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The interconnected relationship: Stress, Blood Sugar, and Hormone Support

There is not much in your body that isn't connected and that operates in a silo. This is a beautiful thing because it makes your body work without you even having to think about it, and it adapts to what life throws your way. But thats not to say there isn't a potential for harm here when we abuse our body’s ability to adapt by not regularly supporting it.


We hear more and more about the importance of blood sugar, stress management, and supporting our hormones - and for a good reason. I want to chat a little bit about this interconnected operation going on in each of our bodies but specially highlighting what happens when we don’t support blood sugar balance and the impacts of stress on the body & our female hormones.





What is Normal Blood Sugar & why does it matter?!

Every single person has blood sugar - it's the concentration of sugar (aka glucose) in the bloodstream at any given time. And the body is always trying to keep this at a homeostatic level (~1 gram). When we eat foods that break down in the body as glucose, this level will rise. Now this isn’t inherently a bad thing - the body has a system for utilizing the glucose and removing it, to bring levels back down. Insulin is the hormone the pancreas produces to remove glucose from the bloodstream and transport it to different parts of the body to be used or stored as energy or fat. I dive more into the Blood Sugar Roller coster here.


When the increase in glucose is drastically high (think big peaks and valleys) or is going up and down multiple times throughout the day, that is when it can be extremely stressful and inflammatory on the body. This increases your potential of developing insulin resistance (where the body is not able to remove glucose efficiently because it doesn’t respond to the insulin receptor trying to deposit the glucose) or having chronic inflammation and oxidative damage due to the work this puts on the body. This can even lead a person to develop type II diabetes due to a high fasting blood sugar level.


When we are stressed…

The inflammation that is caused when this cycle is on repeat multiple times throughout the day or floods the body with large amounts of glucose therefore followed by large amounts of insulin, is what can lead to wreaking more havoc on the body. Inflammation is the body’s way of protecting and healing but when it is constantly inflamed, this is the body’s emergency response taking priority over everything else - and triggers an immune response, impairs hormone production, impacts the body’s ability to clear toxins, and inhibits the ability for nutrient absorption.


Cortisol shares many of the cofactors with other hormones in the body such as progesterone - so when cortisol is in high demand due to blood sugar dysregulation and insulin resistance, cortisol becomes the favored hormonal pathway. This is where we can start to see even more hormonal issues.


As a result our hormones

The endocrine system (where our hormones are produced) has many different pathways to communicate with different areas of the body and what hormones need to be produced and when. The HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) and the HPT (hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid) axes are two in which are extremely impacted when it comes to blood sugar dysregulation and chronic inflammation. The adrenals are what will be triggered to create cortisol from the hormone response when stress or inflammation is triggered. When the body is chronically inflamed or under a default of a cortisol response, it can lead to a reduction in the production of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) which has a cascading effect on energy production and metabolism.


I would also be remiss if I didn't touch on the female-specific hormonal impact caused by this cycle as sadly more and more women are experiencing these issues than before. Insulin resistance and chronic stress on the body can lead to increased body fat storage as mentioned above. This can lead to the process of more androgens being converted into excess estrogen in the body relating to issues such as heavy or painful periods, ovulatory pain, fibroids, cysts, menstrual migraines, and other PMS symptoms. It has also been correlated to PCOS diagnosis when many women have higher amounts of androgens or free testosterone in the body which can inhibit ovulation and form ovarian cysts.


When it comes to our blood sugar, hormones, and stress the cycle can hard to to pinpoint where it started or what the original cause was. But by supporting all three, you can start to see some serious improvements in how you feel, your energy, digestion, fertility and menstrual regularity, and much more.


 


So where to get started if you are experiencing any of these issues or concerned about preventing this in the future:

Light movement: Movement ~30 minutes after your meal gives your body a place to utilize the glucose you just ate from your meal (less likely to be stored in the body as fat and clears it from the bloodstream). Yoga, walks, HIIT, or weight training are all great options. Just be mindful of not adding too much intensity if you’re already experiencing high-stress levels.


Adequate sleep: Sleep is when the body rests and repairs. Without proper sleep, your hunger hormones (ghrelin and leptin) will be off and you might start your day feeling more hungry than your body actually needs, starting the cycle over again.


Blood sugar-balancing meals: Stop the cycle before it starts. Pairing protein+fat+fiber at every meal and snack will help to slow and blood sugar spike, so your body isn’t working as hard to clear it. but it also keeps you fuller longer, so the time between peaks and valleys and farther apart.


Supporting your minerals: Minerals like magnesium and potassium are easily depleted when the body is stressed. And these are essential for processes of muscle contraction, thyroid function, digestion, and more! Supporting with electrolytes, a whole foods nutritional approach, and quality supplements when needed. I wouldn’t recommend taking random supplements though. Be sure to get tested with something like an HTMA test to see where you are at.

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