The Adrenal Fatigue Epidemic Continued: The Connection to Cortisol Issues, Blood Sugar Imbalances, and Diabetes
Last but certainly not least in this series on adrenal fatigue articles is understanding more about adrenal fatigue and the connection to hypoglycaemia and blood sugar imbalances. We’ve all probably had that feeling at one time or another where we could feel our energy crashing, we probably felt hungry, and we didn’t have access to food immediately. In essence, we were experiencing a temporary dip in our blood sugar and had a bout of ‘hypoglycaemia’. While this can and indeed does happen to healthy people, for those that are dealing with true adrenal fatigue, these episodes become much more frequent and typically happen more quickly between meals & snacks.
Today we are going to talk about why this happens and also what we can do to help support more stable blood sugar throughout the day, whether we are suffering from adrenal fatigue or we are just trying to optimise our health and energy all day long!
Pushing Past the Tipping Point: A Recipe for Hypoglycaemia & Hormonal Imbalance
As we have been talking about in the last couple of articles, too many of us too much of the time are in what we call the ‘fight or flight’ mode. And in this mode, typically we then push our body to continue to pump out considerable amounts of cortisol, our stress hormone, to help us cope with the stress. Well what happens when our adrenal glands just can’t keep up anymore and they get depleted and tired? Well, one of the first things that can happen is that we start ‘stealing’ hormone material that was ‘earmarked’ to make other hormones in the body, for example progesterone. This is in fact termed the ‘progesterone steal’ and is increasingly happening to women in their thirties and even twenties. To better visualise, if we can imagine all hormones being made from our original source of all hormone material, cholesterol, and each one is like a stream tributary from the central river, to keep one stream with high demands on it from drying up, we have to ‘divert’ more water flow from others. Of course, this means that these other ‘streams’ then get depleted as well and that has consequences as well. Low progesterone levels are associated with fertility problems, increased weight gain in women especially, reproductive-linked imbalances such as fibroids and endometriosis and more!
However, eventually, we can deplete these other ‘tributaries’ as well that were feeding the ‘cortisol’ branch and then we start dealing with chronically low cortisol levels too, which typically leaves people feeling chronically tired, having difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, and many other symptoms. But before this happens, when cortisol levels are very high, we start causing other problems to happen too, namely elevated insulin levels!
Now while explaining this concept of how insulin and cortisol exactly relate is beyond the scope of this article, it is enough for you to realise that when you are chronically stressed, cortisol will elevate, typically causing insulin to elevate, which can, over time, create insulin resistance, chronically elevated blood sugar, weight gain, and eventually if not addressed, potentially diabetes!
As the adrenals are tiring over time, they will have a harder time maintaining consistent levels of cortisol and subsequently, levels can drop, creating instability in insulin and blood sugar levels. This creates the situation we first talked about called ‘hypoglycaemia’. This is a symptom that is commonly seen with more advanced stages of adrenal fatigue.
What we can do to help support stable blood sugar
While individuals dealing with true adrenal fatigue should ideally be treated by a qualified holistic healthcare provider, there are some simple tips we can start doing in the meantime to help support stable blood sugar levels:
- Eat some protein and good quality fats every 2-3 hours (including with meals). Proteins and fats take longer to digest and they also don’t spike blood sugar the way many carbohydrates do. This will help support more consistent sugar levels.
- Support healthy cortisol production with supplementing with Vitamin C throughout the day. Vitamin C is one of several nutrients that help facilitate cortisol production, thereby helping you cope with stress
- Avoid simple carbohydrates that will tend to spike your blood sugar. These include things like: white bread, fruit juice, white rice, potatoes, cakes/cookies/pies, most commercial ‘energy bars’ (which are usually loaded with sugar), potato chips and crackers, French fries, and more.
- If you find yourself waking at night for no apparent reason and having trouble falling back asleep, it may be because of hypoglycaemia! Have a small bowl of nuts on your nightstand and consider having a handful.
Attending to these simple but helpful hints can help you curb disruptive and unpleasant blood sugar swings, which is sure to help make your day more pleasant and easier to get through!