This guest blog post was written by Megan Tantillo BSN, RN.
Disclaimer: the information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not designed to replace individualized recommendations from a practitioner. Always check with your doctor before adding supplements or making changes to your treatment plan.
Blood sugar regulation is perhaps the most underrated piece of the hormonal balance puzzle. Often overlooked, mismanaged blood sugar can very well be the underlying root cause of your hormonal problems. The following post will talk about the hormones involved in blood sugar regulation, outline the signs of dysregulation, and provide dietary guidelines for balancing blood sugar.
Hormone Helpers: Insulin & Glucagon
In order to understand why blood sugar regulation is crucial to balanced hormones and symptom-free periods, let’s first take a look at the hormones involved: INSULIN and GLUCAGON.
When you eat a meal, your body breaks it down to simple sugars, primarily glucose. Some glucose is used directly by the brain, but the rest is managed by insulin. Insulin is a storage hormone released by the pancreas, and its job is it to shuttle glucose from the blood into the cells (to be used as energy for tasks like growth, repair, and movement). Some of the leftover glucose goes to the liver where it is converted and stored as glycogen. The rest is stored as fat.
If you wait too long between meals or didn’t eat enough to begin with, your blood sugar dips and the pancreas responds with the hormone glucagon. Glucagon signals the liver to convert stored glycogen back to glucose and release it into the bloodstream to bring your blood sugar back up. This feedback system ensures your brain, heart and muscles get the fuel they need to do their jobs.
Blood Sugar Imbalance & the Stress Response
Your body is SMART. It has this innate system of checks and balances to keep your blood sugar regulated, however, extreme highs and lows are perceived by your body as STRESS.
In response to this stress, your body (more specifically, your adrenal glands) pump out stress hormones, primarily cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol’s main job is to increase glucose in the blood to provide the energy you need to keep you safe.
It also raises blood pressure, lowers immune function, shuts down GI function, and fertility – essentially all functions in the body unnecessary for immediate survival shut down. This is because you need all available energy to fight or flee from the “perceived threat”. Your body doesn’t know the difference between a predator, a monster boss, or imbalanced blood sugar – it is all perceived as stress.
If you’re constantly under stress, or putting your body under stress by not actively balancing your blood sugar, your levels of glucose, insulin and cortisol will be constantly elevated. Overtime this can lead to insulin resistance, estrogen dominance, PCOS, and a slew of other hormonal issues as a result.
I advise my clients to attempt to balance their blood sugar like their lives, and their hormones, depend on it...because they do!
Signs of Blood Sugar Dysregulation
- You are cold and clammy between meals.
- You crave carbohydrates or sweets.
- You become irritable, “hangry”, or lightheaded if you miss a meal.
- You are experiencing weight loss resistance or it is difficult for you to lose weight.
- You experience excessive thirst or frequent urination.
- You have low sex drive.
- You are easily fatigued.
- You struggle with anxiety, depression, and/or panic attacks.
- You have been diagnosed with PMS, PCOS, or other hormonal disturbances.
- Adapt a Whole Foods, Plant Based Diet Mindset. Diet should not be dogmatic or cause anxiety. Eat well and enjoy your life!
- Start your Day with a Daily Detox Smoothie. Start your day hydrated with all the vitamins + nutrients you need, including 26 grams of protein, 10 grams of fiber, and quality fat — elongating your blood sugar curve, keeping you full and satisfied.
- Focus on Vegetables. Especially greens...the more, the better!
- Eat Quality Meats. Some options are grass-fed beef, organic chicken and wild caught fish.
- Eat at Least 1-2 TBSP of Quality Fats at Each Meal. These will keep you full and satisfied. Quality fats and cholesterol are the scaffolding of hormones.
- Eat at Least 25 Grams of Fiber Each Day. Start with at least 10 grams at breakfast.
- Support Digestion. Have 1-2 Tbsp of fermented vegetables with each meal.
- Snack Smart. Snack on nuts, seeds, hard boiled eggs, or crudités with hummus.
- Avoid Inflammatory Foods. Stay away from sugar, soy, gluten and dairy.
- Start Each Meal with Gratitude and Mindfulness. Check-in with yourself before you eat. Take 3 deep breaths. Remember, digestion relies on parasympathetic nervous system activation.
Megan is the nurse-founder of Holistic Health Code, a virtual health clinic providing accessible and evidence-based holistic care. Passionate about finding root causes, Megan specializes in women's health and natural hormone solutions. Her ultimate mission is to help women overcome PMS and reclaim their health and vitality.
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