The regulation of our blood sugar is so important to our adrenal health. The two things really go hand in hand. If blood sugar regulation is not working well then you cannot achieve health. It is THAT important. Blood sugar dysregulation leads to oxidative stress. Basically what this means is that there is more free radical damage in our bodies because we don’t have enough anti oxidants to neutralize the free radicals created in our body. It also leads to something called glycation which is when proteins in your body become sugared over and can’t communicate with other cells in your body. Blood sugar dysregulation also messes with the energy output in your cells. Your cells create energy with glucose which is a form of sugar. Our body is continually monitoring the levels of glucose in our bloodstream to make sure it stays balanced. Having too much or too little triggers hormones to be released to keep the glucose levels normal. We were designed to use unrefined carbohydrates as well as quality fats and proteins as our best sources of fuel. We are not designed to run on carbohydrates alone, especially refined and processed ones.
So how do you know if you have some issues with blood sugar imbalance?
- You crave sweets
- You wake up soon after falling asleep and have a hard time getting back to sleep
- You have binge type eating patterns
- You have an appetite that won’t quit
- You get irritable, jittery or hangry
- You get headaches that temporarily feel better after eating
- You crave coffee or sugar in the afternoon
- You are sleepy in the afternoon
- You get shaky if you miss a meal or eat later than normal
- You have a family history of diabetes
- You are thirsty a lot
- You have to pee a lot
- You crave bread, pasta or other refined grains
- You have poor concentration
- You have night sweats
- You struggle to lose weight even though you are eating a low fat diet
- You are frequently tired
- You get a boost of energy from eating
- You have anxiety or panic attacks
- You have spikes and dips in your energy levels throughout the day
If any one of these describes you then you are most certainly assured to have some issues with your blood sugar and probably your adrenals too. You see, the main organs involved in your blood sugar regulation are the Pancreas, the Liver and the Adrenal Glands. They each have a very important role in blood sugar. If they are constantly busy managing your blood sugar because you ate too many cookies or a huge bowl of ice cream or a box of crackers at work then they can’t do all the other things they need to do in a day, in a moment to keep you alive.
Refined sugar is a recent invention compared to how long man has been around. We only have one hormone that lowers blood sugar and that is insulin. It wasn’t supposed to have the job of lowering blood sugar but to bring glucose to the cells. The hormones cortisol, epinephrine (or adrenaline) and glucagon are all there to raise our blood sugar when needed. It used to be that is what we needed- to raise blood sugar so that our brain, nerves and red blood cells got the glucose they needed. Today, we overload our bodies with sugar at around 200 pounds per person per year.
So why do we love it so much?
Well frankly, sugar makes us feel good. It literally raises your endorphins but it also crashes and makes you feel worse after a short time. This is called the blood sugar roller coaster. It is addictive. So addictive in fact that in one study, mice chose sugar over cocaine.
Our taste buds love it but our bodies do not. It is really hard on your body to be managing your blood sugar day in and day out. Your pancreas releases the hormone insulin which is just supposed to transport glucose to your cells from your blood so that it can be used for energy. When you overwhelm your body with sugar the pancreas will eventually wear out which leads to things like insulin resistance and then type II diabetes. Your adrenal glands will be exhausted from having to deal with managing blood sugar on top of all the other stressors in your life such as your emotional stressors, not sleeping or your every day frustrating commute to work. It will also depress your immune system. Your liver can end up having a hard time converting stored glucose back in to glucose for energy and you can end up with a fatty liver.
You can develop something called insulin resistance where your cells decide they have had enough of insulin knocking at their door to deliver them some glucose and they just don’t answer the door anymore. This is when your blood sugar levels will be higher on a blood test. You could have insulin resistance if you are tired all the time, can’t lose weight, you have joint problems, are depressed, have thyroid or fertility issues.
Insulin resistance has a huge impact on female hormone issues like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, irregular periods and PMS.
Consuming large amounts of sugar can mean you are what we call a sugar burner. This means your body is able to burn sugar or glucose rather than fat for energy. This here is key to weight loss for many people and if you have weight gain due to hypothyroidsim or Hashimoto’s, converting from a sugar burner to a fat burner can be ultra helpful in dropping some of those pesky pounds. Other signs you are a sugar burner are:
- you are less satisfied after eating
- you are hungry all the time
- you can’t use fat for energy
- you crave carbohydrates and you eat them
Reducing the amount of sugar you consume on a daily basis can turn this around and you can teach your body how to burn fat for energy. All that extra sugar you have consumed in a day that your cells can’t use gets stored as fat. You can teach your body how to use it.
Let’s talk more about how the adrenal glands and your adrenal health is affected by blood sugar imbalances.
If you have Hashimoto’s you may not tolerate carbohydrates as well as other folks. Your blood sugar can rise quickly after eating carbs which can lead to too much insulin being released which can end up causing low blood sugar and make you feel anxious, nervous and tired. This also stresses your adrenal glands because cortisol is released when your adrenals are working overtime. Every time your blood sugar gets low epinephrine is released to help restore it to normal levels. This can also mess with your immune system.
Here are some general symptoms of low blood sugar:
- brain fog
- blurred vision
- hard time sleeping
- heart palpitations
- cravings for sugar
How do you avoid blood sugar imbalances?
Look at your diet. Look at your lifestyle.
Do you eat a large amount of refined carbohydrates in the form of breads or cereals for breakfast? Do you skip breakfast? Do you eat things like pasta salad or a sandwich for lunch? Do you eat all the “good for you” yogurt you see in the grocery store? Have a look at the sugar content of your standard grocery store yogurt. It is pretty high.
Are you running all the time with no time for rest and relaxation?
Here are some generally good ideas for balancing your blood sugar:
- Have some protein at every meal (see this post for learning all about protein)
- When you first start to balance your blood sugar, eating more often is better- try having a snack between breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just something small like a few nuts or a piece of cheese
- Don’t have any sugar before bed
- Keep your caffeine intake to a minimum (really would be a good idea to take it out of your diet while you balance your blood sugar)
- Don’t eat any grains or dairy
- Eat breakfast within an hour of getting up
- Avoid all sweeteners including artificial ones (limit your fruits to 1 serving a day at most)
- Keep the carbs to a minimum eating only complex carbs
- Consume high quality healthy fats
You would want to do this for about two weeks and then slowly add back things like full fat dairy and continuing to limit grains if you tolerate them. If you have Hashimoto’s you will want eliminate gluten containing grains for good. Eventually you may be able to tolerate some other grains once in awhile. I would not recommend switching your glutenful products with gluten free ones. They will react the same in your body as far as blood sugar is concerned. Staying low carb is not beneficial for everyone. I find I have much more energy when I consume more starchy carbs regularly like sweet potatoes and veggies. I feel my best when consuming a significant amount of veggies daily. If you feel exhausted after awhile of being low carb it is a sign you will do better with more complex carbs in your diet and that is okay.
You can try this on your own or you can come to me for help. I have a special plan just to convert you from a sugar burner to a fat burner that helps keep your blood sugar balanced which will help in the recovery of your adrenals as well. Send me an email and we can chat about it!
Thanks so much for reading. I sincerely appreciate your time. Please tell me in the comments what symptoms of imbalanced blood sugar you might have. I look forward to hearing from you.