Women need to focus on blood sugar

Women need to focus on blood sugar

Like many things in conventional medicine, blood sugar problems are not identified or diagnosed until the disease is progressed and severe. The truth is that decades before insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes are diagnosed, blood sugar imbalances are brewing, wreaking havoc on sleep, reproductive hormone balance, cardiovascular tissue and metabolism. Women, in particular, are impacted by these symptoms as estrogen levels decline and our bodies become more insulin resistant naturally. Taking control of blood sugar balance can remedy or tame many of the classic symptoms associated with perimenopause, and improve overall bio markers across the board.

So, what is happening in the decades before a disease is in full swing?

You’ve been overpacking

Dr. Jason Fung, author of The Diabetes Code, uses a fantastic visual to articulate glucose balance and insulin sensitivity. He explains that your cells are like an empty suitcase and glucose is the clothing. When you consume more glucose than your cells need for energy, it’s like packing too many clothes in your suitcase…you can cram it, but eventually you will not be able to zip the darn thing and clothing will start to spill out.

This is the same with glucose. When we talk about insulin resistance, we are saying that your cells are packed way too full of sugar/glucose (their energy source) and when your body sends the signal to the cell to take more glucose in via insulin, the cells simply cannot fit one more molecule of glucose inside, resulting in glucose remaining in the bloodstream where it leads to a metabolic and inflammatory disaster.

When glucose stays in the blood

Every time you eat more glucose than your body needs for fuel, it leads to elevated glucose in the bloodstream. This causes the pancreas to release more and more insulin in an attempt to signal cells to absorb the excess. Now you have high circulating glucose and high circulating insulin!

As excess glucose molecules roam around in the bloodstream they bump into other molecules and cause glycation. When these glucose molecules hit other molecules and glycate them, those molecules become damaged permanently.This can also be seen as “cooking” or “aging.” It’s this glycation process that ages us, both internally and externally; and while a certain level of this is normal, the more glucose spikes in the bloodstream, the faster we age, or the faster certain disease progressions occur. In tandem, elevated levels of insulin, a growth hormone, impacts inflammatory risk and cell signaling that is linked to increased risk of breast, prostate and colorectal cancers.

The blood sugar-hormone dance

Women are not tiny men as Dr. Stacy Sims likes to remind us. Our sex hormones are much more complicated than the opposite gender. Imbalances in other hormones such as insulin have a direct impact on reproductive hormones. In fact, high insulin levels tell the ovaries to make more testosterone which can lead to facial hair, acne and even infertility. High insulin levels also lower sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) which leads to a release of excessive amounts of estrogen resulting in sore breasts, fibroids, anxiety, insomnia, weight gain and heavy menses. The great news is that we can reduce or even fully reverse these symptoms by focusing on healthy glucose management.

Unpacking your suitcase

Now that we understand that glucose balance is critical for overall health and hormone balance, what is the solution? Below are the most effective and evidence-based methods to unpack your suitcases and balance hormones.

1. Build more muscle

Building muscle means more space in your suitcases. Muscle, specifically, burns glucose at a higher rate than other tissues. This means that even when you’re sitting at your desk or sleeping in your bed, higher muscle mass means better glucose tolerance. Especially for women as we move through perimenopause and menopause, we need more muscle to compensate for low estrogen levels and subsequent metabolic changes. Learn more about why muscle matters, and in particular why women need strength training

2. Track your glucose

Eat the amount of carbs your body needs for energy. The amount of glucose you need will change based on your age, activity level, body composition, and the like. You'll need to play around with carb intake to find out what is right for you which can be done anecdotally by watching body composition and energy levels. For more accurate and trackable data, we are fans of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) which provides immediate information about how your body responds to carbs in the diet. By tracking with a CGM, you can quickly identify the carbs that fuel you and the carbs to derail your metabolic balance.

3. Eat a high soluble fiber diet

Eating a high soluble fiber diet slows digestion and the rate at which sugar makes it into the bloodstream. This means that instead of wild glucose spikes, the fuel moves into the bloodstream more slowly, giving your cells a better shot at absorbing and using glucose. Better yet, soluble fiber expands in your gut helping you feel fuller faster and longer, leading to reduced caloric intake. A simple solution is a 3 tsp. Florasophy per day. By adding a teaspoon or more to each meal, you blunt glucose spikes while improving satiety.

Keep it simple

With these three simple tools, you can prevent chronic disease while boosting your energy, balancing your hormones, improving metabolism and increasing health span. All of those amazing benefits just by getting ahead of your glucose balance.

About Megan Barnett, MS, CNS

Megan Barnett, MSMegan Barnett is a functional medicine practitioner in Portland, Oregon. In her clinical practice, she helps patients identify the root cause of their health problems, then designs individualized and evidence-based approaches to alleviate symptoms and help their bodies heal. She has a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Kansas State University and a Master of Science in Nutrition and Functional Medicine from University of Western States.