Sugar and Hormone Imbalance: Sweet Disaster
Nutritional emptiness. That’s what sugar is. Oh it certainly delights the palate and that is one reason to love it or even become addicted to it, but it’s certainly not in your best interest. Especially when you are already dealing with a hormone imbalance.
A primitive sweet tooth
The history of man’s love of sugar goes way back. The difference between now and then is that whole fruits accounted for most of the sugar in primitive man’s diet, so he was getting the whole package. Vitamins, minerals, fiber .. these all paid the body back, so to speak, for the energy it was putting out to digest the food it was taking in. I’ll explain more about that below.
Now the whole point of eating sugar and other carbohydrates is to provide the body with energy. When you feel hungry, your body is signaling that blood sugar has dropped and it’s time to refuel. Today, refined sugar (sucrose) can be the quickest and easiest go-to because it gets into the bloodstream quickly to provide an almost immediate energy boost.
The problem is, the short-lived burst of energy you get from refined sugar is followed by a crash into lethargy and weakness. When that happens, the adrenal glands (the glands that make the hormones to handle stress) get a signal that you are in emergency mode – fight or flight. So the those glands kick into full gear making stress hormones for a situation that really isn’t an emergency in the first place! But, because your blood sugar level dropped, the body assumes that food may not be available for a while, so it does what it must to keep you alive until you can find food to drive your blood sugar back up. The body essentially shuts down all “unimportant” processes like digestion, detoxification and immune function so that all remaining energy can go to the extremities for “flight”. Then, if you respond to your energy “crash” by eating more refined sugar, the whole cycle begins again. (Check out this article to learn more about “fight-or-flight”)
Whenever the adrenal glands kick into gear, reproductive hormones are also affected. You see, the adrenals pick up the slack by making some reproductive hormones when the ovaries aren’t able. When they have to make stress hormones, they can’t pick up that slack. Also, progesterone is actually converted to a stress hormone when necessary. So with excess stress of any cause comes lowered progesterone levels and the resulting possibility of estrogen dominance. (Here’s more information on the effect of stress on hormones)
Sugar is an “anti-nutrient”
Rather than contributing to the pool of nutrients responsible for creating the your energy, instead it depletes those nutrients. Sugar has “empty calories”, and that presents a huge health concern. Here’s what I mean by that: digestion and metabolism require energy. To generate energy, the body must use a variety of nutrients. Because refined sugar has had all nutrients processed out of it, it cannot pay the body back for the energy used to digest and metabolize itself! In other words, the nutrients used to generate the energy to digest the sugar must be replaced by robbing the vitamin and mineral reserves of the bones, muscles, brain and other parts of the body, further depleting these with every bite. Over time this leads to malnutrition, setting the stage for chronic health issues, hormone imbalance, and serious disease. Every system in the body, including the endocrine system (that includes all the glands that make our hormones) depends on nutrients to be able to function.
Malnutrition is a serious modern-day concern, even in the obese.
Not only are we a high-sugar society today, but we also rely quite a bit on manufactured foods. These “fake foods” that come in boxes and bags and other man-made packaging are similar to refined sugar in that they have been stripped of most of their nutrients. In addition, these foods often have plenty of hidden sugar in an effort to improve taste when fats have been limited or removed. All of this will provide short spurts of energy as described above, while providing nothing to help the body live, let alone thrive. It’s literally modern-day malnutrition. So it is quite possible to be overweight, even obese, and still lack adequate stores of the vitamins and minerals necessary to be well, thanks to diets high in refined carbs and empty calories.
There are a couple of [NASTY] things that do benefit from sugar . . .
Sugar feeds yeast. Think athlete’s foot, jock itch, vaginal infections, skin rashes, thrush (whitish coating inside the cheeks or on the tongue)… not pleasant stuff. What’s even more unpleasant is when yeast (otherwise known as Candida albicans) goes way overboard and becomes a systemic (whole body) problem. It can grow out of control in your digestive tract and, quite honestly, all over your insides if given the opportunity. This itself causes nutrient malabsorption, hormone imbalance and weakened immunity.
Legitimately, the body views candida as an infection and acts to fight that infection, which in turn takes energy from your immune system’s front line and from your liver. So instead of being at it’s most efficient to filter out excess hormones, the liver can become sluggish, allowing these hormones to circulate through the bloodstream time and again. This contributes to hormone imbalance.
Next and even nastier: Did you know that cancer cells need sugar to survive? Yup. And you may have heard that all cells need glucose to survive, but that’s actually proved to be false. It turns out that healthy cells are able to survive without glucose because they switch to an alternate fuel – ketone bodies. A defect in cancer cells do not allow for the same adjustment and they are therefore 100% dependent on glucose for survival. So when you take away the glucose … in essence starving the cancer cells … they die. The “Ketogenic Diet”, an anti-cancer diet currently at the media forefront, consists of natural proteins and fats but close to zero carbohydrates. Research, along with a bunch of anecdotal stories, indicates that it works to kill the cancer cells.
It’s all . . . bad. Sorry.
Okay, so it turns out that there is really nothing good about sugar when it comes to your health and hormone balance. And keep in mind I didn’t cover everything bad about sugar in this short article … things like insulin resistance and diabetes, premature aging, the well-known ill effects of sugar on dental health, mental health, behavior, etc.
But please don’t let my sugar negativity overwhelm you. If you’re trying to get your hormones, and your whole body, back in balance, remember that any small decrease in sugar consumption is a great thing. Small first steps will lead to giant leaps down the road. And once you kick the habit, you’ll likely feel so much better and rid yourself of so many uncomfortable symptoms that you’ll have no desire to go back to the refined sweet stuff!
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