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  • Dr. Katie O'Connor

The Sugar Connection - How controlling blood sugar means so much more than just avoiding diabetes!

I bet you knew that eating too much sugar could lead to diabetes.  But did you also know that sugar issues lead to something called insulin resistance and that this condition can have massive effects on your body, especially your hormones?? Health issues such as PCOS, estrogen dominance, infertility, gestational diabetes and breast cancer are on the rise and they can all be connected back to sugar!

Years ago, it was all about the low fat diet.  People payed more attention to the amount of fat they were consuming than they did to the amount of sugar and disease rates began to soar.  We were fatter and sicker than ever and that’s when a few rebels started to take a look at the science.  What they discovered was groundbreaking!  It wasn’t fat that was making us fat, it was sugar!

Okay, so it’s true that your body most certainly needs sugar in some forms to carry out its daily functions.  Your brain requires balanced blood sugar 24/7.  That being said, our food and eating habits have evolved drastically over the past century, far faster than our hunter-gatherer metabolism is equipped to keep up with.  While me may be able to create convenient fast foods that are ultra tasty and can be stored forever and eaten on the go, our bodies do no handle processing these foods with an efficiency.

Enter insulin resistance.  Insulin is a major hormone in the body.  It has many roles, one of the largest being to regulate blood sugar.  Without giving you an online course in physiology, here’s a snapshot of how this works.  Sugar comes into the body through food.  A very starchy or simple carbohydrate dense meal will dump a lot of sugar into the blood quickly.  Since the blood being balanced is so important, the pancreas will release lots of insulin which acts as doormen for the cells to take in the sugar out of the blood.  Without insulin, cells cannot let the sugar in.  The resistance comes on after this goes on for a while.  When we constantly eat, and eat meals high in sugar (carbs) our cells insulin receptors get overworked (doorman on overtime).  They stop responding well to insulin’s knock at the door.

Long story short, now we have to do something else with the sugar, because it can’t stay in the blood, so we convert this sugar to fat.  As this belly fat builds up, it can start to act like an endocrine organ, releasing hormones such as estrogen.  It also leads to a build up cortisol, the stress hormone which can also throw off your balance of testosterone and progesterone as well, so most of your body’s hormones are now out of whack.

This is where Estrogen Dominance, PCOS, infertility and other hormone imbalance issues including increased risk of cancers like breast cancer comes into play.  Sugar hanging out in the blood stream will also lead to body wide inflammation, which is why some people describe a “sugar hangover” or feeling bloated, swollen, tight painful joints etc. After a day of heavy sugar eating.  Some of us are so used to feeling this way due to eating high carb diets all the time that we don’t even realize it since it has become our norm.  

This inflammation is what leads to damage of the arteries ending in heart disease, and the toll on the pancreas will lead to type II diabetes and eventual shut down of the pancreas if not addressed.  

Three steps you can take to immediately reduce your risk of insulin resistance 

1. Inspect your carbohydrate intake - We aren’t interested in making carbs the devil here, but it’s important to realize what you are putting into your body.  Getting an app for your phone that will track what are called Macros will help you see how much sugar you’re putting in.  Basically if you are over 60g of carbs per day your diet is leading you towards insulin resistance.  The type of sugar matters too.  10g of steel cut oats vs. 10g of sugary pop will have a much different effect on release of insulin.  The oats will take a while to digest and will cause a slow release of sugar and insulin while the soda will cause a spike of both that can lead to the beginnings of damage.

2. Stop eating late at night.  - Your body needs some time to recoup and regroup.  Letting your cells have a break for at least 10-12 hours is always a good idea to help the body regulate insulin and help your cells stay sensitive to it.  As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder...

- If you feel like (or know) you are dealing with gestational diabetes, PCOS, hormonal imbalances, diabetes etc, seek out someone who is qualified to help you get your lifestyle back on track.  If you have a known health issue, it may need to be managed at first by your medical doctor to prevent serious consequences.  That being said in the current state of modern medicine, it has been shown that an alternative health practitioner such as a chiropractor, naturopath, functional medicine practitioner or functional nutritionist are better equipped to help you find natural ways to balance your hormones/insulin through better lifestyle habits.  Find someone near you with lots of experience dealing with these issues!

Dr. Katie O'Connor is the expert prenatal chiropractor at Life Naturally Chiropractic, an Orland Park, Illinois based chiropractic office specializing in the care of women before during and after pregnancy. Contact Dr. Katie O’Connor at Life Naturally Chiropractic for more information today.

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