Blood Sugar, Insulin, And Thyroid
Insulin and blood sugar can effect your thyroid in 4 main ways; they can effect adrenal hormones, inflammation, your gut and autoimmunity. Dr. Ruscio discusses how you can identify if any of these are effecting your thyroid health and what you can do address to fix it.
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The Hidden Cause of Hypothyroidism
Dr. Michael Ruscio: Hi. This is Dr. Ruscio, and welcome to the next video in our Thyroid Solution Series, the hidden cause of hyperthyroidism Number 2: Insulin, blood sugar and your thyroid.
Insulin and blood sugar can affect your thyroid through four main mechanisms: they are through manipulation of your stress hormones, through modulating inflammation, through causing digestive problems, and through worsening autoimmunity.
Insulin & Blood Sugar Review
Now just as a review, what is blood sugar? What is Insulin? When we ingest food, mainly carbohydrate, that carbohydrate, that sugar gets turned, gets absorbed into blood sugar, thus making ones blood sugar levels go up. Insulin is then released to push sugar from the blood steam into your cells, thus lowering your blood sugar. So you eat, blood sugar goes up, body released insulin, insulin pushes sugar into cells, and then blood sugar levels come down.
Blood Sugar – Stress Hormones Connections
So what is the connection between blood sugar and stress hormones and your thyroid. Well, blood sugar levels have a profound impact on your stress hormones and stress hormones have a very strong impact on your thyroid.
Now specifically when one ingests too much carbohydrates – this may be a bowl of cereal, and a glass of orange juice and maybe a banana for breakfast for example. Which is way too much carbohydrate for someone to ingest in a meal.
This will cause blood sugar levels to go high, as you see in this graph. This high blood sugar will give some people a little big of jolt of energy, known as a sugar rush, will also cause the body to release high amounts of insulin. This insulin is strongly implicated in weight gain, in insulin resistance and in diabetes. Now because the body is not ideally suited to deal with high levels of carbohydrate intake the body can over react and push your blood sugar too low, as you can see here with this lull on this graph. That is known as reactive hypoglycemia, this is where your blood sugar go to low. When that happens, this is what many people will recognize as the afternoon energy dip/sweet craving. So when blood sugar gets low people tend to become fatigued and crave sweets. So this is why many people reach for caffeine, caffeine and sugar, sugar, some sort of stimulate to help bring up their low blood sugar.
Now hormonally when you have low blood sugar like this, the stress hormone Cortisol has to come to the rescue. When this happens repeatedly you can cause adrenal fatigue or an imbalance in your stress hormone levels.
So again in recap, blood sugar when its unstable like we just covered will caused an increased demand for Cortisol to help level out those highs and lows in your blood sugar. And those problems with stress hormones and/or Cortisol has a direct impact on your thyroid hormone. Too much Cortisol will suppress TSH, not enough Cortisol will decrease the conversion of T4 into our important T3, which we’ve already talked about.
Now when someone has this repetitive blood sugar instability that requires stress hormones to balance it out. They can eventually fall into what I previously mentioned, adrenal fatigue or stress hormone imbalance. Now the systems of this look like tired, not sleeping well, especially people who fall asleep, wake up in the middle of the night and then have hard time falling back to sleep, that’s characteristic of adrenal fatigue.
Stubborn belly fat, energy dips throughout the day, low libido, impaired thinking, inability to cope with stress the way one used to do. So these are just a few but hopefully gives you an orientation and maybe some hints as to whether you may have a stress hormone imbalance could also be affecting your thyroid.
Continuing on, what is the blood sugar inflammation connection. Well I’ve dedicated quite a robust chapter of the book to this connection. And said simply, inflammation has a very deleterious effect on thyroid function. One of the things known to cause inflammation is high blood sugar. We’ll have a whole video on the inflammation thyroid connection also.
A few of the ways in which this occurs: When we have high blood sugar we have Glycation, also known as AGE, or Advance Glycation End products, or AGEs. Because this process can actually age you faster, it causes accelerated aging because Glycation is very similar to having internal rust in your body. And this whole Glycation process is fueled by blood sugar. Also something known as cytokines, or Interluekin-1B, Interluekin-6, Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha, these are just all fancy names for cytokines or for inflammatory proteins, which are directly stimulated by blood sugar. One of the reasons diabetes is so dangerous. So remember blood sugar will increase inflammation, inflammation has a very deleterious effect on your thyroid.
Continuing on, Blood Sugar and Fungus. Now what I’ve noticed many patients say, after you put them on a moderate or controlled carbohydrate diet and then they try to go back to their former diet is “whew boy doc, I really don’t do well with carbs.”
Now part of the reason for that is because carbohydrates, and sugars especially feed fungus in the gut. And fungus in the gut again will cause inflammation. Additionally fungus releases something known as acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde can actually block thyroid hormone from being able to work and cause brain fog in some. And why is fungal overgrowth so common? Well going all the way back to childhood, those who are cesarean birthed have a much higher incidence of forming fungal overgrowth, or Candida as it’s known, those who are not breastfed, antibiotics use, contraceptive or birth control use, high levels of stress and high levels of carbohydrates in the diet to name a few. So it’s a fairly prevalent condition.
Finally, what is the Blood Sugar Autoimmunity connection? While lesser well known in the Journal Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2010 for example a paper was published showing that the higher ones leptins levels went the worse the progression of the Hashimoto’s Thyroid Autoimmunity became. So what it leptin? Well when we eat we store some of the calories in fat. And fat cells then release this compound known as leptin. And leptin tells your body, “Hey I’m full, stop eating”. When someone is eating too much, and maybe even more so too much carbohydrates specifically, the body releases lots of leptin and eventually the body becomes resistant to the leptin signal. So what this looks like, is someone starts noticing I’m craving a little something sweet after my meals, I’m not full yet, I’m still kinda hungry. So they have more cravings, they have a harder time feeling full, they may be gaining some weight and at the same time they may be noticing that their thyroid seems to be going south. Because as leptin goes higher you become more and more unable to become satiated or you have more cravings. And as that happens thyroid function goes down.
So this may be something that may be occurring in you if you notice some of these symptoms. (8:26 Slide 13) So what can you do? Well diet is probably going to be one of the most helpful. Making sure your stress hormones are balanced will also be very helpful. Getting enough sleep also will be tremendously helpful, pretty for much anything. Clearing of any infections, especially fungus like we discussed, exercise and managing lifestyle stress. These are all things that can be achieved when working with a competent, and I emphasize confident, functional medicine physical.
This is Dr. Ruscio and I hope you find this information helpful. Thanks.
I care about answering your questions and sharing my knowledge with you. Leave a comment or connect with me on social media asking any health question you may have and I just might incorporate it into our next listener questions podcast episode just for you!