Naturally Healing the Thyroid, part one: getting blood sugar under control
Why does every health issue in my life necessitate cutting out and cutting back on sugar?
Heh. Years ago I told a co-worker of mine that I wouldn’t cut back on sweets and sugar unless someone told me that I’d die if I didn’t. And while I won’t die tomorrow, due to eating sugar, it was slowly destroying my body.
I don’t eat near as much sugar as I used to, but I could definitely focus a bit more time on making sure my meals are well-rounded, so as not to give me problems with my blood sugar balance. Because of my many, many years of too much sugar consumption, this area of my body is weak and very sensitive to a lot of sweets and refined carbs.
As Americans (and you Canadians and other international readers that live in ‘modern’ countries) we are addicted to sugar. My Sugar Detox Challenge is insanely popular this time of year as people try to tame their sweet tooth yet again. And I won’t lie and say I don’t have a taste for the stuff, I still very much enjoy some of my old favorite treats; when they’re around it can be extremely difficult to keep my hand out of the candy bowl.
Dr. Kharrazian has an entire chapter in his book about taming the sugar beast, and states.
“My experience shows that attempts at successfully managing a person with hashimoto’s or functional hypothyroidism are futile as long as he or she indulges in a sugar-laden high-carbohydrate diet.”
Come to find out, an increase in the consumption of sweets not only directly affects the production of our reproductive hormones but also affects the production of thyroid hormones. Because the endocrine system works as a whole, and not separate from each other.
One of the problems is when we do indulge, our pancreas secretes insulin into the bloodstream to deal with rising glucose levels. Once this happens the glucose level drops, causing low blood sugar, which then causes the adrenals to go into their “fight or flight” mode. The adrenal hormones help to bring the blood sugar back up to normal levels, and these hormones cause stress in the body.
When all of this is happening in the body, because it’s important for our survival, the rest of the hormone production takes a back seat.
“Dysglycemia is a condition loses the ability to keep blood sugar stable………….it’s effects on adrenal function are at the heart of numerous health imbalances that frequently end in hypothyroidism: Dysglycemia weakens and inflames the digestive tract, weakens the immune barriers of the gut, lungs, and brain, drives the adrenal glands into exhuastion, sets the stage for hormonal imbalance (PMS, PCOS, miserable transition into menopause), clogs the body’s attempts at detoxification, impairs fatty acid metabolism, and fatigues metabolism.” – Dr. Kharrazian.
Low blood sugar, or reactive hypoglycemia (reacting to foods consumed), hypoglycemia, and insulin resistance all affect the adrenals, and therefore the thyroid as well.
5 Beginner tips on controlling blood sugar balance
1. Cut out all refined sugar and severely limit sweets.
It’s best to cut out all sweets entirely until you’ve been able to control your cravings. (if you’re having a tough time cutting out sugar, you can download the Sugar Detox challenge for free once you subscribe to the newsletter)
2. Start your day out on the right foot; with a protein-rich breakfast.
Skip the cereals and coffee, instead focusing on a healthy protein source like pastured eggs or grass-fed sausage. Carbohydrates are important of course, they are an essential nutrient, but have them as a small side instead of the main dish. I also find that eating a breakfast like this ensures that my hunger doesn’t come back ravenous in just a couple of hours.
3. Stop drinking coffee.
Whether or not the actual caffeine in black coffee affects your blood sugar levels, I know from personal experience that it plants the seed for craving sweets as the day goes on. Plus, caffeinated drinks are hard on your adrenals.
4. Include quality protein, fiber, and good fats in every meal or snack.
People who have issues with their blood sugar regulation may find that eating a small amount of protein every few hours is very helpful at first.
Do you ever get tired after you eat? I do sometimes! And it’s not because you ate too much turkey, it’s because you ate over your carbohydrate limit. Each of us has a set amount of carbohydrates that our bodies can handle and it’s really important to listen to the cues of our body and pay attention to how much is too much for us. Because all the dietary advice in the world (low-carb, high-carb) isn’t going to help until we can figure out what our bodies need. So if you feel fine before and while you’re eating, but get very tired about an hour later, you may have consumed too many carbs. Make a note of what meals make you sleepy and after a couple of weeks, you should be able to figure out your carbohydrate limit. (as a side note – food sensitivities also show up as sleepiness and lethargy after eating, so if you ate a lower carb meal and are still tired, figure out what ingredients were in that meal and try cutting them out for a week before reintroducing. Common sensitivities are dairy, eggs, wheat, and soy)
5. Do not eat sweets before bed!
Dr. Kharrazian mentions that this is one of the worst things you can do, and it makes complete sense. When you eat a high carbohydrate meal or indulge in desserts, your insulin level will rise to counteract the blood glucose level, which will then drop to low. When this happens you still have hours to go before your next meal, so the adrenals have no choice other than to begin producing hormones to help fix the problem. (3 am wakenings or restless sleep is often tied to blood sugar and insulin issues)
In his book “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?” Dr. Kharrazian has a fast for unwinding insulin resistance that you may find beneficial if you have a bad case of insulin resistance. Magdalena’s Thyroid Detox Program also addresses the blood sugar issue.
But otherwise focusing on making sure your meals consist of vegetables, meats, and some fruit will go a long way in helping your body learn to better control your blood glucose levels.