Sugar Alters Your Hormones: How Healthy Eating May Help Regulate Them

Several years ago, I used to have a lot of symptoms in the days before my periods. I had always considered myself healthy, and even as a nutritionist, at that time I did not think that diet had anything to do with it.

However, one day my dear friend Nancy invited me to try the Ayurveda seasonal detox that changed everything. Because basically consisted of leaving flours, sugars and dairy… everything "white" that, I repeat, there was nothing wrong with me. Foods that were common to me (and recommended to my patients) such as low-fat yogurt, sweeteners, bread, pasta and rice, basically anything that had no fat I believed was what we should eat.

From that moment everything changed: I started to feel better from the first few days and the next time I had my period, no symptoms, no headache, no swelling, no stomach ache, no mood swings. I asked her at the time if it could have something to do with it and she said: "Yes, because all these symptoms are part of an imbalance and a chronic inflammatory state."

That is, when we achieve a balance in the WHOLE body through food, this impacts our general state and how we feel.

Turns out …

Sugar and refined carbohydrates (white flours with and without gluten, pasta, rice, starches and starches) are usually more associated with weight gain, but these foods are often the root of the worst symptoms of PMS and menopause, especially when it comes to fatigue, cravings or compulsive ingestion of sweets and flours and mood swings. From my own experience and from the women I see in the office and in challenges, eliminating those products can make a big difference.

When I cut the sugar (and when I say "sugar" I mean all refined carbohydrates, not just the sweet-tasting ones or the sugar we use to sweeten the infusions!), My irritability disappeared. Similarly, patients and friends who have stopped eating sugar feel more energy, little or no cravings, or cramps, fewer hot flashes, and many more differences that feel like clear improvements in their quality of life.

HOW sugar AFFECTS hormones

Not only does sugar cause big ups and downs in mood and energy levels, but it also it disrupts one of the most powerful hormones in our body – insulin, which is closely related to all other hormones in the body, including estrogen and testosterone.

When insulin rises, usually after a high-sugar meal, this can lead to reduce levels of an important protein known as sex hormone transporter globulin (SHBG). SHBG binds to excess estrogen and testosterone in the blood, but when it is low, the levels of these hormones rise because they are "free" in the circulation.

These> This imbalance causes irritability, anxiety, insomnia and other metabolic alterations as well as in our mood.

Did you know that women with PMS consume 275% more refined sugar than those without PMS?

Excess sugar in the diet causes the symptoms of PMS and also, as women reach menopause, the symptoms and discomforts become more intense and can include hot flashes (or hot flashes) and night sweats as well.

What can we do about it?

Instead of NO sugar, Let's think about glycemic control. Eliminating all the sugar in your life is almost impossible, since fruits, vegetables and even legumes contain some sugars, and they are healthy sources of them.

The trick is to lower the glycemic INDEX, which is an estimate of the impact of carbohydrates or sugars contained in a food on increasing blood sugar (glycemia) after eating it.

What we want is for blood sugar and insulin rise slowly and gradually rather than causing very sharp spikes and drops, which is exactly what happens when we consume simple and refined sugars. On the other hand, when we eat complex carbohydrates, fiber, proteins and healthy fats, the increases and decreases are much more gradual in both blood sugar and insulin, reducing the glycemic load and eliminating the hormonal load.

My> those who eat a lot of sugar, industrial bakery treats (such as puddings, muffins, vanillas that have been highly recommended for years because they are low in fat) they usually tell me that they tend to feel restless or nervous or bored, and that at that moment they feel the need to eat something sweet or "peck" on a cookie.

If we can dismantle that habit and change the quality of the food we choose for other types of food such as nuts for example or by another activity that takes us away from that constant snacking, this small change not only helps with cravings, mood swings, fatigue and blood sugar level, but also empowers, calms and generates a significant improvement in the mood.

Some ideas to put into practice right now:

1. A balanced diet: this includes eating fresh vegetables and fruits and whole, high-quality protein and healthy fats, and limit sugar and refined grains.

two. A good contribution of VITAMINS AND MINERALS. Nutrients that counteract the effect of sugar. To curb sugar cravings, be sure to include zinc, vitamin C, and B vitamins.It is also important to consume omega-3s that are in fish oil or flax seeds and walnuts not only help with cravings and inflammation, but also improve insulin sensitivity. These are the nutrients that fill us with energy, and also improve the skin, nails and hair.

3.> Add protein, fiber, and healthy fats to carbohydrate-containing meals To lower your glycemic index, this will also help you feel more satisfied after eating and avoid binge eating.

Four. Include lots of cruciferous vegetables in your diet, such as sprouts or Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, and kale or kale for increased hormonal balance.

5. Reduce the stress level. This advice counts double because high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, can disrupt blood sugar, increase cravings for sweets, and upset the balance of estrogen and progesterone.

There are several breathing exercises that help manage anxiety and stress, I highly recommend Dr. Andrew Weil's 4-7-8 Exercise (or Relaxing Breathing) to my patients. Dr. Weil calls it a "natural tranquilizer."

Before starting, breathe in deeply through the nose and exhale completely making a buzz or sigh through the mouth, then:

– Inhale through the nose for a count of 4.

– Hold your breath in your lungs for a count of 7.

– Exhale in a whistle for a count of 8 exhaling all the stress from your body.

I recommend doing this exercise 3 times a day for 3-5 rounds (full breaths) in the morning, when you wake up, before lunch, and before bed. This is a very simple exercise, it takes little time and can be done anywhere.

6. Limit toxins. The amount of chemical compounds in our environment has increased exponentially. Many of the more dominant chemicals cause estrogen-like effects when they enter the bloodstream, which can cause or exaggerate a hormonal imbalance and that estrogen dominance I discussed earlier.

Limit exposure to plastics and chemicals It can make a big difference, you could start here: Store food in glass containers, avoid Teflon and other non-stick cookware, limit packaged foods, and buy natural products in bulk when possible.

Limit exposure to chemicals that are hormone disruptors in everyday cosmetics (antiperspirant deodorants, body creams and lotions, shampoo and conditioner) that also come in plastic containers!

7.> We ensure a sufficient supply of two basic human needs: sleep and exercise. We need to sleep and we need to move our bodies. However, more and more people tell me that they have trouble sleeping, or that they cannot sleep the recommended 7 to 8 hours. Lack of sleep can alter the hormone melatonin and, ultimately, our stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, and in this way alters the response to insulin. Regular exercise helps regulate insulin, and when done outdoors, it also regulates cortisol.

Even if you are not worried about your weight, reducing or eliminating sugar helps to rebalance your hormones and can drastically alleviate many symptoms that we do not usually associate with our food decisions.

I am aware that sugar is part of delicious preparations that we all love, but let's save those foods for exceptional occasions … that the usual thing is to feel healthy and happy, with nutritious food.


Abraham, GE. 1983. Nutritional factors in the etiology of premenstrual syndromes. Journal of Reproductive Medicine, 28, 446-64.

SWAN (Study of Women's health Across Nations)

Journal of Gynecology and Clinical Obstetrics of the USA. 2018

SLEEP and hormones