Blood sugar balance in autoimmune disease

If someone were to ask what the first thing they should do to feel better with autoimmune disease is, I would say that stabilising your blood sugar should be your number one priority. 


And the reason for this is that many symptoms that you may think relate to your autoimmune disease specifically may be the result of blood sugar dysregulation. 

In my own health, I suffered from symptoms of blood sugar imbalance for years, including fatigue, brain fog, increased appetite and anxiety, and once I was able to resolve it through diet and lifestyle interventions, I felt so much better, and I had a solid foundation to build on to improve my health. 

In this article, I will explain how blood sugar imbalance can impact your health and how you can naturally reduce your blood sugar levels and keep it stabilised so you have more energy, feel brighter and live free of sugar cravings.

Why does blood sugar become imbalanced?

Every time you eat carbohydrates or sugar, it is broken down by your body to glucose, absorbed into the bloodstream from the small intestine, and then either used for energy by your cells or, if in excess, stored in the liver as glycogen. 

Glucose is moved from the bloodstream to your cells under the instruction of the hormone insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. Insulin production is stimulated when your blood sugar increases; the more sugar present, the more insulin is produced.  

When you eat carbohydrates or sugars moderately, your body can continue this process without any adverse effects. 

However, if you routinely eat a high amount of processed carbohydrates or sugar, your cells become desensitised to insulin instructions, known as insulin resistance. In this state, your blood sugar rises to a higher amount, and only when it is at the absolute limit, after a considerable amount of insulin surges into the bloodstream, will the cells open up to use and store the glucose in the blood. 

This is what is known as the blood sugar rollercoaster. After you initially eat high sugar or processed carbohydrate meal, you may feel an increase in energy, but once the glucose drops in the bloodstream, you feel very tired or crash. 

Symptoms of blood sugar dysregulation can range from chronic fatigue, pain, hormonal imbalances such as PCOS, and anxiety. 

So you might be asking, how does this relate to autoimmune disease? I will explain this next. 

Blood sugar imbalance in autoimmune disease

Studies have shown that high glucose intake exacerbates autoimmunity, and those with autoimmune disease and chronic fatigue syndrome may be more likely to experience insulin resistance, meaning that after a high carbohydrate meal or sugar, you are more likely to have a crash in blood sugar which can lead to fatigue, shakiness, lightheadedness and anxiety. 

And when your blood sugar drops, your body goes into a fight or flight response and releases adrenaline and glucagon, which stimulates glucose production, to increase blood sugar as quickly as possible. 

Often when your blood sugar is dysregulated, you may find that you wake up in the early hours of the morning, as after eating a meal before bed, your blood sugar has crashed a couple of hours later when your body releases adrenaline.

Following this, cortisol and growth hormone are also released and can put pressure on your adrenal glands when this happens consistently. 

Cortisol is ordinarily anti-inflammatory, and many steroid medications used in autoimmune diseases, such as prednisone, are derived from cortisol. However, after a period of acute stress or a long period of chronic stress, cortisol levels can become depleted. When this happens, your body is more likely to succumb to autoimmune disease.

Imbalance blood sugar can impact your health both directly and incidentally, so finding ways to keep it in check is vital for optimal health.

How to keep your blood sugar in balance

Blood sugar stabilising foods

One way to improve blood sugar regulation is by eating foods that are less likely to cause blood sugar spikes. This might include colourful vegetables, healthy fats, and quality meat and fish. A good benchmark for choosing foods that are less likely to cause high blood pressure is the glycaemic load index.

Eating high-quality protein with each meal also lessens blood sugar spikes after eating. Getting enough fibre and chewing food properly before swallowing is also helpful for slowing down digestion. 

Polyphenols found in plants can improve insulin sensitivity at the cell level, including curcumin, which is found in turmeric, green and black teas, and the compounds berberine and resveratrol, found in bright yellow and red plants. 

Read more about blood sugar and inflammation.

Blood sugar stabilising lifestyle

Diet isn’t the only thing that may help improve your blood sugar. Your lifestyle can also make a difference. 

Daily moderate exercise lowers the number of pro-inflammatory chemicals and also promotes weight loss. Stretching, walking, jogging, lifting weights, and a short burst of high-intensity training (HIT) are great ways to bring movement into your day. 

Being mindful will help build resilience to stress. Meditation helps bring focus and awareness to everything you do. If you find your mind wandering, pull it back to the moment. This allows you to be calmer. 

Blood sugar stabilising sleep 

Sleep plays a vital role in insulin sensitivity, which is your cells' ability to respond to insulin and keep blood sugar in check. And that is why getting enough good quality sleep is crucial to stabilising your blood sugar. 

As dysregulated blood sugar regulation can cause sleep issues as well, you may find that as your blood sugar levels improve, your sleep does as well. 

Even if you struggle with sleep, get into a bedtime routine by going to bed at the same time every night, calming your body before bed, and exposing yourself to the sunlight in the morning. 

Blood sugar levels may be only one factor in the onset of autoimmune disease. Still, suppose you do have an inflammatory condition or autoimmune disease. In that case, dysregulated blood sugar levels could be the fuel to the fire for an autoimmune flare, so balancing your blood sugar could help you to live a symptom-free life. 

If you want to improve your blood sugar balance, join my free challenge, The Sugar RESET, on 19 September 2022, following this link.

In this challenge, you will learn about techniques to help balance your blood sugar, simple recipes to help keep your blood sugar harmonious, and lifestyle practices to keep stress at bay, so you feel happier. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
London W1G & Harrogate HG1
Written by V. J. Hamilton, Autoimmune Disease Expert | BSc (Immunology), DipION, mBANT
London W1G & Harrogate HG1

Victoria is a qualified Nutritional Therapist and member of BANT, focusing on autoimmune disease including skin disorders, heart disease & neurological issues as well as gut health & fatigue. Victoria has a BSc in Biochemistry & Immunology which she uses in her practice, using only evidence-based nutritional therapies to support chronic conditions.

Show comments

Find a nutritionist dealing with Autoimmune disease

All nutrition professionals are verified

All nutrition professionals are verified