Blood sugar regulation is an interesting beast. Lots of people are interested in this topic and for many different reasons!
For our purposes, we’re going to stick to the most pertinent blood sugar issues that we see in our ladies…so be aware that this isn’t intended to be a completely comprehensive summary of blood sugar regulation.
Hormones and Blood Sugar
Here’s the skinny on blood sugar regulation within the setting of the cycle: the hormonal system and the blood sugar regulation system are both part of the larger endocrine system. This means that any hormonal abnormalities can impact blood sugar regulation. And any blood sugar regulation issues can throw off healthy hormone balance.
Sugar and hormones are intimately tied!
Symptoms of Poor Sugar Regulation
There are several scenarios that make our ears perk up more to the presence of poor blood sugar regulation in a young, otherwise healthy female:
- Getting “hangry” easily or being thirsty all the time
- Sleep problems, especially issues with staying asleep
- Feeling tired in the morning but wired in the evening (“tired but wired”)
- Autoimmune diseases
- High processed sugar or alcohol intake
- Infertility of any cause
- Slow recovery from physical activity
- Frequent infections
The presence of these symptoms isn’t a sure thing that blood sugar regulation is messed up. But they will make us stop and think…and ask more questions.
How Sugar Problems Cause Symptoms
When sugar in the blood can’t be absorbed by the cells of the body for energy use, the organs, tissues, and systems of the bodies can’t run very efficiently. Additionally, there are hundreds of other compounds that get activated by sugar going to the cells of the body.
If this doesn’t occur, it usually causes a worsening of the blood sugar balance over all. One notable example of this is when the liver doesn’t release stored glucose in times of low calorie intake…that’s why getting “hangry” is on the our list of symptoms! Another example of this that cells can’t repair and replace energy stores after physical activity without proper blood sugar balance which is why slow recovery after working out is on our list as well.
Regardless of whether the blood sugar regulation problems came first or if they were set off by another hormonal imbalance, elevated blood sugar levels is a major source of STRESS on the body. Normally we all think of stress in the mean-boss-young-kids kind of way but to the body, poor blood sugar regulation is very stressful! And it will kick off the entire inflammatory system as a result.
As a source of stress and inflammation, poor blood sugar regulation can cause or worsen fertility in young females. As the ovaries get the message that the cells of the body aren’t getting the energy they need to thrive, the entire sex hormone balance gets downregulated. The body is smart enough not to add making a baby on top of other huge sources of stress already going on!
Blood Sugar Testing and Food Approaches
Our very favorite blood sugar regulation tool is an inexpensive blood glucose monitor from Amazon. Because each person is incredibly unique in their blood sugar response to foods, it’s the very best way to figure out what foods work best for you at various times of day. Chris Kresser has some great articles on this.
As a general rule, however, we aim to balance fats, complex carbs, and proteins at every meal AND snack. If you’re not doing this already, this is the very first thing we have our ladies do! It’s amazing how well this works and how few women actually eat this way.
Another common mistake we see women make is going way too low carb. ESPECIALLY if one of our ladies is doing everything right and not losing any weight despite being overweight, we have them go back up to at least 150 grams of complex carbs a day.
Many ladies fight us on this one because they think they’ll gain a whole bunch of weight. But in conjunction with other hormone balancing techniques, we’ve only ever heard women say that they wished they had started doing this way earlier. Not only is a more sane way to live, it’s a lot easier on the body.
Real Life Example
When I (Alex) ran my DUTCH test this past time, I was concerned that some of my blood sugar regulation markers were higher than I would like. Because I have a horrible family history of type 1 and 2 diabetes, I wanted to make sure that I got on top of it pronto. I added in a combination of berberine and ALA at strategic times of the month and added in inositol at other times.
Because I know that my high-stress hospital job impacts my cortisol levels–which goes on to impact my blood sugar regulation–I doubled down on my meditation and breathwork. It’s made a huge difference in how I react to the stressors in my life, even though these stressors haven’t actually changed in reality. The more I do this type of work, the easier I find it to keep my blood sugar levels steady throughout the day.
Up Next in the Series
The next article in the series is all about low ovarian reserve. See you soon for that!