How Dysregulated Blood Sugar Can Worsen Endo Symptoms
Understanding blood sugar
So how does blood sugar work and why does it have such a big impact on endo? Blood sugar is the measurement of glucose in the bloodstream. Glucose is our body’s primary source of fuel and it comes from the breakdown of carbohydrates in the gut into their simplest form.
Complex carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains are broken down over time, as they contain higher levels of fiber and are made up of longer chains of glucose. As a result, glucose is delivered to the blood stream over a longer period of time, creating sustained energy levels.
Check-out our endo recipes page!
In contrast, refined carbohydrates and simple sugars break down very quickly as they contain little fiber or are already in their simplest form, for example, like honey or white sugar. These foods cause a quick surge in blood sugar, creating lots of energy for a short amount of time. This then causes further issues in the body.
Firstly, a hormone called insulin is responsible for transporting glucose around the body. When there is too much glucose in the blood stream, this is seen as a stressor to the body and so the pancreas pushes out lots of insulin, which goes about picking up all the extra glucose and storing it away in fat cells and the liver.
The symptoms of dysregulated blood sugar
Because high blood sugar is such a stressor on the body, the body tends to pump out too much insulin to be on the safe side, but as a result, blood sugar drops very quickly, and all of a sudden, we have too little glucose in our blood and we end up feeling shaky, irritable, anxious, depressed, hangry, sleepy, and brain fogged. Our body then craves refined carbs, sugar and caffeine to try and pick our levels up quickly again!
This continuous up and down tends to feel like endometriosis symptoms, as many of us report feelings of anxiety, and struggling with fatigue and brain fog. While all of these can be and most likely are associated with endometriosis as well, they can also stem from or be worsened by dysregulated blood sugar.
Blood sugar levels, inflammation, and pain
This rise in blood sugar is also an issue because high blood sugar levels trigger an inflammatory response in the body.1 We know that endometriosis is an inflammatory disease which is driven by inflammatory chemicals such as PGE22, and so having chronically elevated blood sugar levels may potentially provide further fuel for endo growth.
But this isn’t the only problem, inflammation also causes pain and swelling, so experiencing a rise in inflammation could trigger the onset of an endo flare or contribute to chronic levels of inflammation, which raise pain levels over time.
Another issue crops up with elevated insulin levels. High insulin levels actually increase estrogen by triggering the production of aromatase, an enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into estrogen.3 Higher insulin levels also free up estrogen4, allowing it to roam around the body. We know that estrogen is a key contributor to endometriosis growth5, and so having higher levels that are also freely available to activate endometrial cells could potentially stimulate further endometriosis development.
Higher estrogen levels can also cause symptoms of estrogen dominance or estrogen excess, a hormonal imbalance which causes symptoms like heavy periods, clotty periods, painful periods, cyclical bloating, and PMS.
Increased cortisol levels
The second problem that occurs when blood sugar goes up is a rise in cortisol. Because high blood sugar levels stress the body, the stress hormone cortisol goes up too. Cortisol can actually lower progesterone levels, which sets the stage for estrogen dominance and low progesterone, which causes issues such as fertility struggles, short cycles and prolonged spotting.6
Balancing blood sugar is straight forward (providing you don’t have other health conditions affecting it) and you can learn more about how to do so on my podcast.
Have you heard about the new tampon technology currently being tested to detect endometriosis?