In a word – yes! And the good news is, it is likely to be to your benefit.
The female menstrual cycle is dependant on natural fluctuations of sex hormones. Sugar in excess, and the effects of this, can wreak havoc with with our menstrual cycle due to increased inflammation and altering these hormone levels.
First of all, a quick refresher on hormones that you may remember from health class in high school:
- Hormones are the chemical messengers of our body which control major (and minor) bodily functions.
- Hormones play a role in growth, temperature, digestion, sleeping, mood control, stress responses, regulating energy – the list goes on!
- Generally, most people associate ‘hormones’ with their reproductive hormones. The most well-known are oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
- The female menstrual cycle is regulated by oestrogen, progesterone, follicular-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. Their relationship and interactions dictate what happens during a cycle.
Sugar can affect your menstrual cycle via insulin.
Fructose specifically can have an indirect impact on oestrogen production, via its effects on insulin and the subsequent interplay between hormones.
To explain a bit deeper:
- Excess fructose is a major contributor to insulin resistance, which involves increased levels of insulin in the blood.
- High insulin provokes increased androgen synthesis (eg testosterone) at the expense of estrogen production.
- Insulin can also lower sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), which can increase the availability of oestrogen and testosterone.
While this may sound contradicting, its the continuously fluctuating hormones that can cause issues. Changing estrogen levels can lower progesterone, changing the delicate balance between the two hormones.
Symptoms of low progesterone to oestrogen include anxiety, irritability, mood swings and headaches. It may also impair ovulation. Excess testosterone and insulin are also causes of PCOS.
NB: Insulin also generates inflammation and contributes to hirsuitism and acne.
Sugar = inflammation = pain
It’s well known that a high-sugar diet increases inflammation.
Medical research suggests that period pain is correlated with high levels of inflammatory prostaglandins (PGF2 alpha). Prostaglandins trigger uterine contactions. The higher the level, the more severe the menstrual cramping.
Removing causes of inflammation, including sugar, is a great start to help control period pain. Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and soothing magnesium may also be of benefit for relief of this pain.
Does this mean quitting carbs will help my period?
Quitting sugar does not mean quitting carbs overall.
We need them for healthy production of hormones, including luteinizing hormone and serotonin. A restriction of both calories or carbohydrates can shut down ovulation and stop a period from occurring.
Complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potato and whole grains, are important to have each day. Anything less than 75-100g of carbohydrate per day may interfere with your cycle.
In a nutshell…
The menstrual cycle is complex, and so many factors can have an impact on it. What may work for one person may not for the next. We are all individual and have our own natural cycle.
Cutting back on sugar may affect your cycle to your benefit, if you are experiencing problems with it due to a range of reasons.
As always, if you are suffering from diagnosed medical conditions, it is recommended that you seek the advice of a health professional.
Photo sourced from: http://thatsugarfilm.com/blog/2017/01/13/sugar-and-pms/