When it comes to women’s health, there is an intimate relationship between women’s hormones, blood sugar and insulin levels.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to regulate blood sugar and it’s job is to capture any sugar that enters the body and then pass it to the liver to store as energy.
With Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas doesn't produce insulin at all. Which is why people with Type 1 require insulin, normally a few times a day, to control sugar before it enters the bloodstream to avoid potentially deadly consequences.
With Type 2 diabetes, which is more common, the cells in the pancreas either can’t produce enough insulin to counteract the amount of sugar or the cells that carry insulin through the bloodstream no longer respond to insulin and this culiminates in insulin resistance. The bottom line is that the pancreas may be producing enough insulin, but your body isn’t responding properly and so the pancreas overworks to produce more and more insulin. As your body becomes more resistant to insulin, blood sugar levels skyrocket and you can develop Type 2 diabetes as well as put yourself at risk for heart disease and even a stroke. Due to our increasingly processed food diet, Type 2 diabetes is now no longer an adult disease but found more and more in younger people and children.
When your pancreas is working properly, it will respond to any sugar entering your bloodstream by producing insulin. Unfortunately, our diet is now overwhelmed with processed foods that are filled with simple carbohydrates like processed grains (white rice, bread, cereals) which floods our bodies with excess sugar. Consuming high amounts of sugar everyday makes your pancreas work overtime to keep up, until eventually, it stops working properly and/or your cells stop responding to the insulin which culminates in insulin resistance.
Constant blood sugar spikes and insulin resistance are the direct result of eating a diet of highly processed foods, consuming too much sugar and following a diet low fat/high carbohydrate foods.
So what does this have to do with hormones? Well beyond insulin, our bodies produce and secrete dozens of hormones which tell your organs how to function. Hormones control digestion, mood, stress, female cycles and your metabolism. Many of these hormones partner up with insulin to control blood sugar, and when one or more become unbalanced, you put yourself at higher risk for insulin resistance.
Your thyroid is a great example of this partnership. As your thyroid gland produces two hormones which mainly control metabolism, body weight, temperature and energy levels, a thyroid which is unbalanced, means it’s either producing too little or too much of these hormones – makes you much more susceptible to insulin resistance and impacts your health, your metabolism and your weight.
The more unbalanced your blood sugar levels, the bigger impact on your hormones which is why beyond weight and health issues, women will struggle with irregular menstrual cycles, acne, hair loss, and infertility. And when blood sugar levels aren't regulated and hormone levels are imbalanced, it's impossible for women to reach and maintain a healthy body weight.
A diet that is rich in excess sugar, predominantly simple carbohydrates causes hormonal imbalances including both insulin and estrogen, which as discussed can lead to insulin resistance which in turn leads to weight gain, heart disease, cancer or diabetes.
In addition to a poor diet, a lifestyle that is filled with chronic stress can result in further hormonal imbalances and make it even harder for women to both lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight.
So how do you reverse the damage of insulin resistance so you can keep your hormones balanced and your blood sugar levels stable? Well, it’s a combination of three essential elements:
Good nutrition is the first step. Good nutrition has the powerful ability to regulate hormone function, metabolism, and blood sugar levels. If you suffer from hormone dysfunction, opt for a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet that is low in carbs with plenty of organic vegetables and low glycemic fruits, high-quality protein and nourishing fats.
In addition to good nutrition, daily movement and exercise is a vital way to help your body become more sensitive to insulin and decrease blood sugar levels. That said, for women who struggle with hormonal imbalances, especially high cortisol levels or PCOS, should avoid over-exercising as this can stress out the adrenal glands and cause burnout. This is why I advocate for a balanced and moderate approach to exercise which includes a combination of HIIT cardio, strength training and low intensity activities such as yoga or walking.
Finally, your lifestyle plays a huge role in hormonal balance and optimal health. Prioritizing stress management, getting enough sleep and getting in a healthy amount of daily activity are key to balancing hormone levels, increasing your energy levels and enabling your body to function properly.
As I so often tell my clients, it’s not just about diet and exercise. Lifestyle plays a huge role in hormonal balance and optimal health. For women who want to lose weight, it’s important to first balance hormone levels and stabilize your blood sugar levels first so that your body is healthy enough to naturally shed weight.
One of the first steps to bringing balance to your hormones is through a personalized nutrition protocol and a lifestyle program. Improving your nutrition helps you improve hormonal balance and your overall metabolic health. All so you can boost your energy levels, dramatically improve your health and maintain a healthy body weight.
For more information on my Dieting to Thriving Method, visit my programs page and learn more. ⠀