Blood Sugar Imbalance: 11 Signs Your Body Is Crying For Help
Is your blood sugar balanced? How can you be sure?
Our bodies are really good at letting us know when something is wrong, aren’t they? When our bodies tell us something is wrong, we feel symptoms.
Yet, our bodies are also masterfully capable of healing themselves — when given the right tools.
Think about it…
The moment you cut your skin, blood flows to the surface. White blood cells are immediately dispatched to the site of the wound to fight any germs that may have entered through the cut. Platelets also show up and begin clotting the blood. A scab forms and new skin grows under the scab. After a few days, the scab falls off and the new, undamaged skin is revealed.
Our bodies do this on their own! We don’t have to take a pill or a supplement to facilitate this healing process — because our bodies innately know how to heal themselves.
I submit that our bodies know how to heal more than cuts and scrapes! They know how to heal chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes, too — if only we give them the tools to do so. (And by “tools”, I do not mean pharmaceuticals which do not heal but mask symptoms instead.)
Blood Sugar Imbalance: 11 Signs Your Body Is Crying For Help
Before healing can begin, we must first spot the problem. Sometimes, these symptoms are little red flags, and other times, they’re flashing neon signs. So, when it comes to blood sugar, here are 11 signs that your body is crying for help.
(Happily, all of these can be reversed. They don’t have to be a life sentence of diabetes.)
#1 — Extra Belly Fat
It’s one of the biggest signs — extra fat around the middle.
You may even look pregnant because of excess belly fat. The pancreas secretes insulin to lower high blood sugar. That sugar (glucose) is meant to go into the cells, and insulin is the “key” that unlocks them to receive glucose. However, if your pancreas is secreting insulin all the time because your diet is overloaded with carbs and sugar, it eventually signals your body to store fat. (Yes, insulin is a fat storage hormone!)
Metabolic Syndrome is the correct term for excess belly fat caused by blood sugar imbalances and poor liver function. (Remember, a healthy liver is necessary to detox excess fat storage hormones, like estrogen, cortisol, and insulin.)
#2 — Cravings For Carbs & Sugar
Constantly craving pastries, bread, pasta, sodas, sweets, and other carb-y, sugar-y foods? That’s a sure sign of 2 things:
You’ve got major gut issues (dysbiosis, candida), and your blood sugar is way out of whack.
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#3 — “The Crash”
Fatigue, especially after eating carbs, is another sign of blood sugar imbalance. But, why would you crash instead of feeling energized after eating?
Well, if your blood sugar is unstable, this carbohydrate intolerance is a sign of insulin resistance. By the time you’ve reached insulin resistance, your cells have become “resistant” to the insulin secrete by your pancreas. This causes stress on other organs and hormones in the body, not the least of which is adrenal stress and higher cortisol production.
Are you carbohydrate intolerant? If, after eating a meal with carbs and/or sugar you feel…
- bloated directly after the meal
- like you can’t concentrate
- weak legs or knees after eating
- hungry before you should be
Then, it’s likely that you’ve developed or are in the process of becoming insulin resistant. These are also signs of hypoglycemia — low blood sugar.
#4 — You Get “Hangry”.
“Hangry” is the combination of “hunger” and “angry”.
You go from just fine to “I’m going to rip someone’s head off if I don’t get something to eat right this minute!”. Sound familiar?
Maybe you even keep snacks in your purse or in the car because you know you can’t go too long without eating. “Hanger” is a giant neon sign indicating blood sugar imbalance. The dizzy/shaky/irritable feeling you get when you go too long without eating is hypoglycemia.
#5 — The Buffalo Hump
My diabetic grandmother had one of these. A large hump just below the neck at the top of the back, aka “buffalo hump”, is an indicator of blood sugar imbalance.
Most commonly associated with Cushing’s disease, the buffalo hump is a pad of inflammatory fat closely associated with elevated blood sugar. I suspect my grandmother had undiagnosed Cushing’s, however I know for certain that she was diabetic.
#6 — Gynecomastia
Gynecomastia? What’s that?
An excess of fat in men’s breasts is occurs when hormones are imbalanced. Men who eat a lot of carbs and sugar have lower levels of testosterone because insulin (the blood sugar hormone) increases the liver’s production of sex hormone binding globulin (SBGH).
As men age, their testosterone level naturally starts to fall. It doesn’t fall as dramatically as in women who reach menopause, but nonetheless, testosterone does decline. Overweight men, diabetic men and men with an unhealthy liver usually have lower testosterone than slim and fit men. This occurs for a number of reasons; fat cells (particularly those around the abdomen) contain an enzyme called aromatase. This enzyme converts the testosterone in the body into estrogen. Therefore overweight men may be turning a lot of the testosterone in their bodies into estrogen. Estrogen stimulates the development of breast tissue.
The liver [plays an important role] in breast development too. It is the liver’s job to break down excess estrogen […] and then excrete it from the body. If the liver is sluggish, or fatty, or inflamed, it cannot do this job properly and estrogen accumulates. Men who eat a lot of sugar or carbohydrate have lower levels of testosterone in their bloodstream because their liver manufactures more sex hormone binding globulin. This is a carrier molecule that transports testosterone around the bloodstream. It also makes the testosterone unable to carry out its normal functions. (Source.)
#7 — Buzzed After Meals
Maybe carbs and sugar don’t make you sleepy. Perhaps you feel energized or buzzed instead. When the pancreas doesn’t secrete enough insulin to properly restore blood sugar balance, you experience hyperglycemia.
Have you ever been in a room full of 4-year-olds eating birthday cake? If so, you’ve seen sugar rush in action.
Now, in those 4-year-olds, it may be mild (though somewhat exhausting and crazy for parents!) and doesn’t last long because their bodies are quick to produce the insulin needed to lower blood sugar. However, hyperglycemia in adults, especially when it’s chronic, or in those who are predisposed to diabetes is a different story.
Symptoms of hyperglycemia include:
- feeling buzzed or hyper after eating carbs and sugar (early)
- frequent urination (early)
- intense thirst (early)
- exhaustion (early)
- extreme weight loss
- vision problems (later)
- nerve damage (later)
#8 — Blood Work
You can (and should) test your blood sugar and in more than one way. After all, one test isn’t exactly a great picture of your overall life — it’s just a picture of what was going on at the moment of the blood draw.
So, here’s what to check:
- Hemoglobin A1c — Measure of blood sugar over the past 3 months; must be ordered by a doctor. Don’t rely on this test alone, though. Any changes in hemoglobin levels (such as anemia or dehydratation) will skew results. According to Chris Kresser, studies show that A1c levels considered “normal” by the American Diabetes Association fail to predict diabetes.
- Fasting Blood Glucose — Measures the concentration of glucose in the blood after an 8- to 12-hour fast; must be ordered by a doctor. It only reveals how the blood sugar behaves in a fasting state and is the least predictable marker for predicting future diabetes. Unfortunately, this is often the only tests doctors employ.
- Glucometer — This test uses an inexpensive machine (glucometer) to prick your finger and test the blood on a lancet strip. A doctor’s order is not required. Test your blood sugar quickly and almost painlessly any time you like, but ideal times are first thing in the morning (fasting blood glucose), just before lunch, and one, two, and three hours after lunch.
It is important, too, to note that The “guidelines” for “normal” established by the ADA are too generous. Chris Kresser states:
Before your blood sugar was 139, it was 135. Before it was 135, it was 130. Etcetera. Would you agree that it’s wise to intervene as early as possible in that progression toward diabetic blood sugar levels, in order to prevent it from happening in the first place? Well, the ADA does not agree. They prefer to wait until you’re almost beyond the point of no return to suggest there’s any problem whatsoever. (Source.)
#9 — Autoimmune Thyroid Disease
Balanced blood sugar is necessary for a healthy thyroid. And a healthy thyroid is necessary for balanced blood sugar. (See why we can’t treat the thyroid without addressing blood sugar?)
As you eat a diet that’s high in carbohydrates and refined sugars over a long period of time, the pancreas cranks out more and more insulin to maintain a stable blood sugar. When the cells become “resistant” to the insulin, it’s as if the key (insulin) to the door (cells) just doesn’t work anymore.
What does this have to do with the thyroid?
First, in the case of hyperglycemia, repeated exposure to insulin actually destroys the thyroid gland in those with autoimmune thyroid disease (hypo-, hyperthyroid, Hashimoto’s).
Second, in the case of hypoglycemia, the adrenal glands respond to this threat of survival by secreting cortisol. Coritsol tells the liver to produce glucose (blood sugar) in order to bring blood sugar levels back to normal. However, repeated secretions of cortisol also decreases pituitary function; and without a functioning pituitary gland, you don’t have a healthy thyroid. (Source.)
This also proves beyond doubt that our hormones are not isolated from one another; simply treating one hormone or one organ just doesn’t work. The health of the thyroid also depends on a healthy liver, adrenal glands, pituitary gland, and balanced blood sugar.
#10 — Female Hormone Imbalances
Once again, our hormones are not disconnected. Healthy female hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) depend upon balanced blood sugar.
In women, insulin reduces sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) which is necessary to bind to excess estrogen and testosterone in the blood. Low SHBG = increased estrogen and testosterone. (You may notice this is different than the above point about man boobs. This is because SHBG raises testosterone in women and lowers it in men – source.)
Furthermore, insulin increases the production of testosterone. Belly fat tissue converts this testosterone into estrogen. Too much estrogen = too little progesterone. Since progesterone is a calming, happy hormone, too little of it means symptoms like anxiety, depression, insomnia, fertility issues, and more.
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#11 — Moodiness
Imbalanced blood sugar causes an imbalanced mood. Once your blood sugar plummets, irritability sets in, and you can act like a grouchy bear — especially if “hanger” (hypoglycemia) is a player.
Or, if hyperglycemic, you feel energized and even buzzed one minute, only to crash and experience fatigue, irritability, and grumpiness the next.
Knowing the signs of blood sugar imbalance — when your body is crying for help — is the first step in changing your lifestyle and diet, restoring balance, and avoiding diabetes (one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States).