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Sugar and Hormone Health 🍭

The Problem with Sugar

While sugar is delicious, sugar is a disaster for your hormone health. When I work with clients, it doesn’t matter if we are working on weight loss, finetuning their nutrition or their mindset around foods, the first thing we focus on is stabilizing blood sugar. Too much sugar can lead to rapid weight gain, insulin resistance, and mood imbalances. Sugar also adversely affects the body’s endocrine system (aka. hormone system), which is responsible for creating and regulating your hormones.


It's Not Just About Table Sugar

Of course, when I say sugar, I am not only referring to table sugar. In essence, it's table sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, white carbs (i.e., bread, pasta, bagels), agave, maple syrup, honey and so forth.  Sugar is marketed 101 ways today, and many sugar 'alternatives' are only marginally healthier than table sugar.  Processed sugars, whether natural or not have an adverse effect on your blood sugar and in turn mess with your hormone balance. It's not that I eliminate, or expect you to eliminate, all sweeteners. But you should understand there is a difference between foods, which should be daily staples and those which should be occasional indulgences.



. You can’t stop eating your kids’ candy

•         You crave carbs all the time

•         You have dark circles under your eyes

•         You wake up tired

•         You have a midday energy crash

•         You are constipated

•         You have gas

•         You get bloated

•         You have PMS

•         You have insulin resistant PCOS

•         You get headaches

•         You get moody

•         You’ve been gaining weight

•         You have brain fog

•         You get sick a lot


How Sugar Affects Your Hormones

Sugar messes with your reproductive hormones by disrupting the production of the hormone insulin. When your insulin production is out of whack, everything else falls apart, especially estrogen and testosterone. When you eat a meal high in sugar, your insulin level will spike. When this happens, it reduces the production of SHBG. SHBG, or sex hormone-binding globulin, is an essential protein that regulates the levels of estrogen and testosterone in the blood. When SHBG production is low, estrogen and testosterone levels increase rapidly.


High levels of estrogen will overwhelm progesterone levels. Progesterone is the feel-good hormone that is responsible for keeping you calm, happy, and relaxed. When progesterone is overwhelmed, you become irritable and anxious, which can lead to mood swings, insomnia, among other things. When testosterone levels are too high, the body can convert it to estrogen (yup even more estrogen!). This process takes place in the fatty tissues, especially in the belly. When a lot of testosterone needs to be converted, more fatty tissues will be deposited to do the job more efficiently leading to more belly weight.


Now that you understand how sugar messes with your hormones, let’s look at how to can break the sugar habit and start detoxing sugar from your diet. Quitting sugar can feel really hard but know that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  You can still have sweet treats; you just need to be mindful of the type and the amount of sugar you are eating.

 

10 Easy Steps to Breaking the Sugar Habit

Here is a step-by-step outline that you can follow for each of these aspects:


1.    Drink more water. When you drink the recommended amount of water (eight 8-ounce glasses) on a daily basis, it will make your body’s systems perform more efficiently, make you feel fuller throughout the day, reduce your food intake, and reduce your sugar cravings.

 

2.    Eat well-balanced meals. A balanced diet will provide the body with everything it needs to function correctly. Most cravings are results of specific deficiencies. When you include everything that your body needs within your meals, you will be less likely to indulge in sugary foods. You can also curb the sugar cravings by adding protein and fat to your meals.


3.    Eat less at night and don’t eat too late. Eating heavy meals at night causes a lot of digestive problems, including heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux. Eating heavy at night will also affect the quality of your sleep. When you sleep poorly, you are more likely to load up on sugars and coffee the next day to boost your energy.


4.    Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine creates a vicious cycle of energy highs and crashes – causing chronic energy issues. If you can’t imagine life without coffee, make it sugar-free. Though, as you'll learn, hanging out with me, coffee is a hormone disruptor even without sugar!


5.    Exercise more. Exercise is an excellent alternative to stimulants, such as coffee and sugar. Moving your body boosts the mitochondria in your cells and releases feel-good endorphins to keep you energized throughout the day. Stimulants, on the other hand, will give you a temporary high before the inevitable crash.


6.    Manage your stress levels. Instead of turning to sugary foods and drinks every time you feel stressed, try to fix the problem at its source. Figure out what is making you stressed and get solution oriented to find a resolve.


7.    Tackle your fear and anxiety. These two are known to cause most addictions, including food addictions. The fear of change and the anxiety that comes with it can make it harder to break bad habits. When you tackle these issues, it will be easier to cut your sugar intake. Try practicing daily affirmations like "I am fully satisfied".


8.    Tackle sugar cravings through EFT. Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT, is an alternative treatment method that can be used for both physical pain and emotional distress. It has been shown to help balance your body’s energy system and help with pains and addictions.


9.    Show yourself some love! Don't look to others (or food) for the love your soul needs.  Put self-love and acceptance into practice. How do we practice self-love? Try befriending your body through yoga, give yourself a mental high five, leave yourself an uplifting phone message, or do something special for yourself. Loving yourself will help you feel more comfortable in your own skin, reducing the need to comfort yourself with chocolate!


10. Realign your focus. Do you constantly think about or obsess over food or what you should eat? The more you think about something, the more you want it. Try to realign your focus and start thinking about other things besides food. It may not happen overnight, but with a little time, you will be able to focus on things that are more important than foods.

 

When You Reduce Sugar

You will….

•         Have glowing skin

•         Be more energized

•         Lose weight

•         Have better immunity

•         Improve your gut health

•         Have less energy crashes

•         Be less moody

 

Natural Sweeteners

Natural sweeteners may pose a problem for some women with hormone problems, especially if there is insulin-resistance, PCOS or weight issues. Natural sweeteners such as honey, agave, maple syrup, dried fruit, and coconut sugar are all high in fructose, and over-consuming them can affect your blood sugar balance.

 

Eating too many "natural" sweeteners is one mistake I see a lot of women with hormone problems making. There is a misconception that natural sweeteners are healthy. In moderation, they are fine for most women. But if you're eating too many date balls, maple syrup sweetened smoothies, and coconut sugar desserts, it can worsen your hormone problems. 

 

Listen, we need some sweetness in our life! Just remember, sweet treats should be occasional indulgences, not daily staples. I suggest women consume no more than 25 grams of fructose per day. For reference, 25 grams would be about two tablespoons of honey or maple syrup. If you’re wondering, while fruit has fructose too, it’s not a problem because fruit contains only a small amount and contains fiber to slow it down. However, if you have hormone issues, it’s best to favor low sugar fruits such as berries and citrus.

 

Lastly, I would encourage you to get familiar with monk fruit. Unlike other sweeteners, monk fruit’s sweetness comes from antioxidants called mogrosides. Monk fruit extract is rated a zero on the glycemic index and has zero calories and zero carbs, so it won’t spike blood sugar! You can use monk fruit to sweeten your smoothies and make desserts that won’t mess with your hormone balance.


Be Mindful of Hidden Sources of Sugar

·        Beverages: Blended juices, soft drinks, coffee and tea almost always contain added sugar. Even the juices that claim to be ‘organic’ have added sugar that can affect your well-being. 

·        Bread: Packaged breads, including the whole wheat types, usually contain sugar.

·        Cereals: Flavored oatmeal, other types of hot cereals, in addition to cold cereals usually contain sugar.

·        Dried Fruits: Dried fruit is very high in sugar. 

·        Granola Bars: Granola bars and other similar snacks also possess sugar, especially if they include raisins or other dried fruit pieces.

·        Pancakes: Pancakes and frozen waffles all have sugar.

·        Protein Bars: If you think taking protein bars and meal replacements are healthy, think again. They almost always have high amounts of sugar.

·        Restaurant Food: The rich, delicious flavor of the mouthwatering desserts at the restaurants is often enhanced by the sugary sauces on their entrees.

·        Sauces and Dressings: Most of the condiments and marinades, in addition to the dressings and bottled sauces, contain sugar.

·        Sweetened Dairy/Non-Dairy Products: Your favorite frozen yogurt, flavored kefir, and other milk or milk alternatives are often sweetened and have a high sugar content.

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