Blood sugar, hormones & fertility
What is blood sugar and why should it be important to your fertility to keep it on an even keel?
The sugar in blood is glucose and your body uses it to produce energy for everything from running to breathing and even thinking.
Your body gets its glucose from the food you eat, so levels of blood sugar rise and fall with your eating patterns. They rise after a meal and fall again as your body either uses the energy or stores it away.
Although we can’t survive without glucose, it needs to be kept within strict limits – both too much and too little can actually be dangerous.
How your body regulates blood sugar
The level of glucose in your blood is maintained on an even keel by a symphony of hormones, the best known of which, insulin and glucagon, are made by the pancreas. Adrenalin and cortisol, better known as stress hormones, are also involved.
After a meal, blood glucose levels rise and the pancreas releases insulin to return the levels to normal by persuading cells in your liver and muscles to absorb and store the excess sugar.
Between meals, the level of glucose drops, so the pancreas releases glucagon to bring the levels back to normal by making stored glucose available to the body.
The kind of food you eat can have a huge impact on blood sugar levels.
Because simple sugars such as table sugar, and refined carbohydrates such as white flour, are absorbed very quickly into the bloodstream, they can cause huge spikes in blood sugar levels. This prompts a sudden release of insulin, followed by a rapid fall as the glucose is squirreled away.
Some people’s cells are not sensitive enough to insulin to clear the glucose from the blood, so the pancreas releases more and more, until glucose levels fall.
This condition is called Insulin Resistance and can be a pre-cursor to Type 2 diabetes.
Find out more about eating for stable blood sugar
Blood sugar, Insulin and Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG)
In insulin resistance your insulin level rises after a meal, but the cells that should respond by absorbing glucose from the blood are ‘deaf’ to the insulin, so your blood sugar remains high (hyperglycaemia).
In an attempt to get things back to normal your pancreas continues to pump out insulin and the amount in your blood continues to rise.
Unfortunately, insulin interferes with production of a protein called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG).
SHBG is a ‘carrier protein’ that attaches itself to testosterone and estrogen and keeps them inactive as it carries them through the blood to where they are needed.
If you don’t have enough SHBG you can wind up with too many sex hormones – especially testosterone – floating free around your system.
Too much free testosterone can interfere with ovulation and is one of the factors in polycystic ovaries (PCOS) – the single biggest cause of female infertility.