In this article we cover why balancing blood sugar is so important for women’s hormone health, as well as 5 tips on how to do it.
It really is all about blood glucose!
Our blood glucose levels are intricately linked to our metabolic health, which means how well we use our food for energy.
When we have good metabolic health our cells are efficiently utilising the glucose in our food to make energy in the mitochondria.
However, chronic blood sugar dysregulation can lead to poor metabolic health and insulin resistance, which are risk factors for many health issues, such as diabetes, dementia, infertility, and PCOS.
Why is it important to balance our blood sugar?
Let’s look at 4 key reasons blood sugar balance is so vitally important.
1. Imbalanced blood sugar levels can lead to day-to-day symptoms
These symptoms can include:
- Fatigue and poor energy regulation or energy dips throughout the day (when we often need to eat to bring our energy back up again)
- Hunger and cravings
- Anxiety, low mood, and feeling ‘hangry’ (hungry + angry)
- Disrupted sleep and more.
2. Glucose spikes can cause our mitochondria to become overwhelmed, causing us to age faster
Glucose spikes or excess glucose in the blood can cause our mitochondria to become overwhelmed. This can lead to increased free radicals, oxidative stress, and inflammation.
Glucose spikes can also cause glycation (hello ageing!), which is where glucose sticks to proteins, DNA, or fats to form advanced glycation end products.
AGEs cause damage and dysfunction in the body and lead to many issues, from Alzheimer’s to cardiovascular disease to aging skin and wrinkles.
3. Poor blood sugar control can lead to insulin resistance
Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that stimulates the cells in the body to take up glucose.
When our blood sugar is chronically elevated and we have continuous glucose spikes over a long period of time, our cells can stop responding so efficiently to insulin. When the cells no longer respond to insulin, we have what is known as insulin resistance (chronically elevated levels of insulin).
Interestingly, our hormones oestrogen and progesterone are supportive of insulin, which means that when levels drop, our risk of insulin resistance increases.
This is important to note for women with missing periods, women on the pill and women going through perimenopause or in menopause.
4. Poor glucose control can affect our stress response
Poor glucose control (and insulin resistance) can disrupt our stress response, aka the HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis). This is the brain’s communication pathway to our adrenals which determines how we respond to stressors.
Stress doesn’t have to be a stressful external event. In fact, poor glucose control itself is a stress on the body and causes the release of cortisol from the adrenals (cortisol is a glucocorticoid which means it is involved in controlling blood glucose levels).
Cortisol dysregulation can in turn have an impact on many other systems in the body, especially our hormones. This is why we test cortisol and other adrenal hormones in our Advanced and Advanced+ Hormone Tests.
Browse our popular hormone tests
Or 3 payments of £83
BEST PACKAGE FOR
Heavy, painful periods
~ MOST POPULAR ~
Or 3 payments of £116
BEST PACKAGE FOR
Or 3 payments of £166
BEST PACKAGE FOR
CYCLICAL mood SYMPTOMS
So what can we do about it? It turns out... lots!
There is SO much we can do to support our blood sugar balance. Here are our top 4 tips.
1. Diet (of course!)
Firstly, prioritise protein at every meal, especially breakfast.
Eating a low-carb breakfast – for example, having eggs and veggies or a protein berry smoothie – can balance blood sugar, promote satiety, reduce hunger and cravings, and support energy levels for longer than a high-carb, low-protein breakfast like porridge or cereal.
Secondly, incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet. ACV can curb the glucose spike after a meal. Simply add 1 tbsp into a glass of water and sip before meals.
Thirdly, reduce simple carbs, sugar, and potentially even complex carbs (starchy vegetables and beans, for example) depending on your individual response to foods.
For example, if you’re in perimenopause or menopause you might need to reduce your overall carb intake because of your changing hormone levels. A great way to check your blood sugar levels and how you respond to different foods is by using a continuous glucose monitor.
2. Walking or moving after meals
10–15 minutes of movement, such as a short walk, after meals, can really help to curb blood sugar spikes during meals.
3. Focusing on sleep
Sleep is an often overlooked component of balanced blood sugar. Poor or disrupted sleep can have a big impact on how we handle our glucose the next day because our circadian rhythm (body clock) has a profound effect on glucose metabolism, as well as insulin sensitivity.
To support your circadian rhythm, firstly, go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Secondly, get outside into natural sunlight for at least 5 minutes as early as possible. Thirdly, dim the lights in the evening and switch off screens at least 2 hours before bed to promote melatonin release.
4. Reducing stress
Or, more specifically, support the HPA axis.
Our HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis is the communication between the brain and the adrenal glands (where our stress hormones are produced).
When our HPA axis is dysfunctional, we likely have chronically higher or dysregulated levels of stress hormones, including cortisol. Cortisol can have a profound impact on our blood sugar levels because that is, in fact, one of its jobs.
Breathwork and meditation, spending time in nature, journalling and vagal toning techniques such as humming and gargling can all be supportive of a robust HPA axis.
5. Eat within a 10-12 hour window
Modern life means food is immediately available all of the time. But the more often we eat and the more time we spend eating, the more we are relying purely on glucose for fuel.
Our bodies are designed to exist on two types of fuel – fat and glucose. When we are able to switch seamlessly between the two we say we are ‘metabolically’ flexible. By compressing the eating window, it increases the amount of time spent fasted overnight. And when we fast we are burning fat rather than glucose.
We don’t recommend more aggressive forms of fasting for women, but eating within a 10-12 hour window should increase insulin sensitivity without putting undue stress on the body.
- Blood sugar imbalance can lead to day-to-day symptoms such as low energy and anxiety.
- Blood sugar spikes can cause inflammation, oxidative stress and glycation, which can in turn drive disease and dysfunction.
- Blood sugar dysregulation can lead to insulin resistance, which is a risk factor for many diseases and health conditions, such as diabetes and PCOS.
- Blood sugar dysregulation is a stress on the body and can in turn cause dysregulation of the HPA axis.
- There is much we can do to support our blood sugar balance including eating a high protein breakfast, using ACV before meals, eating within a 10-12 hour window and more.