The link between Hypothyroidism and diabetes
Most people with hypothyroidism will have to deal or are already dealing with insulin regulation issues or full blown diabetes. So can hypothyroidism cause diabetes? Blood sugar and thyroid function are intimately intertwined. How the body regulates and will use glucose can determine how well our body will use thyroid hormone and vice versa.
Let’s go through the steps of how this happens.
The liver stores sugar in the form of glycogen. Glycogen is used as an energy source by your body when blood sugar drops. Blood sugar can drop in between meals or at night when we sleep. But when you have hypothyroidism, your liver loses its ability to produce glycogen. As a result, you are not balancing your blood sugar the healthy way …via the liver.
To compensate, your body produces stress hormones like adrenaline because adrenaline and other stress hormones break down healthy muscle tissue into sugar. This happens because your brain needs sugar to function. Loss of muscle or inability to build muscle is a common phenomenon in hypothyroid people for this very reason, amongst others.
If you’re also producing Stress hormones due to stress, the effect is compounded. When we go into fight or flight mode, the body thinks it needs quick energy in the form of sugar to either flee from or fight the stressor. That’s why we crave sugar when we’re stressed.
Stress hormones and Thyroid Function
But stress hormones inhibit thyroid function, by blocking your liver from converting thyroid hormone from T4 into the active T3 form. And stress hormones increase the production of Reverse T3, a hormone that inhibits conversion of inactive thyroid hormone to its active form, exacerbating hypothyroid symptoms.
Your body produces stress hormones for other reasons too. Eating sugar itself also leads to cortisol spikes. So now you have increased stress hormones from a liver thats not doing what it needs to , from stress itself, and from what you’re eating. To top it off cortisol also gets elevated if you’re not sleeping well… a quadruple hit.
And yet another way the body produces more cortisol is by having excess weight. Excess weight inhibits blood sugar regulation in many ways. One such way is because excess weight does not allow for our cells to use sugar effectively as glucose entry and usage is hindered by the surrounding fat of the cell. Another way is that excess weight increases cortisol and inflammation in the body.
Guess what? An unhealthy gut also hinders glucose regulation.
Cortisol and Immune System Suppression
Constant activation of cortisol in the body can lead to immune suppression and gut inflammation. If that gut inflammation is left untreated, we can suffer from poor nutrient assimilation. It can also turn into full blown intestinal permeability, aka leaky gut, which then leads to autoimmune issues and food sensitivities like gluten intolerance.
Glycogen also plays a necessary role for the detoxification of estrogen which can be thyroid suppressive when in excess. This is one reason why hypothyroidism sufferers can’t detoxify estrogen. Excess estrogen can build up in your tissue andcan further suppress your thyroid function.
Balance Hormones by Balancing Blood Sugar
We can stop the link between hypothyroidism and diabetes by regulating our own blood sugar through diet, when the liver is not doing it well for us. Nothing too low carb because that produces stress hormones on its own as your brain needs sugar to function. It’s about eating the right types of carbohydrates… fruits in moderation, lentils if you can tolerate them etc. But sugar from simple grains, enriched flour and refined sugar are not the right types. We release stress hormones when we eat the wrong types of sugar as they spike blood sugar and insulin quickly.
The other key is to eat as many colorful vegetables as you can. We’ve all been told “eat your fruits and vegetables” but we never really knew why. Vitamins, minerals and polyphenols contained in veggies are medicine for our cells and our brain. And the fiber from vegetables and fruit allow us to process glucose much more slowly which prevents insulin spikes thus preventing unnecessary spikes in cortisol.
Other steps to regulate blood sugar when you have hypothyroidism:
- Building muscle is huge, muscle uses up extra glucose in the blood. In fact, strength training is a much more effective form of exercise if you have imbalanced hormones or blood sugar ….because long, intense cardio sessions are stressful on the body and can spike cortisol causing extreme hunger cravings for sugar and carbs.
- Addressing liver health is also impactful. Gently detoxifying the liver so that it can function better will be hugely important in blood sugar regulation and weight management.
- Sleeping well, learning how to cope with stressors, eating small frequent meals and cleaning up the gut are all effective tools. A healthy gut helps regulate blood sugar.
- Getting rid of PUFA oils, aka polyunsaturated fatty acid oils. PUFA oils, like corn canola safflower, sunflower, generic vegetable oils and others make our cell structure rigid and prevents the effective usage of sugar, nutrients and thyroid hormones by our cells. Studies have shown that free fatty acids in the bloodstream are also responsible for killing insulin producing cells. Insulin helps regulate blood sugar.
When we balance blood sugar, we inadvertently balance hormones by preventing spikes in stress hormones. This helps to optimize thyroid function. By taking these steps, we naturally help our body effectively convert and use thyroid hormone.
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