This week’s tip involves blood sugar issues and Hashimoto’s. This is one of those vicious cycles where one thing leads to another and together they make a downward spiral.
Did you know that both high blood sugar and low blood sugar levels can make your Hashimoto’s worse?
On average, Americans hammer about 200 pounds of sugar a year, and diabetes is a serious threat to bankrupt our healthcare system in the next 20 years.
Well, diabetes doesn’t happen overnight, it’s progressive. And often that progression passes through something called metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance on its way to diabetes.
According to Chris Kresser, L.Ac., Metabolic Syndrome is defined as a group of bad things appearing together, including:
▪ abdominal fat; “the muffin top”
▪ high cholesterol and triglycerides (caused by sugar being stored as fat in the liver)
▪ high blood pressure (caused by plaque build up in the arteries that comes from excess sugar and cholesterol)
▪ insulin resistance
▪ tendency to have blood clots (because sugar makes the blood more prone to clotting)
▪ our good friend, inflammation (the root of all evil – well, at least the root of autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s)
Metabolic syndrome is caused by a chronic state of too much sugar in the blood.This is caused by eating too many carbohydrates.
So really, metabolic syndrome could be called “hammering too many carbs disease”.
Because that’s what it is.
When you eat too many carbs, the pancreas secretes insulin to move extra glucose from the blood into the cells where glucose is used to produce energy.
But over time, the cells lose the ability to respond to insulin. It’s like insulin is knocking on the door, but the cells won’t let it in.
“I hear you knocking but you can’t come in.”
The pancreas responds by pumping out even more insulin (knocking louder, “Please, let me in!”) in an effort to get glucose into the cells, and this eventually insulin receptors get tired of it all and this leads to insulin resistance.
Studies have shown that the repeated insulin spikes that come with insulin resistance increase the destruction of the thyroid gland in people with autoimmune thyroid disease. Read all about them in this detailed post on blood sugar.
Let me repeat that, insulin resistance increases the destruction of the thyroid gland in autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto’s).
As the thyroid gland is destroyed, what happens? Less thyroid hormones are made by the thyroid and you get all the hypothyroid symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, brain fog, depression, joint pain, hair loss and on and on.
Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia can also cause problems with the thyroid.
Your body sees low blood sugar as a threat because severe or long term hypoglycemia can cause seizures, coma, and death. Not good things.
When your blood sugar levels drop below normal, your adrenal glands respond by secreting cortisol. Cortisol then tells the liver to make more glucose, bringing blood sugar levels back to normal.
The problem is that cortisol is involved in the “flight or fight” response. This response includes speeding up your heart rate and lung action, increasing blood flow to the muscles to get us ready to fight or to scream and run for the hills.
Cortisol’s job is to increase the amount of glucose available to the brain, help with healing, and to slow down certain things – like digestion, growth and reproduction – that aren’t so important when we were running from hungry lions on the African Savannah (flight).
Unfortunately for hypoglycemics, repeated cortisol release caused by episodes of low blood sugar makes the pituitary gland not work as well.
The pituitary is in charge of the thyroid and when it isn’t working properly, this can cause problems with the thyroid.
So either too much or too little sugar can mess with thyroid function and cause problems.
And, check this out. Hypo-function of the thyroid can cause everything we just talked about because:
▪ it slows the rate of glucose uptake by cells;
▪ it decreases rate of glucose absorption in the gut;
▪ it slows response of insulin to elevated blood sugar; and,
▪ it slows the clearance of insulin from the blood.
These mechanisms present clinically as hypoglycemia. When you’re hypothyroid, your cells aren’t very sensitive to glucose.
So although you may have normal levels of glucose in your blood, you’ll have the symptoms of hypoglycemia (fatigue, headache, hunger, irritability, etc.).
And since your cells aren’t getting the glucose they need, your adrenals will release cortisol to increase the amount of glucose available to them.
This causes a chronic stress response, as described above, that suppresses thyroid function.
A vicious cycle. If you want to heal your Hashimoto’s, you need to deal with blood sugar issues. And that means dealing with your sugar habit.