Blood Sugar, Thyroid and How They Relate

I have loved sugar my whole life. Who hasn’t really. I grew up having dessert after every dinner we had. We had a steady rotation of chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake (lovingly called crazy cake), apple, cherry and blueberry crisp (made from canned fruit). Standard fare in the 80’s. I became addicted to sugar at a very young age and still struggle with it well in to my 40’s. I don’t very often eat sugar anymore mostly because my body just doesn’t tolerate it. I have come a long way. 

Thyroid problems and blood sugar are connected. It seems out of balance blood sugar can really mess things up. 

Here is why. 

Every part of your body needs glucose (sugar) for energy to be made in your cells. No glucose means lower energy levels in general. 

When blood sugar is low, your thyroid won’t have the energy it needs and may be sluggish. 

When blood sugar gets too hight, over time you can run in to something called insulin resistance which is common in thyroid patients. 

Anytime you eat a lot of refined carbohydrates like pasta, breads, sweets and processed foods in general they are converted to glucose in your body. They provide a quick source of energy. They also cause your blood sugar to go up quickly. Blood sugar means the amount of glucose floating through your blood stream. Glucose and sugar are pretty much the same thing. Then your body says, “There is too much sugar in the blood stream, that can damage us.” So it releases the hormone insulin to carry that sugar to the cells for use. When your cells stop taking in the sugar, that is called resistance. What your body doesn’t realize is that the cells are full. They can’t take on any more sugar. There is no mechanism within the body to tell the brain to stop producing insulin. Al it knows is that there is all this sugar in the blood and it has to do something so it keeps pumping out the insulin. 

You end up with too much sugar and too much insulin in the blood. some of that will be stored as fat. Before it is stored as fat it goes around damaging your blood vessels and your organs, including the thyroid. This is called inflammation. 

When you have too much sugar in the blood and too much insulin trying to get the sugar to the cells and the cells refusing to take it in you end up with insulin resistance which is a stepping stone to type 2 diabetes. Your cells cannot get the energy they need because they are resisting letting the glucose in for use as energy. This means your thyroid cells don’t have energy either. Then your thyroid cannot work effectively for you so you will have elevated TSH because your brain thinks it needs to be stimulated. 

When tissues in the body get inflamed, they cannot do their job. That includes the thyroid. 

When they thyroid is inflamed you will have less production of thyroid hormone and like stated above, a higher production of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone or TSH. Increased production of TSH means further damage to your cells perpetuating the vicious cycle of insulin resistance. 

When T4 and T3 are not working well, you are also not able to maintain your blood sugar levels. The more out of control your blood sugar gets, the less your thyroid will function properly. 

What is the solution?

If out of balance blood sugar is the reason your thyroid isn’t working well then the main thing you have to do is to maintain stable and healthy levels of blood sugar. You may want to go to the doctor and have your blood sugar tested.  Blood sugar imbalances might not be your main problem when it comes to your thyroid problems but the following information can benefit everyone. 

  • Get enough sleep and get quality sleep. If you don’t get quality sleep there is no time for your body to repair itself. Other hormones like cortisol will be screwed up contributing further to your insulin resistance. 
  • Get some exercise. You don’t have to work yourself to death at the gym 3 days a week. Just get moving to start with. It is hard to get up and get moving when you don’t have the energy, especially if you are hypothyroid. Believe me, I get it. Just do something even on the days when it is hard to get the laundry done. You have to start somewhere because staying on the couch is easy and getting better from thyroid problems isn’t always easy. Movement allows your muscles to use up some of the glucose in your blood so there is less floating around waiting to get in to your cells. 
  • Get a standing desk to work at or for at home. The less sitting you do, the better. A treadmill desk would be ideal. (I don’t have one but sure would like to- they are not always in the budget!)
  • Manage your stress. This is a big one. Your body cannot tell the difference between physical stress, emotional stress and even a fight you are having with someone in your head. Biologically, your body responds the same. If your body is constantly dealing with stress then your pituitary (part of your brain) gland is too busy too deal with the thyroid properly and it gets put on the back burner. When you are stressed, your cortisol levels shoot up. Your body then creates glucose from your lean muscle and puts that out in to your blood stream causing insulin levels to rise, your cells become further resistant to the glucose and then the glucose gets stored as fat. You got it. Your body takes energy from the muscles, converts it to sugar, your body cannot use it so it stores it as fat. Chronic stress will cause your thyroid to slow down and cortisol keeps T4 from doing its job. 
  • Eat some protein in the morning within two hours of waking. That will give your body something to convert to energy right away. 
  • Avoid snacking if you can or change your snacks to quality fat and protein if you are not ready to give them up. Here is why you should give them up- Regular snacking keeps the insulin pumping all day long. Your pancreas never gets a break, your cells continue to resist the glucose that insulin has brought them. Every single time you eat, insulin gets secreted in to the blood. Protein, fats and complex carbohydrates like vegetables cause that spike in insulin to be just a little less. Giving your body a break will give it time to burn some stored fat. 

What helps keep your blood sugar balanced?

  • The obvious answer here is to change your diet. Cut out sugar, processed foods and refined carbs. Join a RESTART class which is a five week class to help you learn about how food affects your body and includes a three week sugar detox. 
  • Chromium (polynictinate) has the job of helping glucose get in to the cell. It helps restore insulin sensitivity or allow insulin to drop glucose at your cells so your cells can take them in. You can supplement with it to help your body deal with your blood sugar.  
  • Take magnesium. Most people are deficient. It helps with many processes in the body and in managing blood sugar its job is to help chromium do its job. Try magnesium citrate if tolerated or magnesium glycinate. 
  • Stay away from artificial sweeteners, always. Some people think it is okay to use stevia either the green powder or in liquid form. Give it a try and see how it works for you. I personally am not a fan. 
  • I would encourage you to avoid all sweeteners for at least 3 weeks like in the RESTART sugar detox to give your body time to reset and learn how to burn fat for energy. 

There are many more things you could do here to manage your blood sugar but these are the big ones. Getting your blood sugar under control is a sure way to give your thyroid some tender loving care that it needs to function properly for you. 

Tell me in the comments below how much of a struggle you have had with blood sugar. 

In health, 

Stephanie