how to make a hormone? Okay that’s a setup for a bad joke so I won’t go there, but do you know what a hormone is?
Hormones are signalling molecules that traverse and tell different areas of your bodymind what’s happening in your environment both internal and external and how to respond and behave to environmental changes. Your hormones are affected by your lifestyle, by what and how you think, feel, do, sleep, breathe, move, drink and eat. All these things affect your hormones and your hormones affect all these things. I’ve spoken about hormones before and how they affect your health back in episode 23.
I’ll focus on three major hormones in this episode with regards to the effects of blood glucose levels. Insulin, cortisol, and melatonin.
Insulin is a very critical and important hormone needed for growth and repair as its job is to help get nutrients out of your bloodstream and into your cells. Keep in mind that when insulin is high your body’s ability to mobilise and burn fat for fuel comes to a standstill. Insulin does not have a circadian or daily rhythm like cortisol and melatonin do. Insulin’s release is determined by what, when, and how you eat. The insulin receptor sites on your cells, which is the place where insulin docks when it connects to your cells, these insulin receptors do have a circadian rhythm of their own where in the morning these sites are insulin-sensitive, screaming out to insulin to come and give some nutrients. Whereas in the evening these receptor sites are insulin-resistant where they play it cool and ignore insulin most of the time even when insulin is trying to dock on and deliver nutrients.
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone and when you perceive stress or when your body is physically under stress this is when cortisol gets released and is free to roam around your bloodstream where it will suppress your immune system, digestion, and your ability to burn fat, because if you’re stressed the last thing your body is worried about is healing and breaking down your last meal as it wants to move as fast as it can to get away from the stressor. In order to do this cortisol increases blood glucose levels and metabolism to provide more energy to your muscles. Cortisol has a circadian rhythm where it rises sharply in the morning to get you up and moving and then its levels begin to fall throughout the day where in the evening there’s only a tiny amount of cortisol in your bloodstream allowing you to relax and to get to sleep.
Melatonin is known as the sleep hormone, but it’s also a potent powerful antioxidant and it plays a major role in reducing cancer risk. Melatonin has a circadian rhythm, but opposite to cortisol where it’s low in the morning and then rises in the evening making you want to go to sleep as it helps in the repair process of your bodymind while you sleep.
Everything in life ebbs and flows goes up and down in rhythms and waves and this constant flow back and forth keeps everything in harmony and balance. However, when this flow is blocked, disrupted, disturbed, destroyed, taken to extremes even, if this flow is out of time and beat with its usual rhythm then you get disharmony and life that is out of balance.
When these 3 hormones and remember you do have many many more, when these 3 hormones alone get out of rhythm, out of balance, out of their hormonal bliss point or range of proper function this causes illness, sickness, disease, chronic symptoms, and I swear I must say this almost every episode about malfunction and being out of balance, but when these hormones are out of rhythm it can lead to the full-blown expression of cancer.
Now there are many lifestyle factors that can cause your hormones to go haywire, but I’m going to stick to talking about blood sugar levels in this episode.
There is about 4-5 grams or about a teaspoon of glucose, a sugar molecule, running through your entire bloodstream at any one time. This amount of glucose is the optimum amount required to keep your bodymind moving. If your blood glucose level gets too low you become hypoglycaemic causing dizziness, light-headedness, confusion, hunger, anger, sleep issues, and the shakes. If your blood glucose level gets too high you become hyperglycaemic causing headaches, blurry vision, frequent urination, a jumpy mind where you can’t focus, and making you wired, but tired.
Chronically low blood glucose levels can lead to seizures and nervous system damage. Chronically high blood glucose levels have far worse damaging effects. Remember sugar can be very sticky and when you have too much glucose in your blood for too long this causes those glucose molecules to start sticking to cells that they come into contact with. This process is called glycation and these newly created molecules are called Advanced Glycated End products or AGEs and the name is so appropriate because when these AGEs build up your cells are no longer able to function and do their jobs so your bodymind begins to breakdown from the inside out causing you to age rapidly. Depending on your genetics and environmental factors that affect your epigenetics these AGEs may cause excessive damage to your skin, to your nervous system, your gut, your brain, your sight, your heart, your joints, to any organ in your body.
This is why it’s very important that your insulin hormone is working in sync with other hormones and is functioning as it should. Remember insulin takes the glucose out of your bloodstream to the insulin receptor sites on your cells.
Okay so how does blood glucose levels affect insulin, cortisol, and melatonin?
Insulin and cortisol maintain proper levels of glucose in your blood. After you’ve eaten a well balanced meal insulin levels will rise slowly and eventually it will move that small amount of sugar into your cells. Many hours after the meal your blood glucose levels should still be steady and if they do become low a little bit of cortisol will be released to help raise your blood glucose back to where it should be. Not too bad a situation.
Imagine the ocean with a massive big wave coming in and after that initial big wave it’s all smaller waves from thereon out and you’ll have a good idea on what this looks like and how it affects your body. The initial big rush and then a nice calming effect hours after.
Now let’s say you eat an unbalanced meal high in sugar and carbohydrates, and maybe even high in protein as well, with varying amounts of fat. This meal would cause a massive rise, a sudden surge in insulin as there is now excessive amounts of glucose running around in your bloodstream. This huge spike in insulin will rapidly remove the glucose from your bloodstream and move it to your cells. Now this sudden shunt of glucose into your cells will cause a huge rebound effect where now you don’t have enough glucose in your blood. In fact it’s far too low because you had a lot of insulin doing what was supposed to do.
So with this low blood sugar you begin to feel hungry and angry also known as hangry and you have to eat, but what do you eat? More sugars in the form of snack foods, maybe crackers, chips, dried fruit, chocolate, cookies, but this just causes another huge rise in blood glucose levels causing another spike in insulin and here you are riding the blood sugar roller coaster up and down throughout the day.
Using the ocean analogy again imagine massive waves crashing into the shore followed by the sea being sucked out just like you get when a tsunami’s about to hit. And then what do you know another big wave comes crashing in again and then the sea gets sucked out again. And those crashes are causing damage to your bodymind.
Now even if you didn’t eat and managed to stop yourself from reaching for food your bodymind would then turn to cortisol and release cortisol to help get more glucose in your blood. This spike in cortisol causes too much glucose to circulate so guess what happens next? Insulin has to come out to play and get that blood glucose level down again. So you’ve just bought without even realising it another ticket on the BS roller coaster – the blood sugar roller coaster that is.
With regards to melatonin this hormone is affected by cortisol and cortisol is affected by both blood sugar levels and perceived stress. If cortisol is chronically high due to constant low blood glucose levels and persistent perceived stress then this will disrupt the circadian rhythms of both cortisol and melatonin, meaning you won’t get enough cortisol to get you out of bed in the morning. You feel sluggish and tired causing you to reach for a sugary carb-loaded breakfast like cereal, bagels, muffins, toast, fruit juice, or even coffee. And guess where this high carb meal is going to take you. Back on the BS roller coaster.
Cortisol which should be low in the evening will now rise slightly in the evening making it very difficult for you to relax, to calm down and to fall asleep. Now that melatonin’s circadian rhythm has been disrupted by the disrupted circadian rhythm of cortisol you won’t get that rise in the evening and this will lead to poor quality sleep, less repair and growth while you sleep, and above all else this gives you an increased risk of expressing cancer as there won’t be enough melatonin released at night to suppress the growth of tumours and to cause cancerous cells to self-destruct.
As you can see blood glucose levels have a major impact on your hormones and I’ve only talked about 3 of your hormones. There are other hormones that your blood glucose levels can affect. Hormones that control your immune system, your inflammatory response, your growth and repair, your sexual and reproductive functions, and even your appetite.
So how do you control your blood glucose, your blood sugar level to remain steady and stable and to not spike too high or to drop too low? How do you get off the BS roller coaster?
Well the first thing you gotta’ do is to stop eating processed and refined carbohydrates. Insulin release is mostly determined by glucose levels in the blood, sugar levels, carbohydrate levels. Now it’s not about eating less carbs, it’s about eating the right kinds of carbs more of the fibrous carbs like non-starchy vegetables and less of the starchy refined foods like chips, milk chocolate, candy, pastries, and for some people even mashed potatoes and starchy vegetables can be an issue, but the worst refined food, fake pretend food-like product is carbonated sugar water also known as fizzy and soda drinks.
“Lower your intake of carbs and you’ll lower your insulin levels and the subsequent cortisol release as well.”
Thing is when you do lower one fuel source you need to replace this with another. The other fuel source being fats. So as you reduce your carb intake look to increase your animal and fruit fat consumption by pouring more fats on your salads and vegetables. Remember vegetables are the perfect vehicles to eat more fat. Stay away from the industrial seed oils. No canola, corn, soya, any of those vegetable fats, they are even worse than soda.
Another way to control blood glucose levels is to move your body. Insulin receptor sites on your cells are more ready to receive insulin in the morning than in the evening, but when you move your body (doesn’t matter if it’s high or low intensity, even a good 30 minute walk will achieve this), by moving your body you increase the sensitivity of the insulin receptors on your muscle cells, but not your fat cells. Meaning movement will allow your muscles to take in more glucose than usual out of your blood. This of course means you have to move your body before you eat. However, walking after eating will also increase the uptake of glucose by your cells reducing blood glucose levels post-meal. So take a nice easy stroll not a jog or a sprint, just a nice walk after you’ve eaten.
Final tip is to manage how you perceive stress in your life. Cortisol should only be used in case of emergency as in when your life is on the line. Not just because your spouse put your cup in the wrong cupboard or because someone called you a poopy-head. Meditate, breathe, go outside for a walk anytime you feel anxious or tense. Remember cortisol is there to get you moving. If you’re sitting down being stressed out at work, or at home, or in the car your blood glucose levels are going to spike and you won’t be moving your body to deal with it. So learn what makes you feel relaxed. Listen to episode 3 for more details about how to manage yourself when it comes to perceiving stress.
Some additional resources. I recommend reading The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living this is by Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney and also Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas. These two books delve more deeply into hormones, sugars, and how fats are your new friend in getting off the BS roller coaster.
Look I get it. Sugar is sweet and sugary foods taste oh so good, but these foods are not doing your bodymind, your hormones, and your health any favours.
“If you really feel the need to eat more sugar just stop for a second and remember that you are already sweet enough as it is.”
Links and Resources
- WGP 023: The Calorie Myth and Hormonal Harmony — The Truth to Reducing Body Fat
- WGP 003: How Stress is Making You Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
- The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living — Jeff Volek, Stephen Phinney
- Primal Body, Primal Mind — Nora Gedgaudas
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The post WGP 040: Riding the Blood Sugar Roller Coaster to Hormone Hell appeared first on Whole Guidance - Learn a New Way of Being.