Do you experience pretty intense sugar and carb cravings, low energy, and difficulty managing your weight? Are you fatigued even though you get plenty of sleep? Is your mood unpredictable? You may already know that hormones play a huge role in regulating all of these things — and  if you’ve been following along for a while, you know I’ve written about hormone health a LOT. But what’s often overlooked in conversations about “balancing your hormones” is just how big of an impact blood sugar spikes can have. If you feel like you’re doing everything you can to take control of your health but still struggling with all of the things above,  the answer might just be in your blood sugar levels.

What is a blood sugar spike?

We often think that only diabetics need to worry about blood sugar spikes and insulin, but the truth is that we ALL experience a glycemic response to some extent after we eat.

Just a quick refresher, in case you’re lost:

  • Glucose is a simple sugar. It’s our body’s favorite energy source — without it, your muscles, brain, lungs, and organs wouldn’t function.
  • Anytime you eat carbs, whether it’s something starchy (potatoes), sweet (fruit), or grainy (oatmeal), your body will break it down into glucose in your digestive system.
  • This glucose then enters your bloodstream, leading to an increase in blood sugar. 
  • When your blood sugar rises, your body releases the hormone insulin in an attempt to usher away free-flowing glucose and bring your levels back down.
  • Insulin opens up your cells and lets glucose in — causing your blood sugar levels to fall.
  • Inside of your cells, glucose gets turned into energy that your body uses to keep you alive.

Well-balanced meals and snacks (which contain protein, fat, carbs, and fiber) will lead to an increased but still “normal” blood sugar response — about 15 minutes after you eat, your levels will slope upward until they peak about 1.5 hours later and start to stabilize. On the other hand, processed foods, sugary drinks, or even healthy carbs that are eaten alone without protein or fiber to blunt the response can create spikes that mess with our hormone levels, inflammation, cravings, and even the aging of our skin.

In fact, 90%+ of totally healthy, non-diabetic individuals experience glucose spikes in response to foods as common as breakfast cereal!

What’s not good is if you’re consistently experiencing rapid spikes and crashes that take a long time to stabilize (a.k.a., a glucose roller coaster) — which puts you at a greater risk of developing long-term health issues like cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, as well as a ton of short-term symptoms like acne, sugar cravings, mood swings, and increased weight.

What’s the relationship between blood sugar and hormones?

If you eat too many high-carb foods and rarely exercise in any form, you’re setting yourself up for chronic blood sugar spikes, which over time can desensitize your cells to insulin’s unlocking mechanism (a condition known as insulin resistance). This keeps your blood glucose high and triggers a cycle where your pancreas releases even more insulin into the bloodstream to do its job. You’re left with high blood sugar + high insulin levels — a recipe for metabolic and hormonal chaos.

In fact, the consistent elevation of our insulin levels not only drives inflammation and hormone disruption by increasing testosterone production and preventing androgen conversion to estrogen (as seen in PCOS) — it also lowers sex hormone binding globulin, resulting in greater amounts of free, unbound estrogen (contributing to symptoms of estrogen excess: i.e., endometriosis, fibroids, heavy periods, and PMS).

Research indicates that insulin resistance is linked to:

  • Inflammation and anxiety.
  • Cravings and increased weight that’s difficult to lose.
  • Elevated risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Irregular periods.
  • Infertility.
  • Facial hair, acne, and skin tags.

The good news: with every meal you have the opportunity to balance your blood sugar

There are several things you can use to start balancing your blood glucose levels right here and now.

  • Eating high-fiber vegetables (like leafy greens and whole grains) with your meals to slow down the absorption of glucose. (You can do the same with healthy fats like EVOO — which, by the way, tastes amazing on coconut ice cream.)
  • Taking a shot of apple cider vinegar before a meal to stabilize postprandial glucose levels.
  • Using natural sugar alternatives such as stevia or monk fruit (while avoiding artificial sweeteners, which have been shown to mess with your glucose response and microbiome).
  • Playing with food order (like eating a high-fiber salad or handful of nuts before potatoes) and timing (intermittent fasting).
  • Avoiding late-night snacks or meals (our bodies are naturally less sensitive to insulin in the evenings).

But there are plenty of factors outside of diet, like sleep, exercise, and gut health, that impact your body’s ability to manage glucose — and making sure you’re taking care of yourself in ALL areas of life is key. This means: 

  • Getting enough sleep every night and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Practicing yoga/meditation/breathwork to manage your cortisol levels.
  • Taking probiotics or eating lots of fermented foods (if not FODMAP) to nourish a healthy microbiome.
  • Doing a blend of resistance + aerobic workouts at least 3 days a week.

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