Did you know that your hormones are all interconnected?...and that insulin plays a role in the balance of oestrogen and testosterone?
The science bit
Insulin is the hormone that controls our blood sugar. When we eat sugary food (glucose), insulin is released by the pancreas and takes action to quickly shunt the glucose into our cells (as glucose is toxic to us if too much circulates in the blood).
If we eat a high amount of glucose, then the body produces and releases more insulin to act faster to move the glucose out of our blood and into our cells.
High insulin levels disrupt the body in two ways:
1. It increases production of testosterone (it tells the ovaries to make more).
2. It lowers a substance called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG), which is the carrier for oestrogen - so if there are lower levels of SHBG, there are higher amounts of circulating oestrogen!
As females, our bodies are very good at converting testosterone to oestrogen, so these two actions contribute to much higher levels of oestrogen.
This is known as oestrogen dominance which can worsen the symptoms of PMS (heavier periods, sore breasts) and is linked with perimenopausal symptoms and conditions like PCOS and endometriosis.
So what can you do about it?
There are some simple lifestyle and dietary changes to lower insulin resistance can really help to restore hormone balance and ease symptoms associated with PMS and perimenopause and other hormone imbalance disorders.
The best (but not always the easiest!) solution is to stop eating refined carbohydrates.
Foods that contain refined white flour such as white bread, pasta, cereals and refined sugars are the worst offenders for creating insulin spikes in the body.
Here are 3 simple changes that you can make:
1. Opt for whole grains instead - whole oats, wholemeal breads, pastas (or alternatives like brown rice pasta, seeded sourdough), brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, sweet potatoes. (white potatoes are very high sugar!)
2. Eat 3 balanced meals per day and try to avoid snacking on sugary foods. A balanced meal contains half a plate of vegetables, 1/4 wholegrains and the rest is made up of proteins and healthy fats. Proteins and fats slow down the release of insulin, which not only reduce insulin production but keep you fuller for longer. If you need to snack, opt for something like oatcakes and hummus, or sliced apple with peanut butter. Pair fruit with protein/fats for a slower insulin release.
3. Exercise or movement after eating. Exercise after eating has been shown to reduce insulin sensitivity - even if it is just getting up and hoovering or going for a short walk, movement plays a key role in balancing blood sugar.
Remember to start with one small change to your diet and build up as changing lots of habits in one go can be overwhelming! Instead of buying white rice at the supermarket, by a pack of brown. By making just one change today, you will be starting on the journey to hormonal balance.