How Blood Sugar Balance Works
Blood sugar balance is when your blood sugar stays as close to an ideal middle line as possible. When your blood sugar is out of balance it swings high above and below that line throughout the day. This is when you are either feeling a sugar high or at the bottom of a sugar crash. With either highs or crashes the liver and the pancreas have to work harder to secrete hormones (insulin or glucagon) to help bring your blood sugar back to the middle line.
However, when your blood sugar is well managed, meaning you are feeding your body the right foods at the right times throughout the day, then your blood sugar stays either right above or right below the middle line. This leads to feeling energetic, happy, productive, and sleeping well.
When your blood sugar is high, usually after a meal of refined carbs (think pasta, bread, pastries, or sweets) the pancreas pumps out extra insulin to help shuttle the excess sugar in the blood into the cells for energy. Any excess beyond what the cells can immediately use ends up in the liver where it is converted into glycogen, and any excess beyond what the muscles need end up in your adipose tissue, your fat.
When your blood sugar is low, which usually happens when you don’t eat enough, or wait too long between meals, the pancreas reacts by releasing the hormone glucagon. Glucagon tells the liver to convert the stored glycogen (first from the muscles and then from fat) back into glucose which is released into the bloodstream to bring the blood sugar levels back to homeostasis. This is very important to ensure that the brain, heart, and muscle tissues have enough energy to function properly.
It’s best to use food to manage our blood sugar as much as possible so that we are not asking the liver to help with that process. If the liver must step-in, then it will prioritize balancing the body’s blood sugar over other processes.
Why Balanced Blood Sugar is Important for Hormone Health
Balancing your blood sugar is so important for hormonal health. One reason is that if the liver is prioritizing balancing the body’s blood sugar than it will not be doing other tasks like breaking down used estrogen so the body can remove it. If used estrogen lingers in the bloodstream then it can cause imbalances in the endocrine system, which leads to hormonal symptoms.
Also, as a hormone, insulin is very closely connected to the other hormones in your body, including estrogen and testosterone. When insulin spikes – after being released to help the body deal with an influx of glucose from a high sugar or refined carbohydrate meal, this can lead to lower levels of a specific protein called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG). SHBG binds excess estrogen and testosterone in the blood, but when it’s low, these hormone levels increase. Insulin also causes the production of testosterone in the body to go up, which is then converted into even more estrogen by belly fat tissue. All of these changes mean that the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is super high which leads to irritability, anxiety, insomnia, and more.
Here are a few quick tips to balance your blood sugar starting today:
- Start your day with a Cambiati Shake. Our signature shake blend has all the right ingredients to start your day with balanced blood sugar – quality protein and healthy fat, fiber, a small about of low-glycemic fruits (low glycemic fruits will spike your blood sugar the least amount), and plenty of complex carbohydrates for vitamins, minerals, and more fiber.
- Be sure each meal looks like the Cambiati plate – with more than half the plate veggies, a quarter of the plate protein, and the remainder split between healthy fats and high-fiber carbs. For example a large mixed green salad with bell peppers, cucumbers, four ounces of animal or vegetarian protein, and two tablespoons of hummus combined with two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.
- Instead of snacks think mini-meals! We tend to turn to snacks for quick pick-me-ups when we need a boost of energy. Instead of grabbing an afternoon coffee and a cookie that can push your blood sugar up and be hard on your hormones, think of making a smaller version of a meal, always combining quality protein, healthy fat, and complex carbs. Here are a few examples: 1 tablespoon almonds with an apple and celery slices, half-portions of dinner leftovers from the night before, or kale and turkey roll-ups with a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds
Sugar comes in so many forms these days that you have to be careful when reading labels that you are finding all the ways companies try to hide sugar. Here are some of the names of added sugar: agave nectar, brown sugar, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, malt sugar or malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose.
Alternative sugars we like are stevia, xylitol, and monk fruit extract. These are all sweet and they won’t spike your blood sugar in the same way that traditional sugar will. Remember that honey, molasses and maple syrup are okay options as they have more nutritional benefits than plain cane sugar, however, be sure to keep these in moderation.
When looking at labels always be sure to look at the “added sugars” amount. There might be natural sugars occurring in the food, but when you see the added sugars that is extra that the manufacturer is adding in. For each meal our ideal is that you are getting no more than 5 grams of sugar per meal.
Be aware of sugar where you might not expect it too, especially in drinks. Soda, Kombucha, and specialty coffee drinks tend to have lots of extra sugar or artificial sugar that isn’t good for you either. Other foods that tend to have added sugars are salad dressings, ketchup, granola bars, and yogurt. Be sure to read labels carefully when purchasing these foods to find the ones with zero or very low sugar.