This is the second post in a Hormone-Focused Series from Nutritional Therapy Practitioner Brynn D’Avello. I suggest reading the first post The First Step to Happy Hormones and then diving right into this one where we tackle Blood Sugar and Your Hormones!
How Blood Sugar Imbalance Affects Your Hormones
The number one principle of the Nutritional Therapy paradigm is, “Always address the foundations first.” So what exactly are The Foundations? The first and most important is a properly prepared, nutrient-dense diet. The other four foundations are digestion, blood sugar balance, fatty acid balance, mineral balance and hydration. When one or more foundations are weakened it leads to what we call consequences, which are usually the symptoms that clients are coming to us, or doctors, to help resolve. Issues like hormone imbalances, weak immune systems, and sluggish detoxification pathways. As Nutritional Therapy Practitioners we do not treat disease. It is our job to strengthen the weaknesses and remove the stressors. This will allow the body to correct the imbalance and bring optimal wellness back.
With hormone balance each of the foundations plays a role, but any attempt to normalize hormonal imbalance is futile until blood sugar issues are addressed. No ifs, ands or buts. In the last post about Happy Hormones we talked about how stress affects the adrenals and hormone production, and how these two glands handle our stress response, but that’s not their only job. In order to maintain proper blood sugar balance it takes the adrenals, the liver, and the pancreas working together in harmony to provide steady energy for the body. Chronic stress leads to elevated cortisol, which exhausts the adrenals. When the cortisol levels are elevated insulin receptors on cells do not respond adequately to insulin. This puts a strain on the pancreas to secrete more insulin, which leads to more stress on the adrenals, higher insulin levels and if this vicious cycle continues… to insulin resistance and possibly even diabetes. A daily roller coaster with dangerous consequences.
Our body’s innate intelligence constantly monitors the amount of glucose in our bloodstream to maintain balance. Too much or too little triggers the release of hormones to return levels to normal. A constant slow stream of glucose from unrefined, whole foods sources, entering into the blood stream in a controlled manner – this is the ultimate goal. Not the large dumps of sugar we see in our food culture. We are NOT designed to run on just carbohydrates. The body is designed to use a balance of unrefined carbohydrates (think vegetables, fruits and some whole, soaked/sprouted grains if you can tolerate them), along with good fats and quality proteins as the primary sources of fuel. Carbohydrates act like kindling in a fire; they are quick burning and work for a short time to get us bursts of energy, as needed. Inevitably we will need more, to keep the fire going for the long haul. When we exclusively are burning carbs/glucose we create a roller coaster with our blood sugar, with the highest or highs and the lowest of lows aka crashes or bonks! Healthy fats and proteins are the logs on the fire, providing a more sustained source of longer lasting, balanced energy, along with providing the body the necessary precursors to create healthy hormones.
Why Are We Talking About Fat?
The reason I write this post, is that even though, for so many us, we have woke to this knowledge and have worked hard to reframe our approach to nutrition and no longer fearing the fat, we still have so much work to do. After many decades of low-fat propaganda, the “fat makes you fat” rhetoric is still so deeply ingrained in the collective psyche. Many people STILL greatly fear fat, even though study after study shows that fat is not only harmless 1http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2010/01/13/ajcn.2009.27725.abstract but that it is in fact, quite necessary to many important functions in the body. I myself see this fear weekly in my nutrition clients, all over the internet and in my social feeds, at the grocery store, at restaurants, at the gym, etc and of course, all of the many side effects of low fat eating – we HAVE to change this dialogue!!
It is beyond challenging to decide where to even start on such a huge, huge topic. Chatting about dietary fat is a big undertaking and we are going to merely just scratch the surface with this initial post, decoding the myths and where the fat fearmongering began, along with the crucial reasons we need fat in our diet. So, let’s get to the basics.
First and foremost you need to know that fat is a necessity in our bodies. This vital macronutrient provides building blocks for the brain, hormone and cellular membranes throughout the body, it is essential for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K and it is deeply hydrating!
By adequately increasing my healthy fat intake, more than any other change I have made in my lifestyle and diet, I have personally seen profound affects on my health, from my digestion to my skin including chronic hormonal and cystic acne, from my moods to my ability to concentrate, hormonal imbalances to libido (YUP!). Fat is a powerful anti-aging food, both internally and externally. Consumed as part of a healthful diet, fatty acids (the building blocks of fat) help stabilize blood sugar – allowing your body to release fat, protect it’s lean muscle, and surge with energy. When our focus is on creating meals that are rich not only in healthy fats, but also quality well-sourced proteins and fibrous green leafy veggies, we can thank especially the healthy fats for keeping us satiated. Staying satisfied for longer means so you won’t find yourself searching for the junky, processed snacks in between these healthy, whole food meals.
References [ + ]
1. ↑ http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2010/01/13/ajcn.2009.27725.abstract