Hormones are interconnected

Many of us think about hormones in pretty basic terms: we are in a state of estrogen excess (think PCOS or perimenopause) or estrogen deficiency (menopause). What is missing from this thinking is how interconnected insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar, is to sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone.

High insulin levels can tell the ovaries to make more testosterone. This can cause facial hair and acne.

High insulin levels also lower sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) — this dumps estrogen in your system and can contribute symptoms of estrogen excess like sore breasts, fibroids, and heavy menses.

Lifestyle changes to lower insulin levels and correct insulin resistance can go a long way in keeping inflammation in the body low and helping restore hormone imbalance.

What is insulin anyway?

Insulin lowers blood sugar by storing glucose in cells. When the body is constantly exposed to sugar or foods that are quickly broken down into sugar (think white flour products, pasta, bread, cereals, etc) then it can become insulin resistant. When this resistance goes on for a while you have high insulin and high blood sugar.

How can I tell I’m insulin resistant?

Body composition changes are usually the first tip off — a woman who was once more pear shaped develops more fat around her midsection and turns into more of an apple shape.

Fasting insulin levels become higher — ideal fasting insulin levels are less than 10, and some even say less than 5. Fasting insulin levels will show changes several years before fasting blood sugar starts to rise. Goal for fasting glucose is less than 90.

How can I reverse insulin resistance?

The most common solution is to stop eating refined carbohydrates. Here’s a simple rule of thumb: if a grain was ground into flour to make a product like bread, pasta, or cereal, it is no longer a whole grain, no matter what the package says! Get your carbs from veggies like sweet potatoes and butternut squash. If you can tolerate beans and grains, stick to high protein grains like quinoa.

Exercise is a terrific insulin sensitizer. HIIT training can work wonders here.

Timed eating. Stop eating 3 hours before bed and have a 12-14 hour fast between dinner and breakfast. If you have dinner at 6 and are done eating at 6:30 PM then wait until 8:30 AM to eat again.

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