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When we think about maintaining thyroid health, we might forget that blood sugar stability is crucial. If you have a thyroid condition, such as hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s disease, and find yourself craving carbohydrate foods, becoming “hangry” often, or relying on caffeine for energy, it might be time to consider focusing attention on your blood sugar levels and balance. Ahead, a look at the link between blood sugar levels, Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism.
Blood sugar, or blood glucose, is the body’s primary energy source. This energy is needed for our bodies to perform all bodily functions (such as digestion and metabolism) and our daily physical movement. Glucose comes from the foods we eat, especially carbohydrates. When we eat food, our body breaks it down into glucose, releases it into the bloodstream, and then signals the pancreas to release insulin, which helps move the energy into the cells.
The thyroid gland impacts nearly every chemical process, including blood sugar regulation. In fact, the thyroid is a modulator of both insulin levels and glucose metabolism. What does this mean? If your blood sugar is irregular, your thyroid will be impacted. And the reverse is true; if you are experiencing thyroid dysfunction or don’t have optimal thyroid hormone levels, your blood sugar will be affected. A delicate balance is needed between the two to support the body and benefit our health. Ideally, we want our thyroid to be well monitored and regulated to stabilize our blood sugar.
There are several ways to measure your blood sugar.
Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) blood test
Also known as a blood sugar test -- is typically performed in the morning, on an empty stomach, after fasting for at least 8 hours.
A normal FPG is less than 100 mg/dl. Levels of 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl indicate elevated blood sugar and are classified as prediabetes. Levels of 126 mg/dl or higher are significantly elevated and indicative of diabetes.
Hemoglobin A1C blood test
This test measures the average blood glucose over the previous two to three-month period. This test doesn’t require fasting.
An AIC of less than 5.7% is normal. Levels of 5.7% to 6.4% are elevated and indicative of prediabetes, and 6.5% or higher is significantly elevated and classified as diabetes.
Continuous glucose monitor
A finger-stick glucometer or wearable continuous glucose monitor (CGM) can also be used to measure blood sugar throughout the day.
Again, a normal fasting level is less than 100 mg/dl. Levels of 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl are elevated and classified as prediabetes. Fasting levels of 126 mg/dl or higher are significantly elevated and indicate diabetes.
Glucometers and CGMs can also measure blood sugar 1 to 2 hours after meals. For a person without diabetes, the level should be below 140 mg/dl. Anything higher than that indicates impaired glucose response and possible insulin resistance.
Your daily lifestyle, hormone levels, genetics, and nutrition -- specifically, the quantity and type of food you eat and the timing of your meals and snacks -- all influence your blood sugar levels. Ideally, we want our blood sugar to stay within a specific range. A blood sugar imbalance, whether too low (hypoglycemia) or too high (hyperglycemia), comes with symptoms that can significantly impact our health.
Signs of low blood sugar include:
- Looking pale
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Hunger or nausea
- Irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty concentrating
- Anxiety or irritability
- Tingling or numbness of the lips, tongue, or cheek
And more severe symptoms include:
- Confusion or unusual behavior
- Loss of coordination
- Difficulty speaking or slurred speech
- Blurry or tunnel vision
Signs of high blood sugar include:
- Weight loss
- Increased thirst
- Increased and frequent urination
And more severe symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Flushed, hot, dry skin
- Drowsiness or difficulty waking up
Now that we’ve learned the importance of balanced blood sugar, here are some proven tips to begin improving:
1. Choose a savory breakfast over a sweet one. A savory breakfast that includes adequate protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates is ideal for regulating your blood sugar levels at the very start of the day. A meal that keeps your blood glucose steady versus one that creates a glucose spike will result in more sustained and circulating energy.
2. Eat plenty (and more) protein. Protein keeps your blood sugar stable. In fact, studies show that a diet higher in protein helps lower blood glucose and improves overall glucose control for people with type 2 diabetes. The reason? Protein blunts the absorption of carbohydrates and sugars, meaning that when the protein has broken down into glucose, it happens more slowly and gradually impacts blood glucose levels.
3. Have sweet treats after a meal. Protein breaks down into glucose slowly, meaning that carbohydrates from sugary treats and baked goods break down into glucose faster and rapidly affect blood sugar levels. If you’re looking for sustained blood sugar levels, enjoy your sweets after having a nutrient-dense meal. This way, the protein from your meal will help slow the digestion of sugary foods, and you won’t feel “wired.”
4. Go for a walk after eating. Did you know that just 2 minutes of walking after eating can significantly improve your blood glucose levels? A study from 2022 compared movement after eating versus staying sedentary, or sitting, after eating. The results showed that standing alone reduced glucose levels after eating, and light-intensity walking had an even more significant impact. After eating, stand up and wash your dishes, do a household chore, or take a short walk.
5. Try apple cider vinegar. The good news is true: apple cider vinegar can help with blood sugar control. Multiple studies have shown that a single shot of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water after a meal can significantly lower blood glucose levels.
6. Be mindful of certain medications. Certain medications, like thyroid medication, can impact blood sugar levels. Especially if taking medication is new for you, finding the perfect dose for you requires a little bit of trial and error, which can impact the regulation of your blood sugar. Be sure you’re working closely with your doctor to find the appropriate amount and utilize these other tips to avoid blood sugar highs or lows.
7. Incorporate supplements. Supplements can provide your body with nutrients to enhance and support your health. With regard to blood sugar stability, there are a couple of supplements that have been proven to be advantageous. The first is myo-inositol, or inositol. Inositol is a type of sugar made in the body and some foods such as bran and seeds. Inositol has shown promise in treating insulin resistance and thus helps to reduce blood glucose elevations, especially for those with hyperglycemia. The second supplement is berberine, which has been shown to have a similar effect on A1-C levels and even better results on lipid metabolism. Furthermore, berberine may actually reduce glucose levels after eating by more than 30%, according to one study.
8. The natural nature of our bodies depends on regularity. Think about how we naturally are awake and energetic when it’s light out and tired when it’s dark. The same goes for how and when we eat our food. By keeping a consistent eating pattern, our bodies don’t have to guess when they will be fueled. This helps maintain insulin sensitivity and prevents the sympathetic nervous system from going into overdrive.
9. Drink plenty of water. The benefits of drinking adequate amounts of water are endless. Aside from preventing dehydration and supporting your kidneys, water can also regulate blood glucose levels, reduce the risk of diabetes, and lower blood sugar levels.
10. Don’t forget to get enough sleep. While most of these tips are meant to be incorporated during waking hours, what happens when we’re not awake is just as important. Getting adequate sleep is vital for regulating cortisol levels, which, when elevated, can lead to increased blood sugar levels. In fact, disturbed sleep has been associated with metabolic disturbances and an increased risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
By incorporating the 10 tips, you’re already well on your way to improving your health. But if you’re hypothyroid, it’s also vital to get optimal thyroid function and treatment. Paloma’s thyroid-savvy providers can help! You can also consult a Paloma nutrition expert to help finetune your diet for optimal health and blood sugar management.