Is sugar in your diet causing increased hot flashes, night sweats & weight gain?
Sugar consumption in the United States is at an all-time high. In the early 1800s, most Americans consumed about 22.4 grams of sugar each day.3 In today’s society, the average person consumes about 70 grams of sugar each day.3 However, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 35 grams of added sugar for men and no more than 25 grams per day for women.4 From a naturopathic perspective for optimal living and health, I recommend added sugar intake should be no more than 15 grams per day. Unfortunately, sugar has become one of the hardest ingredients for Americans to stay away from. Up to 75% of Americans eat too much sugar, meaning they consume well over the recommended maximum.5 Regrettably, sugar consumption has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, chronic inflammation, weight gain, fatty liver and high blood pressure.6 More recent studies show that blood sugar irregularities and insulin resistance is linked to more severe menopausal symptoms!8
When women reach their mid 40s to 50s, they start to see changes in hormone levels. These hormone changes lead to symptoms of hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, difficulty sleeping, decreasing muscle mass, weight gain and sexual changes. Decreased muscle mass, while associated with decreased metabolism and weight gain, is also associated with higher blood sugar.7 This explains why blood sugar, cholesterol and weight gain becomes a difficult issue for women as they age. Many of patients explain that they haven’t changed their diet, or exercise regimen but they can’t seem to stop gaining weight. And part of that weight gain is due to decreasing muscle mass, related to age and decreasing levels of the hormone testosterone.
It can be hard to come to terms with giving up or reducing sugar, especially when hormone fluctuations are already wreaking havoc. Unfortunately, eating refined sugar leads to an excess amount of insulin secretion in the body. Insulin is the hormone in charge of allowing sugar into cells and also storing fat in the body. When there is already enough sugar supply in the body (which in today’s society, most people are consuming enough or over the necessary calories), insulin is triggered to convert sugar or carbs into fat stores. Over time, the signal between sugar and insulin can become distorted when there is too much sugar consumption leading to insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance essentially means the body needs to increase the signal to let sugar in. Cells become less sensitive to insulin because they are trying to safe guard the amount of sugar allowed in the cells. When sugar is overconsumed, the body attempts to protect itself by decreasing the response of insulin, becoming insulin resistant. This causes insulin levels to climb, further worsening blood sugar regulation but also increasing the amount of fat produced/storage. Insulin resistance further blocks any efforts to lose weight but also leads to more severe hot flashes and night sweats.8 In addition to increasing weight gain, hot flashes and night sweats, insulin resistance also causes the artery walls to become inflamed, grow thicker, increases artery stiffness, putting pressure on the heart leading to heart disease over time.1
- Strength training: the best way to improve blood sugar and insulin is to build muscle. While cardio exercises are great, they do not increase muscle tone/mass. Increasing muscle mass will increase your BMR (basal metabolic rate), promote insulin sensitization and encourage weight loss. More importantly, studies show strength training will reduce the frequency of hot flashes!9
- Sugar intake: eliminating or limited added sugar in your diet will be key to long lasting health and wellness. Limit to no more than 15 grams of added sugar.
- 1 banana = 14 grams of sugar
- 1 apple = 19 grams of sugar
- 1 soda = 39 grams of sugar
- 1 cliff bar = 22 grams of sugar
- Also keep an eye on sugar content in processed foods.