The Role that Hormones Play with Weight and Food Cravings
I used to experience pretty extreme food cravings for sugar. I couldn’t go for a meal without feeling the need to eat something sweet after. Basically, I wouldn’t feel satisfied with what I ate until I had that treat after. I always turned to cookies; they were my favourite! These cravings also stemmed into the general carbohydrate food group but always the processed ones. I’m talking pasta, pizza, bread, anything I could get my hands on that was doughy in texture.
What I am describing here are symptoms of a classic blood sugar imbalance. Blood sugar imbalance is a type of hormonal imbalance, and it not only affects your blood sugar hormone insulin, but it starts to disrupt your other hormones and can cause an array of symptoms, which I will get to in just a little bit.
A lot of people talk to me about how they have a “sweet tooth” and this is one of the major causes of their failed attempts to improve their health, stick to a diet, have more energy and ultimately these failed attempts to try and meet their health goals has a negative impact on how they feel about themselves.
On a more positive note, the good about blood sugar imbalance is that if you catch it early enough, it is easy to reverse through diet and lifestyle practices alone. The not so good part of this imbalance is that if it is leftover time, we start to see people becoming pre-diabetic and then eventually develop type 2 diabetes which is a serious condition.
Let me break down blood sugar for you into an easy science lesson.
When you eat sugar, your body secretes the hormone insulin. This hormone is responsible for taking the sugar molecules that you just ate, also known as glucose, and moving these glucose molecules and moving them into your cells so that you can use them for energy.
Because processed sugar and carbohydrates are high in sugar, you need to secrete a lot of insulin to compensate for this spike in sugar levels to try and bring them back into a normal range.
However, because the blood sugar spike and insulin release were so high, your sugar levels dramatically drop below normal levels, causing you to get symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). These symptoms can include intense sugar cravings, low energy or mood, dizziness, irritability, anxiety and getting “hangry”. This is why even if you have the best of intentions to control what you eat, you can’t seem to control yourself. Your brain is signalling to your hormonal system that you need to get your blood sugar back into a normal range, and therefore forces you to crave food to eat and normalize things.
Take a look this graph. The red line represents when our blood sugar is spiking and then crashing. The orange line is when it is nicely in balance.
Unfortunately, most of us reach for another sugary or processed treat and this cycle happens over and over again. Eventually, because we have been secreting so much insulin our cells start to desensitize to them and they will no longer accept the blood sugar molecules into them to be used for energy. This is when pre-diabetes starts to happen.
I mentioned earlier that our insulin and blood sugar start to affect other hormones in our body and can cause a whole other set of symptoms outside of food cravings. Here are some of the other hormones that classically start to get off balance, and the different side effects that start to happen.
Other hormones that get affected by high Insulin:
Glucagon: is your fat-burning hormone. Glucagon and Insulin and counterparts, meaning when one is high, the other is low. This means that if your insulin is high from blood sugar imbalance (fat storage), your glucagon will be low (fat burning).
Cortisol: you have probably heard of this hormone because it is our stress hormone. When our blood sugar spikes it also causes a cortisol response to happen in our body because it is a type of stress. Increased levels of cortisol cause us to gain weight around the mid-section and make us less able to handle our daily stressors.
Estrogen: as cortisol increases, our levels of estrogen start to increase. The more estrogen we produce, the more fat we store.
Leptin: the more fat cells you have, the more Leptin you cause to signal. Leptin is the hormone that tells our brain when we are full and to stop eating. If we keep increasing our insulin levels, our leptin levels keep rising and eventually your brain becomes desensitized to it - meaning it no longer gets the signal your full.
As you can see, hormonal imbalance can cause an array of symptoms in our body, especially those associated with increased food intake, weight gain, stubborn weight, low energy and mood, and always feeling like you’re hungry. Not fun! It’s like your body gets caught in this vicious cycle and it becomes hard to get out of it unless you have the right tools.
This is also why when we have the best of intentions to lose weight or get our health back on track, we can’t seem to swing it. It’s not your fault. This cycle that is happening in your body is something you can’t consciously control; it is happening under your radar. Now that you know what might be going on with your body, it gives you the education to do something about it. As I said, the good thing about all of this is that through specific nutrition and lifestyle practices, you can easily bring these systems and hormones back into balance, and you can start to feel like yourself again.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms I have described here, book a complimentary health assessment with me. In this assessment you will get clear on whether you are showing signs of a hormone imbalance, we will go over what is working really well with what you have been doing, and determine what hasn’t been working for you and the reasons why. You will leave with a clear idea of what you can do to bring your body back into balance so that you can reach your goals easily, and get back to the things that are most important to you.