Small Changes for Better Fertility
By Melissa Gorley, FSI Coach and Staff Writer.
Eat Sugar the Healthy Way: Blood Sugar, Insulin Resistance, and Fertility Wellness
Right in the middle of Marilyn Shannon’s “12 Rules for Better Nutrition” is number six: Sharply Limit Your Sugar Intake. Why is this so important for health, especially fertility health?
Sugar is deceiving. It can feel good going in because of the blood sugar jump and dopamine release it triggers. However, that good feeling from a sugar jolt only lasts briefly- especially when indulged in repeatedly on an empty stomach- since this causes the pancreas to overreact, release too much insulin, and lower the blood glucose level again quickly in a physiological process called reactive hypoglycemia. As Shannon notes, hypoglycemia results in fatigue, irritability, depression, migraines, and craving for more sugar.i None of these are symptoms a hard-working woman wants to inadvertently bring upon herself.
It was Marilyn Shannon’s work that first taught me the importance of maintaining blood sugar levels while pregnant to help prevent morning sickness or, in my pregnancies, all-the-time nausea. Shannon also connects the dots between hypoglycemia and other cycle health issues, noting that “hypoglycemia contributes to PMS and high insulin levels adversely affect the ovaries, interfering with cycle regularity and promoting polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Sugar craving may also be a sign of low thyroid function and adrenal hormone imbalances.” ii
Sugar depletes the body of hard-to-get B vitamins as well as the minerals chromium, zinc, manganese, and magnesium, according to Shannon.iii These are some of the vitamins and minerals that women most need and often supplement for fertility health! We do not want to simultaneously deplete them.
So, how should we enjoy a little sugar? “The old-fashioned way” is how I think about Shannon’s advice here. She recommends avoiding artificial sugars, as they have been shown to increase craving for sugar, and processed foods as they are higher in sugar than homemade ones. A little natural sugar consumed as dessert, rather than a snack, after a meal with protein and fat and even consumed with more protein and fat- as in ice cream and pumpkin pie- is the best way to enjoy sweets during the holidays and any time.
Check out the FSI Lifestyle Section to find nutrition and fertility support and education.