Maintaining stabilized blood sugar is critical for our bodies to function properly, and for overall body composition. A lot of people have been asking me the how and why of it, so nutritionist Rob Yang is here to break it all down for us!
Control Your Blood Sugar, Don’t Let It Control You
When you think of the heart, flatlining is a bad thing – you’re dead!
However, flatlining your blood sugar is critical for your health. If you mismanage your food, you’ll be on a roller coaster ride that you can’t get off of. Sounds exciting but it becomes a massive stress to your body that will impact your mood and hormones.
Let’s look at the impact of blood sugar from a mood perspective. Imagine a two year old that hasn’t eaten for some time. The toddler will be irritable and whiny until he or she eats. We are not much different than a 2 year old. Once blood sugar begins to drop, mood can be greatly affected.
Erratic blood sugar is an emergency state to the body. For this reason, the body has a very sophisticated response to prevent this from happening. As blood sugar drops lower, the adrenal glands begin to produce cortisol. It breaks down glycogen in the liver or muscle to bring up blood sugar to a homeostatic level. Normally, this occurs with someone with healthy adrenal glands. However, most women are in some kind of adrenal fatigue which complicates things. Stay with me.
In a state of adrenal fatigue, the adrenal glands do not have the capacity to produce enough cortisol. Instead, the adrenals produce adrenaline and/or norepinephrine at the inappropriate time. This stimulates your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and puts you in a state of “fight or flight”. When you’re in “fight or flight” you may have the following symptoms:
Shortness of breath
Wired but tired feeling
Nervous for no reason
Any of these symptoms sound familiar? The symptoms may vary from person to person but the etiology is the same. You’re on the roller coaster of blood sugar. Flatlining your blood sugar is your form of defense, kind of like a suit of armor against mood swings.
Do you remember the last time your blood sugar was low? You were hangry (hungry+angry). You couldn’t think straight. Little things irritated you. You become easily stressed. But when you flatline your blood sugar, your mood is steady and you won’t sweat the little stuff. I’ve seen many of these symptoms disappear when blood sugar is stabilized.
Now onto hormones.
As mentioned earlier, cortisol is released to help normalize blood sugar when you mismanage it. That’s the job of cortisol every once in a while. But if you do it too often you’re wasting cortisol and stealing ingredients needed to make your hormones. The reason for this is quite simple. It comes down to priorities.
Hormones such as progesterone and estrogen need to be in appropriate levels for a normal menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels should roughly peak around day 12-14 and progesterone should roughly peak around days 18-22.
Each month a woman’s body is preparing for pregnancy. If it doesn’t happen then hormone levels drop and menstruation occurs. This happens only once a month. Progesterone and estrogen production are dependent on a hormone called pregnenolone. It’s considered the “mother” of all hormones in the body. Pregnenolone can be converted to progesterone, cortisol, DHEA, estrogen or testosterone.
If you’re on the roller coaster of blood sugar, this is an emergency state to the body. When the body considers what is a priority, preventing low blood sugar is more important for survival then making a baby. Therefore, the production of progesterone and estrogen take a back seat.
The most common food scenarios causing blood sugar problems are:
Eating the wrong type of carbs
Eating too many carbs
A big trend I’m seeing today, is women following an intermittent fasting (IF) plan. There are several versions of IF but the most common one is 16/8. Sixteen hours of fasting and eight hours of eating. Typically, most women finish their last meal at eight pm then eat their first meal at noon. This may be an issue for women with chronic stress. Chronic stress may lead to adrenal issues. Adrenal issues and fasting is a recipe for hormone disaster.
The body thinks it’s starving since there’s no food coming in. The adrenal glands respond by producing cortisol to bring up blood sugar. This becomes a priority to the body to prevent it from crashing. The consequence is pregnenolone steal. The pregnenolone is stolen to produce cortisol instead of producing estrogen and progesterone.
PMS symptoms such as bloating, cramping, depressive thoughts, poor sleep, night sweats, decreased libido and acne breakout may worsen when following IF. Worse yet, some women lose their cycle completely.
The first step to controlling your blood sugar is eating breakfast. When you eat breakfast and the right type of breakfast, this stabilizes blood sugar in the afternoon. Researchers refer to this as the second meal phenomenon. When you eat breakfast and the right type of breakfast, you’ll have better blood sugar control after lunch. You’ll avoid the dreaded post lunch “food coma”.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you to eat breakfast. Now the type of breakfast is important. Your BFF for blood sugar control is PFF (protein, fats, fiber). Protein, fats and fiber have all been shown to flatline blood sugar. A PFF breakfast can be any of the following:
Smoked salmon with celery sticks
Turkey sausage with sauerkraut
Most people think that blood sugar control is only for a diabetic. If you struggle with anxiety, fatigue, mood swings and/or PMS, you may be in a state of adrenal fatigue. Whether you’re in adrenal fatigue or not, flatlining your blood sugar is the base and foundation for healing your adrenal glands and improving your mood and hormones.