How sugar affects your period
It's common knowledge that sugar is not good for us, particularly for our waistlines and dental health, but what about our hormonal health? Here is the lowdown on how sugar affects our hormones and ways you can reduce your intake.
Sugar seems to be everywhere these days and it isn't just about the obvious chocolate, cakes, biscuits, and sweets. Refined carbohydrates, such as white pasta, rice, bread, and pastries are rapidly broken down into sugars in our body when you eat them, and sugar is also hidden in lots of the foods you buy.
Unfortunately, sugar is highly addictive and there is often a temptation to turn to chocolate and other sugary foods for comfort, particularly around the time of our menstrual cycle.
So, what exactly does it do to our bodies when it comes to our hormones?
Sugar and hormones
Sugar increases inflammation in the body. There is a strong association between high inflammation and premenstrual symptoms, suggesting that a high sugar diet can make PMT symptoms worse.
Sugar can also drain energy levels and affect mood so making sure our blood sugar is in balance is key. Unbalanced blood sugar can feel like riding a rollercoaster, where you experience peaks and troughs in energy levels.
Consuming sugary or highly refined foods can cause our blood sugar to spike and the pancreas to release more of the hormone insulin. A few hours later our blood sugar declines rapidly, leaving us feeling tired and irritable. When this happens, it is much harder to resist those quick sugar fixes which lead to the blood sugar spiking again.
Not only do sugars and refined foods upset blood sugar balance, they also rob the body of nutrients whilst giving nothing back. If you are eating lots of sugar, you may have less room in your diet for more nutritious foods which feed and balance your hormones. When it comes to your sex hormones, a diet high in sugar is associated with altering the ratio of oestrogen and progesterone in the body, which can cause hormonal disturbances, mood swings, irritability, and insomnia.
How to reduce your sugar intake and balance your hormones
Cutting out or down on sugar is hard, especially if you’ve been using it for years to help get you through your menstrual cycle or as something to turn to when you’re feeling tired or low. Here are some tips to reduce your intake:
1. Start the day right
If you start your day with a low sugar breakfast then you will avoid getting on that blood sugar rollercoaster. When your blood sugar is in balance it is a lot easier to keep your energy levels stable and you are less likely to crave sugary foods. Aim to base your breakfast around protein and fat, think eggs and avocado, or yoghurt with nuts and seeds.
2. Balanced meals
Aiming for three balanced meals a day which contain a good source of quality protein, healthy fats and some complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice, sweet potato, and plenty of vegetables, will help keep you full and satisfied and less likely to reach for sugary foods.
3. Avoid artificial sweeteners
Although these are sugar-free and much lower in calories, they are not necessarily the answer. A lot of products labelled sugar free are replaced with artificial sweeteners. These chemicals feed our bad bacteria and may act the same way as sugar in our body, raising our blood sugar levels. Regularly consuming foods with sweeteners means you aren’t training your body to get used to a less sweet taste.
4. Satisfy those gut bugs
Foods to support our gut microbiome - the trillions of bugs that reside in our gut - will help to reduce those cravings. Foods high in fibre such as vegetables and fruit, whole grains and legumes are all fantastic sources to keep your gut bugs happy.
5. Prioritise sleep
Getting good quality sleep is hugely important for hormone balance. Poor sleep disrupts our hunger and satiety hormones influencing weight gain, increasing our appetite, and leading to sugar and carbohydrate cravings.
6. Add nutrients to support blood sugar balance
It can be helpful to add in some key nutrients to support sugar cravings. Both chromium and cinnamon can help lower the body’s response to insulin and magnesium can help reduce cravings.
Reducing your sugar intake can have a positive impact not only how you feel during your menstrual cycle but throughout your cycle. For more information and support on reducing your sugar intake, it can be helpful to contact a nutrition professional.
It’s important to note that nutritional therapy is not a replacement for medical advice, practitioners always refer any client with ‘red flag’ signs or symptoms to their medical professional. The information provided here is general and is not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure any diseases or conditions.