If you have a thyroid condition, then stress management, gut health, and detoxification are likely on your radar. (And if not, they should be!).
Blood sugar balance is an area that gets less attention, but it can have a big impact on your day-to-day symptoms and overall thyroid recovery.
And I’m NOT just talking about patients with diabetes, prediabetes, or insulin resistance.
If you have a thyroid condition and find yourself craving carbs, becoming irritable when hungry, or reaching for caffeine to stay energized, here’s what you need to know!
How Blood Sugar Impacts Thyroid Function
Your body wants to maintain a balanced level of energy and blood sugar, so it’s constantly regulating the two through hormones and other processes. Whenever you eat sugar, or foods like grains that are broken down into sugar, your blood glucose goes up, so your pancreas releases the hormone insulin to bring it back down.
Until a few generations ago, our diets were relatively low in sugar, so this balance was easy to maintain. But now that sugar is lurking in everything from granola bars to salad dressing, it’s a different story.
Many people today experience sharp spikes in blood sugar that cause the pancreas to release large quantities of insulin. Studies show that these insulin surges increase the destruction of the thyroid gland in patients with autoimmune thyroid conditions.
Surges of insulin can also cause your blood sugar to plummet too quickly. Your body perceives these wild fluctuations in blood sugar as stress, and releases cortisol as a result. This increases inflammation, which can trigger or worsen Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease. It also leads to adrenal fatigue as your stress hormones constantly rise and fall. As I’ve covered in a previous article, adrenal fatigue contributes to thyroid dysfunction and the two very often go hand in hand.
4 Tips to Balance Your Blood Sugar
I always recommend working with your health providers to develop a personalized dietary plan based on your specific needs, like we do with our patients in our Adaptation Programs. However, the four tips below are a great place to start!
1. Eliminate Added Sugar
Americans consume 3 pounds of sugar a week on average, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The easiest way to cut back on this is to eliminate added sugar from sodas, baked goods, desserts, candy, and sugary cereals.
Sugar is often hiding under other names in ingredient lists, so check the nutrition label for total sugar and added sugar.
2. Minimize Grains
Grains, including those in “healthy” foods like whole wheat bread and pasta, are broken down into sugar in your digestive tract. Most grains also contain gluten, which can cause inflammation, leaky gut, and an autoimmune attack on your thyroid.
In most people battling chronic inflammation or disease, I recommend cutting out gluten entirely and minimizing the consumption of grains at least while we are trying to restore balance within the body.
3. Eat Protein and Healthy Fats at Every Meal
Remember, it’s all about balance! Instead of skyrocketing your blood sugar with an all-carb breakfast of a ripe banana and a muffin, have a green banana (less sugar and more resistant starch) with a spoonful of almond butter and an egg.
Try to incorporate grass-fed, pasture-raised proteins when possible, and eat plenty of healthy fats from avocados, coconut oil, fatty fish, and nuts.
4. Focus on Fiber
Fiber slows the digestive process and the rate of sugar absorption from your food, decreasing spikes in blood sugar. Vegetables, leafy greens, chia seeds, and low-glycemic fruits are all great sources of fiber.
For a high-fiber treat that will satisfy your sweet tooth, try making a chia seed pudding.
Easy Berry Chia Seed Pudding
- 1 cup coconut milk (or milk of your choice)
- 3-4 Tbsp chia seeds
- 1/2 banana
- Fresh berries for topping
Mash the banana and add it to a glass jar with the milk and chia seeds. Stir until combined. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours. Stir once more and top with the berries.
If you have a thyroid condition, it’s important to look at the FULL picture, including blood sugar, so you can address everything going on. If you’re ready for this kind of comprehensive approach with a team to support you and hold you accountable, check out our Adaptation Program and schedule your free discovery call to find out if you’re the right fit!
About the Author: Dr. Seth Osgood is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner and Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) Certified Practitioner. Dr. Osgood received his post-graduate training in Functional Medicine through the IFM and from working with Dr. Amy Myers. He has helped people from around the world improve their health utilizing a Functional Medicine approach.
Want to work with Dr. Osgood and the GrassRoots team? Become a patient in our West Lebanon, New Hampshire Functional Medicine clinic, our Burlington, Vermont Functional Medicine clinic, or our Austin, Texas Functional Medicine clinic!