How Blood Sugar Affects The Adrenals & Endocrine System

by lydia on August 14, 2012

Let’s discuss why correcting blood sugar imbalances first is critical to successfully managing any adrenal or endocrine issues. There seem to be a lot of women that have not yet understood how important getting their blood sugar regulated is to their overall hormonal health. Obviously, other factors come into play such as digestion/microbial balance, environment/toxins, heredity and so on. However, addressing blood sugar can be a first and foremost hurdle to overcome in order to begin to set the endocrine system up for recovery and balance.

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The adrenal glands play a role in blood sugar regulation via the glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids are hormones released by the adrenal glands used in glucose metabolism. For the adrenals to take part in blood sugar it’s because of an emergency. In the presence of stress, your adrenal glands will release cortisol. Cortisol stimulates several processes that all work together to increase and maintain normal blood sugar levels, to meet your body’s demands for energy. When the adrenals trigger due to stress, this is when the  catecholamines kick in. Such as, adrenaline (epinephrine) which stimulates the liver to convert glycogen back to glucose for release into the bloodstream. Nordrenalin (norepinephrine) shuttles blood away from the deep organs and to the muscles and heart for action. When you have fatigued adrenal glands, cortisol levels drop and make it difficult to maintain normal blood sugar levels. People with adrenal fatigue tend to have low blood sugar. Low blood sugar is another stressful situation that can further tax your adrenal glands.

The common scenario of eating excess sugars/starches, even if they are healthier options, is that the blood sugar will spike high and insulin will come in to quickly deal with the excess of glucose in the bloodstream, since that is a toxic situation. Then in turn the blood sugar will drop or crash after such an insulin spike. Now the adrenals have to respond to bring the blood sugar back up. Do this again and again, day in and day out like most Americans do and you are killing your adrenal function. Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia leads to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance increases cortisol levels. If the cells are resisting insulin, that means the are resisting the glucose or energy. The hypothalamus will then produce more cortico releasing hormone (CRH), which then produces more cortisol and more glucose in the blood, and more insulin to resist. Insulin resistance doesn’t allow the energy to get into the cell. Knowing this, the hypothalamus then produces more CRH, which then produces more glucose, more insulin and increased cortisol. You can see how it is a vicious cycle. This cycle will catabolize the body to death. This does not benefit the rest of the endocrine system, as this process steals nutrients affecting all the anabolic sex hormones. Excess insulin in the bloodstream also causes the ovaries to produce excess testosterone, thereby affecting the overall sex hormone balance.

Remove this situation/stressor by greatly reducing sugar/starch consumption and you can take that burden off of the adrenals and give them a chance to recover. You reduce and remove insulin resistance by diet primarily, it’s what started the vicious cycle in the first place.

Keep in mind, when the adrenals are shot, over time, the thyroid takes a hit as well, along with the rest of the endocrine system? Healthy thyroid function is dependent on healthy adrenal function. Constant blood sugar swings stress the adrenal glands, which in turn drag down function of the pituitary gland, ultimately affecting thyroid health. Hypothyroidism/low thyroid function can slow the response of insulin to elevated blood sugar. This makes it so that glucose is slow to get into the cells, if you add that to insulin resistance it’s a double whammy. Since low thyroid function does this, it may not show up on a blood test as dysregulation, even though one may experience symptoms of hypoglycemia. The hypothalamus sees this as hypoglycemia and signals the adrenals to raise the blood sugar. This pattern will squelch that feedback loop of communication between the pituitary and the adrenals.

In summary, it is therefore absolutely critical to learn how to manage one’s blood sugar before it’s too late, and plethora of dysbiosis and dysfunction sets in. If you need help/guidance in getting your blood sugar managed check out my ‘Revitalize Your Health‘ online course. Much more than just any weight loss program, it’s like learning a whole new lifestyle, this course will equip you with the tools to get on the path to overall health! (Learn more, click on the banner below).

[Sources: Notes from my coursework through NTA;  'Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal', Datis Kharrazian.]

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