Blood sugar 101

January 2, 2024

by Glenna calder, ND

You may not be too interested in learning about blood sugar, but I would encourage you to read on and see how it affects your mood, weight, and hormones. I think everyone should know the basics. Let’s dive into it because your blood sugar actually has a major effect on your thyroid, hormones, and adrenal health.

First, if we’re talking about blood sugar, we need to talk about insulin. Insulin is an essential hormone in humans. It’s critical for the uptake of glucose into cells where it acts as fuel for the cell. Glucose is a form of sugar that comes from carbohydrates.

In an optimally functioning system insulin is released from the pancreas in response to glucose in the bloodstream. The insulin attaches to receptors on the cell, and this allows glucose to be absorbed into the cell (like a key and lock system). The mechanism is designed so that your blood sugar doesn’t rise too high or remain high for a long period of time.

Regular exercise can be a great way to control your blood sugar levels.

As glucose goes into the cell, insulin production can slow down. The less glucose in the bloodstream, the less insulin is needed to remove it from the bloodstream. So, between meals insulin levels go down.

Diabetes manifests when either insulin isn’t being produced in adequate amounts (type 1) or there is resistance in the cells to insulin (type 2). In the case of type 1 diabetes, this is autoimmune in nature – it is non-negotiable. Type 1 diabetics need to take insulin replacement therapy. We need insulin.

If you aren’t close to a diabetic diagnosis, should you stop reading now? NO…this applies to you.

Blood sugar and insulin

Blood sugar can wreak havoc with your mood, energy, and hormones. Blood sugar irregularities can exacerbate your anxiety. Yes, you read that right: if you have anxiety, your diet can be making it worse.

Your adrenal (stress) glands thrive on stable blood sugar. They like consistency. They like you to lead a regular, consistent life, at least in terms of diet, exercise, and sleep. We will talk about the ways they like spontaneity in another article.

Blood sugar fluctuations act as stressors, resulting in fatigue, mood swings, and irritability. They are the cause of the “hangry” feeling you get.

Elevated blood sugars can contribute to recurrent yeast infections. Persistent high insulin levels can cause excess fat storage, high cholesterol, and fat accumulation in the liver.

Inflammation can contribute to insulin resistance. When cells become rigid it can be difficult for hormones to carry out their function.

There is an intricate interplay between progesterone, estrogen and insulin, and high insulin can cause cravings, especially when you are more sensitive to insulin during the last two weeks of your cycle.

Insulin can also contribute to acne. Topical creams can help, but treating the underlying condition is essential.

What can you do to keep your blood sugar stable?

1. Protein. Studies show that this is the most satiating macronutrient. It increases the levels of several satiable hormones like ghrelin. It is hard to overeat protein because it is so filling.

2. Keep simple sugar low. Fruit has fibre which slows the release of glucose in the blood stream. Eat the peeling of fruit like apples, pears, plums to increase the fibre in your diet. Processed sugar (white and brown sugar) doesn’t have fibre.

3. Exercise. One of the most effective ways to stabilize your blood sugar.

4. Cut down on snack foods which are filled with sugars. Reach for fruit, veggies, nuts which work well to decrease cravings also.

5. Keep the three macronutrients – fat, carbohydrates, and protein – balanced in your diet. Don’t omit fat or protein or carbohydrates.