Read on if you want to balance blood sugar, know if your blood sugar too high? Learn how to balance blood sugar in menopause. Find out what a blood sugar spike is and what causes it, what triggers a blood sugar crash, the symptoms of blood sugar imbalance and how to balance it and in the long term prevent diabetes.
Balance Blood Sugar in menopause?
This is so important for my menopause clients as hormones oestrogen and progesterone affect how your cells respond to insulin. So at menopause when these hormones change it can cause blood sugar to fluctuate more. It means menopausal ladies are more susceptible to unstable blood sugar and potentially diabetes if it goes uncontrolled.
Heart disease is known to be a risk for postmenopausal women, and diabetes predisposes us to it. However, the risk of dysregulated blood sugar in menopause is not highlighted and could be a way to prevent it. The good news is it can be supported with the right foods and lifestyle.
Oestrogen and Insulin.
Oestrogen improves insulin sensitivity and suppresses glucose production. So fluctuating oestrogen exacerbates blood sugar control and increases glucose and fat storage, hence weight gain! Imbalanced blood sugar can also exacerbate other menopausal symptoms.
This is common for lots of reasons but mainly because as sex hormones decline we deposit fat round the middle. Insulin sores fat so dysregulated blood sugar will contribute to fat deposits and loss of muscle making it more difficult to shed those pounds.
High blood sugar levels always contribute to urinary tract and vaginal infections. Around menopause low oestrogen makes it easier for thrush and bacteria to flourish in the urinary tract and vagina.
Hot flushes and night sweats may wake you up or you may just be awake in the night! Another downside to low oestrogen. Unfortunately, poor sleep can make it tougher to manage your blood sugar level. Low blood sugar can cause you to wake up!
What’s more many signs of Blood Sugar imbalance are similar to menopausal symptoms; low energy, mood swings, irritability, difficulty concentrating, brain fog, dizziness, food cravings.
Stress Hormone- cortisol
Every time your blood sugar drops, the body releases the stress hormone cortisol to redress the balance. Low blood sugar will leave you feeling tired, irritable, shaky, headachy, and dizzy. Cortisol will create powerful cravings for sugary or refined carbohydrate foods. This creates a vicious cycle!
We also know that raised cortisol during menopause will increase sex hormone imbalance, as cortisol is prioritised. Cortisol also leads to weight gain around the middle!
How blood sugar works and how to balance blood sugar
We need glucose to survive, it’s how we fuel our bodies with energy. So, blood sugar levels fluctuate according to our eating. Most of our food is broken down into glucose but it’s the speed at which this happens that’s important!
Blood sugar is the amount of sugar in the blood stream at any given time. We have around 5 litres of blood and can only tolerate 1 teaspoon of sugar at any time. The body works hard to keep this level. In contrast, a standard can of Coca-Cola contains 3.5 teaspoons (14 grams) of glucose! It is easy to see how imbalance can occur.
After eating a meal, food is broken down in the digestive system and enters our blood stream from the intestines. The pancreas releases insulin to control blood sugar levels by bringing the glucose to the cells in the muscles, liver, and brain. To function properly, these cells need glucose for fuel. Any excess glucose is stored in the liver as Glycogen. If these stores are full then we start to deposit excess glucose as fat.
The blood Sugar Roller coaster and how to balance it
This is usually the result of a blood sugar spike! Too much sugar in the blood will lead to the release of the hormone insulin to clear it all out, the body overcompensates which leaves blood sugar levels low. Known as the blood sugar crash and therefore a roller coaster.
Certain foods ‘spike’ blood sugar due to a higher speed of digestion and being absorbed into the blood stream more quickly.
For example eating excessive amounts of sugary food and refined carbohydrate that are low in fibre (e.g. white bread or white rice). These are the main culprits, often in processed foods. Watch out for sugary drinks and fruit juices raise blood sugar too!
Breakfast cereals often have added sugar even ‘Healthier’ muesli’s, granola’s and dried fruits are high in sugar! Low-fat foods often contain high sugar or sweeteners, beware these also raise blood glucose too! Remember alcohol contains sugar that’s absorbed quickly and can cause blood sugar crashes that wake you up.
The missing Link in weight gain – is Blood Sugar Imbalance
This is the reason refined carbohydrates and sugars are the ‘missing link’ in weight gain!
FAT has taken the blame for too long. For example, wholemeal bread has a higher glycaemic index (a way to measure sugar content) than table sugar itself (71 vs 68) so the starch in bread is concentrated sugar!
A few GPs are even recommending a lower carbohydrate, higher fat and protein way of eating that supports blood sugar more effectively that very low-calorie low-fat diets. 3,4
If we habitually eat foods that trigger the roller coaster, we may be prone to raised blood sugar and over time this can develop into insulin resistance and finally diabetes!
This is when the cells become less responsive to insulin so they can’t easily take up the glucose in the blood into the cells. The pancreas makes more insulin to overcome this weak response. If enough insulin is made to combat the high blood glucose levels blood glucose will stay in the healthy range.
Prediabetes means blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to have diabetes diagnosed. Often this happens when there is insulin resistance. So to keep blood glucose in the normal range without enough insulin, extra glucose stays in your bloodstream rather than entering your cells. Then this damages the body and you could develop type 2 diabetes.
How To balance blood sugar
- Protein takes longer to digest stabilising blood sugar, some good sources of protein include meat, fish, eggs, lentils, chickpeas, beans, quinoa, nuts and seeds.
- Fibre slows down the release of glucose into the blood so moderates the insulin response. And good sources of fibre are wholegrains (e.g. wholemeal bread, brown rice, wholegrain pasta), vegetables, pulses and fruit.
- Avoid long gaps between meals and aim to eat a meal or small snack roughly every 4 hours.
- Unfortunately snacking is not recommended for blood sugar control! You can have smaller meals or high protein snacks until your body adjusts!
Key Foods to include
- Garlic, onion, cinnamon, and apple cider vinegar are shown to reduce post meal glucose levels.
- Optimise omega 3 from oily fish and Vitamin D from sunshine and often supplementation.
- Chromium; raw onion, ripe tomatoes
- Magnesium- Chard; spinach, pumpkin seeds
- Zinc; sea food and vegetables, wholegrains
- Intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates in confectionery, sugary drinks, processed foods, biscuits, baked goods, fast foods, fruit juices, cereals, ready-made meals.
- White starches (e.g. flour, bread, pasta and rice) often contain little fibre, digest quickly and cause BS to rise sharply.
- Manage stress!
- Do moderate exercise or movement every day as it stimulates glucose into the cells!
- Get 8 hours sleep!
If you’d like some support to optimise your nutrition or support menopause symptoms do get in touch for free chat to see how can help you further. BOOK A CALL
MedlinePlus (2015) Blood sugar. Accessed: 21st May 2016 https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/bloodsugar.html.
Anderson J, et al (2009) Health benefits of dietary fibre. Nutrition Reviews, 67:188-205 [Online] Wiley Online Library. Accessed: 22nd May 2016 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x/full