Before I read about the importance of balancing my blood sugar levels in James Wilson’s book, I used to eat so much sugar and carbs, basing all my meals around carbs and needing sugar a few times a day, as if I was addicted. In fact, sugar has been proven to be addictive.
I would get ‘hangry’ (hungry and angry) when I needed another fix, as my blood sugar would drop after a big spike from the sugar and carbs I was eating a lot of. Other symptoms include headaches, feeling faint and dizzy, feeling hungry again quickly after eating, feeling tired, grouchy and irritable. Until recently, I wasn’t aware that these low blood sugar moments were putting a lot of stress on my adrenals (not helping my adrenal fatigue!) and also likely contributing to my thyroid antibodies.
Since realising that I needed to adjust my diet to allow more protein and less sugar and carbs, my low blood sugar bouts, irritable moods, groggy feeling and slumps are gone. – Except when I have a bad food day and eat lots of sugar.. then it returns and I remember how bad it is! I feel sick, irritable, get a headache and generally just urgh.
Researchers in Poland have found that up to 50% of patients with Hashimoto’s have an impaired tolerance to carbohydrates. This means that after consuming carbohydrate-rich foods, their blood sugar goes up too high, too quickly. This leads to a rapid, sometimes excessive release of insulin. These insulin surges can cause low blood sugar (reactive hypoglycemia), which can cause unpleasant symptoms.
And this places stress on our adrenals, which as we know, isn’t good! Many of us as hypothyroid patients have adrenal fatigue (most without even knowing it), and stressors like this contribute to this condition. When your blood sugar levels drop below normal, your adrenal glands respond by secreting cortisol. This cortisol then tells the liver to produce more glucose, which brings blood sugar levels back to normal. Doing this repeatedly can cause abnormal cortisol output and can suppress pituitary function.
The glycemic index is a measurement of how quickly we burn food, and carbohydrates have a very quick burn rate. Because of this, when eaten, they cause a spike in our blood sugar. Despite there being it commonly believed that carbohydrates keep us fuller for longer, after eating them, we actually often tend to become hungry again in less than an hour! I was always confused about why I could be starving within an hour after eating a whole bowl of pasta or a jacket potato. It makes sense now.
Dr Kharrazian explains that if you feel sleepy or want sugar or sweets after a meal, it’s a sign you’ve ate too much carbs and a sign of low blood sugar or insulin resistance – blood sugar imbalances.
This is where more protein-rich diets are better for us. Fat and protein have a slower burn rate. They are absorbed more slowly and gradually and so don’t raise blood sugar levels as quickly as carbs. They also keep us fuller for longer. This is why I have protein in my breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch and dinner. If I want a mid-afternoon snack then I also eat protein; nuts or meat. Assuming enough calories are eaten to feel full, a person will be hungry again two to three hours after eating protein, and about four hours after eating fat.
You should also try to eat every two to three hours to keep your blood sugar balanced and adrenals in check. Going long times without food, such as fasting, places stress on your adrenals. Don’t miss breakfast either!
Eating a low glycemic index diet helps with feeling fuller longer, improves cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, improves cognitive performance, improves energy, and reduces acne. It also reduces your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and promotes weight loss for those who are overweight. Many people have also found their moods improve after balancing their blood sugar.
My moods definitely improved, and my hangry headaches have stopped. Making these small changes, such as having chicken in place of a sugar-filled cereal bar at 11am has really made a lot of difference. I feel more full and fuller for longer, I’m not irritable, I can concentrate at work better and I’m not having low blood sugar moments later on.
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Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism
Rachel is a Thyroid Patient Advocate and Expert with Six 2018 WEGO Health Award Nominations. She is a highly ranked writer appearing in the Top Hypothyroidism Websites and Top Thyroid Websites 2018, and is a qualified Diet and Nutritional Advisor, also currently studying for relevant qualifications and certificates in Life Coaching, Motivational Speaking, Reflexology and more. She has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, The BBC, The Mighty, Dr. Hedberg, Thyroid UK and ThyroidChange, to name just a few. She is well recognised as a trusted and useful contributor to the thyroid community.