Find out why sugar and your peri and menopause do not see eye to eye!
We all know that sugar is not great for us: It causes our blood sugars to go up and down and become unbalanced. When left unchecked, it can lead to a number of serious conditions.
And furthermore, it is just empty calories with no nutritional value whatsoever.
But firstly, what do I mean by sugar?
Basically, I am referring to the refined kind that does not occur naturally in food. So, this covers everything from cakes, biscuits, white bread, sauces, breakfast cereals, pasta sauces and salad dressings etc
And the impact that this type of sugar can have on your health is fairly significant:
- It is the number 1 reason behind weight gain and in particular visceral fat around the middle.
- It increases your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
- It increases obesity, insulin resistance and inflammation which are all risk factors for cancer
What happens when your blood sugars are not balanced?
The symptoms associated with an imbalance of blood sugars are numerous. And you may be experiencing some of them yourselves if your diet is full of refined sugars.
Because refined sugars release carbohydrates quickly, you get a massive sugar surge followed by a crash.
And some of the downsides of this roller coaster are as follows:
You feel “hangry” – that mixed feeling of anger and hunger combined
You may wake in the middle of the night – you’ve guessed it, your body is still on its roller coaster and the massive drop causes you to be rudely awakened about 3 am.
You may just crave sugary snacks all day and experience mood swings as you lurch from one blood sugar surge to the next
You may feel dizzy and get lots of headaches
And of course, your energy levels will be all of the place and extreme fatigue will be common
But did you know that there is a hormonal connection between the blood sugar roller coaster and the menopause?
There are a number of reasons why eating lots of sugar can make menopause symptoms far worse
Sugar has a massive impact on the hormone insulin. And in turn insulin has an effect on your sex hormones (oestrogen and testosterone).
So, what is going on when you eat sugar?
Firstly, your insulin levels spike as insulin is required to remove glucose from your blood and take it to your cells in your liver, muscles and fat so that it can be used for energy. But high levels of insulin can lead to low levels of a protein called sex hormone binding globulin (SHGB). And this protein does exactly what its name suggests. It binds to excess oestrogen and testosterone. But if levels of SHGB are low (because of the spike in insulin), then oestrogen and testosterone levels will be allowed to increase.
And this is not good news, because the excess oestrogen will cause an imbalance between your oestrogen and progesterone levels
Progesterone is your hormone which keeps you on an even kilter, calm and happy and needs to work in balance with oestrogen. But if oestrogen dominates it, it can result in a lot of unwanted symptoms including irritability, anxiety, mood swings, hot flushes and night sweats.
At the same time, if you lose your sensitivity to insulin and become insulin resistant, your body will covert more testosterone to oestrogen and this exacerbates the oestrogen dominance issue I have explained above.
So, the answer to this, is to make sure that you keep your blood sugars balanced throughout the day.
Here are my top tips for balancing your blood sugars
1. Choose foods that are low on the glycaemic index
One of the best ways to address this is to replace refined carbohydrates with low glycaemic index foods.
The glycaemic index is a system that assigns a number to a carbohydrate food to show the impact that it has on your blood sugar levels. The lower the number, the better. By choosing low glycaemic load foods, you will reduce blood sugar and insulin spikes and be able to have a better control over your oestrogen levels.
2. Eat protein and healthy fat with every meal
This will give you sustained energy throughout the day and help to regulate your blood sugars
3. Think about time restrictive eating
Going for longer periods of time without eating can encourage your body to be more sensitive to insulin. So, if you have dinner at 7 pm, try and leave between 12 and 16 hours before you eat again
4. Exercise daily
HIIT is a great way to make your cells more sensitive to insulin and will help to keep your blood sugar stable. Just 15 mins of exercise a day can really help to stabilise your blood sugar.
Take time each day to focus just on you and relax. Stress increases cortisol and cortisol raises your blood sugar
6. Include supplements
Magnesium, chromium and Omega 3 fatty acids supplements are also useful in improving blood sugar balance and insulin sensitivity
By adopting these strategies, your blood sugars will become more balanced. And this in turn will improve many of your menopausal symptoms. Just some simple adjustments to your diet and lifestyle will really help
If you would like to learn more about how you can eat for a happy and healthy menopause, do download my free starter kit here.