Can Sugar Affect Your Hormones? Yes—Here’s How

Can Sugar Affect Your Hormones? Yes—Here’s How

How does sugar affect hormones? Truthfully, in lots of ways. From cortisol to thyroid hormones, sugar can be a contributing factor to disregulation. But let’s focus on just one hormone: Insulin. Here’s how the intake of sugar and carbohydrate rich foods can impact insulin—and what you can do about it.

Insulin and Glucose: The Dynamic Duo

After eating a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack, glucose enters the bloodstream which sends a message to your pancreas to release insulin. When insulin enters circulation, it helps move glucose out of the bloodstream and into our cells—it can be thought of as the key that is needed to open the door to our cells to let glucose in. Once in the cell, glucose can be used as energy or stored as glycogen for later use.

When there are elevated levels of glucose in the bloodstream for long periods of time, cells can become insulin resistant. That means they basically ignore insulin’s knock on their door because they have enough glucose already and do not want to accept more.

Complications from High Glucose

The goal is for your cells to stay sensitive to insulin, so there aren’t elevated levels of glucose and insulin in your bloodstream. Elevated blood glucose (hyperglycemia) is damaging to the blood vessels because glucose molecules are sticky and can clump together, causing damage to the vasculature and the tiny blood vessels in organs like your eyes, kidneys and heart. Long-term hyperglycemia can also predispose you to developing type 2 diabetes. 

Insulin is also known as an anabolic hormone, and anabolic meals to build up. Increased levels of insulin turn on growth factors that can contribute to acne and the development of skin tags, from a dermatological perspective. Elevated levels of insulin in the bloodstream can also contribute to alterations in ovarian function, including increased production of hormones, which plays a major role in the common endocrine disorder PCOS.

Glucose is Not Your Enemy: How to Maintain Balanced Levels

Glucose should not be feared—it is the preferred energy source of our cells! The key to maintaining a good relationship between glucose and insulin is by limiting your intake of processed, simple carbohydrates and added sugar in foods. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 24 grams of added sugar per day for women and 36 grams for men.

For optimal health outcomes, the goal should be to obtain glucose from eating whole foods (akacome without a food label), like:

  • non-starchy vegetables,
  • whole grains,
  • and low glycemic fruit such as berries, all paired with healthy fat and fiber to slow down the absorption of glucose in the bloodstream.

If this feels confusing or overwhelming, let us help! Our dietician can support you in your health journey and find the best foods to fuel your body.

How Your Circadian Rhythm Impacts Adrenal Health

How Your Circadian Rhythm Impacts Adrenal Health

A woman in an orange shirt writes in a notebook while sitting on a gray couch.

If you have trouble waking up in the morning or falling asleep at night, or you experience a major drop in energy in the afternoon, it might be time to consider getting in touch with your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock that regulates sleep and wake cycles over a 24-hour period. This clock is also connected to the regulation of important hormones such as cortisol, which makes us feel awake in the morning, and melatonin, which helps us feel sleepy before bed.

How Circadian Rhythm Impacts Adrenal Health

It used to be thought that there was only one central hub of this “body clock” in the brain, but research shows that there are also tissues outside of the brain that have their own circadian rhythms, including the adrenal glands. This was an important discovery because if the central circadian rhythm (brain controlled) is not in line with the peripheral rhythms (outside of the brain), HPA axis dysfunction can occur, leading to conditions such as adrenal fatigue

Research points to three major factors that can cause a misalignment between the central and peripheral circadian clocks:

  1. altered light and dark exposure,
  2. irregular eating routines, and
  3. erratic activity and rest cycles.

When these occur, your body can feel out of whack, and like its natural cycles are out of order. So what can you do about it, to circumvent a potential adrenal issue?

4 Lifestyle Changes to Make to Help Prevent Adrenal Fatigue

To best support your circadian rhythm and adrenal health, implement the following 4 changes to your daily routine.

Daylight exposure upon waking

Exposing your eyes to natural daylight upon waking helps the brain clear out any leftover melatonin stores from your night of sleep, signaling to your brain that it is time to be awake and start the day. Aim to spend 15 minutes outside or at a window right when you wake up. Even if the sun isn’t shining, the light of day still does the trick!

To become even more connected with the rhythm of the sun, try both being outside in the morning upon walking and again being outside in the evening as the sun is setting to help sync your internal rhythm with nature’s rhythm. 

Morning movement

Those with adrenal fatigue can find it beneficial to exercise in the morning to help stimulate the body’s release of cortisol. Avoiding intense exercise near bedtime also helps keep your circadian rhythm in balance.

Hot tip: An easy way to combine light exposure and morning movement is by exercising outside or near a window during the beginning of your day!

Consistent meal times

Our nervous systems LOVE routine, which is why it can be helpful to eat around the same each day. This helps send the message to your adrenals that your body is “safe” and food (aka energy) is available.

That being said, it is important to tap into your body’s hunger cues and avoid eating just for the sake of it being “time to eat.” Taking some time to prepare some healthy snacks and meals for your day/week ahead helps ensure that you have nourishing food to fuel your body when you do become hungry. 

Avoid blue-light exposure before bedtime

Let’s face it—technology is here to stay, and it isn’t always realistic to limit the use of screens in the evening. However, what is so problematic about using screens near bedtime is the blue-light they emit. This light wipes out the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin that our bodies produce at night that primes us for bedtime.

Protect your melatonin stores by wearing blue-light blocking glasses and turning on “night-mode” on your electronics after dinnertime. Aim to stop electronic use one hour before bedtime and choose to partake in calming activities instead, such as taking a warm shower or bath, yin-yoga, reading, or meditation.