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A Spoon Full of Sugar…plays absolute havoc with your hormones!

There really is no way to sweeten the bitter truth that our body is not designed to cope with the amounts of sugar that we see in western diets today. 

Dealing with it puts a real strain on our system and it’s our hormone balance that will pay the price. 

For menstrual, peri-menopausal and menopausal health we need to take a look at our sugar intake.

I know that eating is for pleasure as well as nutrition, and I really agree with that but when you look at the science about how our body deals with sugar it definitely becomes less desirable. The chaos that it causes our beautiful bodies is more similar to that of a drug than a food.

The food industry, in exactly the same way as the alcohol industry does today and the tobacco industry did in the past bombards us with images that convince us that eating sugar goes hand in hand with enjoying ourselves. We are taught that its essential for any special occasion  or even for sad or stressful times. Just like fags and booze!

The thing about  using sugar to get our pleasure it’s that it’s hard to do it occasionally. It’s hard to just have it at special times, its hard for most of us to take it or leave it and that’s because it addictive. 

In her book Fix Your Period author Nicole Jardim goes in to a lot of detail about the journey of sugar through our system and in ‘The Happy Menopause’ Jackie Lynch explains how much it effect many of the symptoms associated with menopause. 

Here’s a very simplistic explanation of what happens when we eat sugar.

Our body is designed to keep our blood sugar levels within a specific range. Too high or too low and it poses a health risk.

Eating high levels of sugary foods leads to a spike in blood sugar, which generates the release of the hormone insulin.

The role of insulin is to clear out all the sugar from the blood and send it to the liver to be stored. If your blood sugar levels are high your liver might not be able to take it all, so any excess sugar will be stored as fat. Insulin doesn’t carefully calculate how much sugar to remove from the blood to restore balance, it just takes the whole lot. Then we get the blood sugar crash! The higher the spike of insulin the greater the crash.

OK, so now our blood sugar level is low and we begin to feel tired, irritable, anxious, shaky, dizzy, headachy. This is bad news so we release adrenaline and cortisol to readdress the balance. They in turn instruct the liver to release sugar. However at the same time you reached for a sugary snack for a pick me up and guess what your blood sugar level is too high again.

Because our diets are literally full of sugar, whether the obvious kinds, cake, biscuits, sweets etc there’s all the refined carbs most cereals, white bread, pasta, rice and on top of that the ‘hidden’ sugar in package food it can be easy to put our bodies though this loop multiple times a day.

This is so exhausting for the body. Constantly trying to fix something. It doesn’t really sound so much like a treat anymore.

Then there’s more bad news. While the body is diverting all its energy trying to restore blood sugar balance it lacks the resources to balances our other hormones – the oestrogen and progesterone – and guess what we experience difficult menstrual, peri or menopause symptoms.

So whether it’s painful periods, heavy periods, irregular periods, pmt, hot flushes, anxiety or insomnia your symptoms will be improved if we change our relationship with sugar. 

Like all diet changes it’s best if we can make make them long term so I’m not suggesting that you suddenly give up sugar today. For most of us that would be really hard and we’d experience difficult withdrawal symptoms like we would with any drug.

So first of all become aware of your intake. There’s the obvious cakes, sweets, pastries, chocolate, ice cream, biscuits etc but we also need to be aware of the refined carbs, white rice, white bread, white pasta, white pastry and potatoes.

So maybe start with changing just one thing, swap white bread for wholemeal. Take your time to find a loaf that you like so that you don’t feel that you’re denying yourself. Swapping potatoes in all of their glorious forms for sweet potatoes is easy and so delicious! Maybe then beginning to swap the sweet thing for fruit, or just having less. When you do have sugar then having it as part of a meal where you’ve also had fibre and protein will cause less disruption to your blood sugar levels.

Sugar in the evening may make for a 2-3am wake up so maybe just a little after lunch? 

I guess what I’m suggesting is that you be kind to yourself while you look at changing what you eat. Go slowly and with curiosity. 

The less you have, the less you crave so changing your habits will become easier.